Relationships as Mirrors: The biggest challenges and opportunities for growth

Categories: RelationshipsBy Published On: 20 February 20239 min read

Relationships as Mirrors: The biggest challenges and opportunities for growth

Most people would agree when I say that our greatest challenges and triggers are in the area of relationships. And at the same time, that is also where our greatest growth potential lies.

In fact, our deepest fears, desires, beliefs and patterns are revealed as soon as we enter into a deeper connection with someone. And this is not always easy.

The importance of taking responsibility for relationship problems

Almost everyone who came to my practice had some kind of relationship challenge. Actually, during the sessions, that provided a very nice starting point to go deeper into where this problem came from.

Everyone who dared to take responsibility for the “relationship problems” themselves, and work with themselves, got a wonderful change in their relationships in return. Because once your own energy changes, then the other person’s energy changes in response.

Of course, this is not always the case and some people will not change or do not want to, but in that case the other person’s behavior will not trigger you as it did before.

Change your own energy and see change in your relationships

My premise is that when someone triggers you really strongly (for example, making you feel smaller, you are getting angry, or creating all sorts of stories in your head), it often says something about yourself.

It means that there is a “wound” within you that is being touched. And if you do not heal that wound, you will continue to attract triggers from your environment. Your environment and relationships can show you very nicely where you still have unprocessed pieces, themes or pain in yourself.

What I always mention with this, however, is that this does not mean that you have to approve of another person’s destructive behavior or overstep your boundaries. Nor does it mean that another person’s behavior is your own “fault. I explain with an example.


You have a partner who, during an argument, makes all kinds of belittling remarks at you, making you feel very small. He knows exactly what to say to affect you deeply.

Step one:
You are within your rights to indicate that it is not okay that another person belittles you during an argument. So here you can set your boundaries.

Step two:
Here you may explore whether this behavior of the other person is in some way a mirror for you and wants to show you something. Ask yourself: what does this behavior of the other person trigger within me?

In case the other person’s behavior is not a mirror for you, you will feel that you can stay close to yourself and you will not feel strongly triggered. Of course you may be disappointed in his behavior or experience emotions, but it is not that a deeper wound in you is being touched.

But what if this behavior really triggers you? Then there is potential for you to grow and heal something old. How does it look like when it triggers you? Suppose the belittling words make you very sad and make you feel very small. You have all kinds of stories in your head about how mean the other person is and it won’t let you go. In that case, the other person’s behavior can help you heal something that is unresolved in yourself.

Suppose that as a child you were often belittled by a parent, teacher or classmates. More and more you began to hold yourself back and hide, for fear of being brought down again. There is a deep sense of “not being worth it” or you feel that something is wrong with you. And yes, this may all be unconscious because it has been tucked away deep down.

Potential for healing

The moment you feel so triggered or hurt by your partner, you can see this moment as potential for healing.

Sit down and close your eyes. Put your hands on your belly and ask your body: what is being touched in me right now? And then be still.

Perhaps emotions come up, all kinds of thoughts, beliefs or memories. Just observe them and be judgment-free toward them. Acknowledge these hurt parts in yourself and give yourself the love and appreciation you need.

Of course, it can also be nice to do this under the guidance of a therapist – and you can always contact me for this.

The result of the healing process

Now suppose you have consciously begun to work on healing these pieces within yourself. What might the result be next time in relation to your partner?

Option 1:
Because your energy has changed and the “energetic wound” is no longer as wide open, you may find that automatically your partner’s energy changes as a result. You may notice that his attitude changes during arguments. It may also be that you have become more powerful and confident in your energy and have expressed from a deep inner foundation that you don’t think his behavior is okay and that through a deep conversation together you have come to a breakthrough.

Option 2:
It may also be that his behavior has not changed. Suppose the next time he adopts a belittling attitude toward you again. You will then find that the deep “trigger” is gone in yourself. Of course, you may still find his behavior painful or annoying, but the original emotional trigger is gone. This allows you to remain more balanced and at peace within yourself. While you can still express yourself at that moment and draw your boundaries.

I hope I have been able to show with the examples that it is not a matter of having to approve of another person’s destructive behavior, but that you can set boundaries as well as see the situation as an opportunity to grow in yourself.


Of course, the best thing is when your relationships change for the better because of the inner transformation you make. And at the same time, that is also an expectation that we may let go of. After all, we can only change ourselves and we cannot change the other person.

