Camera in hand, I was watching for the baby fish, but my attention was drawn to the little waterfall that tumbles into a corner of the pond, adding an extra dimension of sound to the garden. The water is closer, more insistent and attractive, capturing the attention and drawing it away from the busyness of the town and the noise of distant traffic. It is a tranquil spot and fish of all shapes and colours dart beneath my feet as I stand on the bridge.
It wasn’t until I got home and uploaded the pictures that I realised what I had captured in the ephemeral bubbles… reflections of me.
It wasn’t a deliberate shot, just a lucky one. The angle had been right and the sun glowing through the corner of the railings added its light to the image. Even so, looking at it on the screen, I couldn’t help thinking how this accidental image of the bubbles, each holding its reflections from a slightly different angle, captures the essence of something we seldom really think about.
We cast reflections of ourselves into every situation and onto the screen of every life we touch. Each person sees us differently, through their own particular lens, yet there are multiple facets to the image they perceive… Not only their vision of us, but anything they may know of us through others as well as our own presentation of ourselves in that moment… all come together to form the person they will see when they look at us.
Just as we can never look at ourselves save in a mirrored surface, what we see is our reflection in their eyes and behaviour towards us and we react accordingly, warming to one person, helping another or walking away… all without considering that it is, in many ways, our own reflection with which we are engaging.
Not surprising, then, that the psychological phenomenon of projection, where we see our own unadmitted characteristics in others, holds up a mirror for us into which we prefer not to look too often or too deeply.
To make things even more complicated, that person looking at you is also projecting their own reflection, with all that carries… so they are seeing both themselves as they think they are… as they would like you to see them… all mixed up with the things they don’t want you to see, or even to admit to themselves… a multitude of mirrored reflections playing backwards and forwards through the infinity of a moment. And each one is seen from an angle that differs slightly… obscuring some details, revealing others…
It is no wonder human relationships are open to such confusion!
The complexity of this perpetual interplay is such that there is no quick fix solution. What we can do is look in that mirror and learn to know ourselves, exploring our being in such a way that there are no dark corners we dare not see, no patches of light too bright to gaze upon. Knowing ourselves means the whole self… not only an admission of our failings, but of our gifts and strengths also.
That way, what we see in another is not coloured by our shadows of denial and each person we meet is allowed to shine a little brighter … and may see a true reflection of their own light in our eyes.