The creator of FlameKeeping, Genevieve Wood, recently shared the introduction to her second book, which is a work in progress. This introduction caused a reaction I wasn’t expecting and that I felt was worthy of writing out and exploring. So, with her permission, I present to you below the content in question (in italics) and my response to it (in plain text).
What do we see, when we look at other people? It’s simple, with strangers. We just see a stranger. A grocery clerk, waitstaff, someone passing in another car. And even here, we see examples of mirroring. When our mood is bad, people seem to be crankier to us. When we’re cheerful, we see people in a different light. Same people, but our mood gets reflected on them. But it’s a quick interaction, a small mirror. What about people we see more?
I tend to put people in boxes based on their role in interactions with me, and so I’ve not really thought about how I reflect off them. I size them up, look at what they are doing in relation to what I am doing…and into a box they go. There’s movement between boxes, and I do have one for motherfucking asshats but…I never thought that box was for people directly reflecting my crankiness. Hmm…must look at this box and see who is in there.
One of the most critical pieces of seeing ourselves mirrored in others is that we almost never see something we’re happy about there. We enjoy the company of people who share our values, share and discuss and grow from each other, but we don’t tend to mirror our good qualities. We sometimes project an image of who we want someone to be, but that’s a different problem. Projection is about positive things. Reflection is about the things we deny or fear, about people we remember and are reminded of.
Projection and reflection are shades of each other in my mind – I project myself onto other surfaces to change those surfaces, but I reflect off other surfaces and bounce back on myself. Projection, when I’ve used it, hasn’t always been about the positive – I project onto my brother, for example, to try to force him into the shape I want him to be or give reasons for why he isn’t (he’s overwhelmed, he’s stressed, he needs to grow up, he’s never had to stand on his own and he should). The reflection that comes from him shores up my feelings of worthlessness – the way I see myself reflected from him has layers of my own feelings and those that he’s expressed. He treats me like garbage; I feel like garbage, both from his treatment and the reflection of my own feelings of being garbage. It’s tricky…
Not sure if that made any sense.
Reflection and memory is normal. Having bits and pieces of people we have known in the past isn’t a problem. It’s when the past overshadows the present, when we react to people that aren’t there instead of the people that are, that we end up in trouble.
Oh boy. Here’s where words become hard. Letting go of memories and dealing with people as they are is a goal worth striving toward rather than wallowing and a very difficult thing to do. My brother (again) and I were very close as children and if I remember those things, there’s a yearning to get that closeness back. Dealing with him now is a different story – I’m torn apart over and over again without a goal of being built back up, and it is the memories of what we were that are actually driving me to separate from him completely at this point. I cannot have what I want; it is not possible. Projection upon him doesn’t work, and my reflection is wavy and distorted. Out of respect for the memories and nostalgia (a bit more, I suspect), and this need I have to protect myself, I am pulling away.
Words. Why are there no words, brain?
When community is healthy, we shine brightly and reflect cleanly, and our Flames magnify and burn stronger together than apart. When community is unhealthy, distortion twists with unhealthy Flames and builds problem onto problem.
I’ve…never lived in a completely healthy community, although my religious one (online though it is, mostly) is getting there. How much of this is something to strive for and how much of it is a pipe-dream? How many people make community?
We do not live in isolation. We cannot tend only to ourselves and our Flame and ignore those of others. We live in communities, and how we shine and what we reflect changes those communities. And each community becomes its own mirrored flame which reflects against the reflected collections of other communities, distortions combine and interact and reflect off each other.
I agree with this. Dark Flame and Bright Flame take work, and we cannot work on one to the detriment of the other, no matter how much more easily one may be. Integrated balanced Flames (although not necessarily equal, mind you) will enable the enrichment of community – as the individuals in community improve and become more themselves, so does the community become more itself. Community reflects off other communities, and so perpetuates both the things that move and grow and the things that stagnate and decay.
If we are to improve the world, we need to shine clearly and see clearly. While distortion may be impossible to eliminate, the more we are aware of it and attempt to minimize it, the better we make the world around us.
As we take responsibility for our actions, individual and societal, and attempt to mitigate risk and negative consequence, the stronger we become and the more able we are to interact truthfully with one another. The question is how we will start that ball rolling, and whether anyone will roll it back once we let go.
Thank you, Vieva, for making me think. I’m looking forward to the next book, and to seeing if my readers have thoughts as well.