In situations where another person is not transforming and you are, then you have the choice whether you want to accept the other person unconditionally in how he/she is, or whether it is time to part. This is because the more you want to change the other person, the more resistance there will be. Change always begins within yourself.

The energetic mirror of relationships expresses itself in many different ways. Let me mention a few more examples.

Expectation creates disappointment

I had a client who told me that she had a deep connection with her husband. Yet there were some things she found annoying. For example, she had taken some ‘special food’ from a store for dinner and thought her husband would be very happy with it. When she got home, he reacted indifferently and said he didn’t feel much like eating that food. This made her very disappointed and made her feel insecure.

I asked her the question: what was your expectation when you bought that food? She told me that she imagined that the partner would be very happy and grateful. Then I told her that there was a big chance that it was exactly why her partner had to be her ‘mirror’ and give her that reaction. Her inner child, who still had many uncertainties, created a hopeful expectation where she hoped for appreciation.

Because this energy does not come from her own “wholeness,” but from a wounded part, the partner mirrored this back. Once she becomes internally more powerful and confident, the partner is likely to react differently the next time.

So always ask yourself the question: what is my energy behind this? Am I doing this with an underlying expectation/hope, or am I doing this from unconditionality and wholeness? Because in the latter case, you are not attached to the partner’s outcome and reaction.

The other person’s behavior tells you something about your own shadow

Sometimes we can get very excited about another person’s behavior, not realizing that we secretly have these traits ourselves. In this case it can include family members, friendships or even strangers.

Ask yourself what traits or behaviors often turn you on? When do you feel resistance towards another person? What do you condemn? And then sit down with yourself and honestly ask yourself to what extent you also have these traits.

Probably at first you are going to be very much convinced that you do NOT have these traits. But if you dig a little deeper you often come to interesting discoveries….

For example: you dislike it when people stand on a stage and dare to present themselves confidently. You find them braggarts, show-offs and attention seekers.

Perhaps you do not recognize these elements in yourself at this time because you have pushed them into the shadows. Perhaps you used to be very exuberant and social and showed yourself confidently when you were young.

And you may have received one or more negative reactions to that. It may be that someone has called you an outcast or has brought you down which has hurt you on that point.

At that moment you chose to never again show these qualities of yourself and to keep them in the shadows. The people with whom you now feel such resistance actually show you which parts of yourself you have rejected and may integrate again in a healthy way.

The other person’s behavior tells you what you may develop more strongly within yourself

Resistance can also lie in the area of polarity. If you feel very much resistance, for example, to people who radiate power, it may be that you do not feel this power within yourself.

The resistance then shows you that you may develop more of your own inner strength. Suppose you feel resistance with people who are sensitive and soft, then perhaps this shows you that you lack this in yourself. Here, opposites show us in which area we can come more into balance ourselves and what we need for that.

The other person’s behavior is a reflection of your attitudes/judgments about the other person

Sometimes people come to me and they have a whole story about the annoying behavior of another person which just goes on and on. They say ‘he never does this, he always forgets that, he always shows that he does not take responsibility’ etc. I sometimes give them the exercise of consciously adjusting their own views towards the other person.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our judgments of the other person that it becomes difficult for the other person to change as a result. Sometimes the other person feels our dislike and expectation even before the behavior actually occurs. For example, I also had a client who said she had an annoying colleague. This colleague was always being unkind to her.

When I asked her what her own opinion of this colleague was, we found out that it was not too positive either. I asked her to visualize them being friendly the next time before she went to work.

She was also allowed to start thinking very consciously about the other person’s positive attributes. The next time she returned to my practice she started laughing very hard. Already after the first working day, the colleague had made a nice remark – and she had never experienced this in all that time!

Of course, these examples do not apply in all cases. It is all not so black and white and it is different in every case and for every person. I mentioned these examples so you could reflect on them for yourself.

If certain examples apply to you, then you probably feel recognition. If they don’t apply to you, you won’t feel that recognition. So don’t hold on to them too much and just feel what you can or cannot do with them.

There are probably many more examples, – as well as exceptions – to mention, but I wanted to share these with you because I encountered them most often in my practice, and ofcourse they’re part of my own experiences.

If you’re looking for guidance in this area and want to dive deep, resolve your inner triggers and become stronger, take a look at my private- or small-scale group retreats in Sweden!