A person I am really fond of has just separated from her husband. Nothing new under the sun, separations are very frequent nowadays. So much so, that in our group we have come to develop a ‘protocol’ to help the friend involved in a divorce to face the situation in the best way possible. However, this time it was different for me. I could not take the necessary steps to help the other person to face that pain: to let her pour her heart out and patiently listen to her talking about her ex-husband, giving her room to deal with her grief.

I felt a great deal of irritation when my friend talked about her ex and I reacted by insisting on the reasons why she would be much better off without him. I was convinced that she shouldn’t even give him the benefit of the doubt. The worst thing is that I hid my rage behind our friendship. I loved her and did not want her to suffer again. Nice try, Paola. One thing is to disagree with a person, another, totally different, is to feel irritation in your disagreement. In the second case, it is obvious that we have a problem and that the solution is to be found within us.

This time the solution to my problem came in the form of a sharp phrase spoken by the other members of our group: “You pressure her a lot, let her talk.” Judging someone is never good, not if you are a friend, much less if you are a therapist. There was something wrong there, I needed to stop and understand what had caused that reaction in me, which part of ME I saw reflected in her.

And suddenly there it was, my wonderful epiphany: her love story had been abruptly cut short by his final decision. He was in such a hurry to cut and run that he did not give her the opportunity to talk about it, to reconsider that decision. I had to face the very same situation a few years earlier. Because of a sudden decision on his part, our love story was over. Just like that. And now I unconsciously saw myself and him reflected in their story. The anger and irritation that I felt for her ex were nothing more than my anger and irritation for my ex.

These moments of epiphany are wonderful: as soon as you open your eyes and everything becomes clear, it is as if a balm has been applied to your wounds, healing them instantly.

People around us are a mirror in which we can see ourselves reflected to discover how we are, what lesson we have to learn, what grief we have not been able to deal with or what pain is hidden in our soul and does not allow us to continue with our evolution.

I remember that a friend once told me something that made me laugh out loud:

“Have you noticed that there are days when you can only see beautiful people on the street and others when everyone around looks ugly?”

If the restrictions to limit traffic according to even and odd numbers of licence plates have not been extended to the physical appearance of people, I would say that does not work that way. People around us are not handsome, ugly, nice, irritating. We are the ones who react to our surroundings according to how we feel. If we feel good, we will see la vie en rose. If we are not OK, the streets will be filled with ugly people. If a person irritates us, it is because that person is showing us something about ourselves that we don’t like or don’t want to see. When we look closely and discover what it is that bothers us and we accept it, the relief is so deep, that we feel as if a backpack full of stones has been lifted off our shoulders.

Tell me about your ex, dear friend, I will not judge you again. That little piece of my soul has been healed now.


Cover photo by Fabrice Van Opdenbosch

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