Is there anyone in your life who is getting under your skin? Or someone you look up to like a guru?
If so, both have valuable information to teach you.
For starters, the one who is bugging you has a trait (or many traits) that you have not been able to acknowledge in yourself.
(I know, right?!)
But hear me out: When you react to that "bad" trait with a lot of emotion/blame/hatred, it means your own shadow trait is lurking. It's called a "shadow" because you don't necessarily see it.
But here's the clincher: OTHERS DO (eeeeeek!).
Let's say you blame your spouse for being a control-freak. It's easy to get riled up about his/her "problem" because you can fume about all of the "bad" consequences of his/her controlling behaviors.
But what if you were to take a look at your own control issues?
Yes, I know that is nearly impossible, because I sense your trepidation. You may even be tempted to say, "No way, not me!"
After all, your control issues may not look like your spouse's. But trust me, if you're reacting strongly to your spouse, your own issues are hiding somewhere (in the shadows).
So then, ask yourself: How do you treat yourself when you witness your controlling side?
Be brave, look if you dare, then admit it.
I bet you treat that part of yourself with some form of disdain. But instead of feeling it (because it's too painful), you have projected those feelings onto your spouse.
Why? Because it's easier to see an unattractive trait in someone else, that's why. And it's much easier to treat others with the same disdain you secretly think against yourself.
Instead of admitting that you are controlling, you have put that "annoying/awful/selfish" (you fill in the blank) trait onto someone else.
But you can circumvent the middle man by recognizing, then accepting, your own control issues.
Begin to love that part of yourself that you have tried to hide or annihilate. You can do this by recalling instances in which you have been controlling.
Then accept how you felt about yourself exhibiting that trait. Were you disappointed in your behavior? Disgusted? Anxious? Mad? Let it all hang out.
It's not about getting rid of what you dislike, but about finding the positive gifts in those traits.
Perhaps as a controlled person, you have been able to build a successful career, or become a gifted artist, or you've learned to stay out of trouble.
You get to decide how a "bad" trait has actually been an asset in your life. What has being selfish/angry/unreliable, etc, done for you?
As you begin to offer yourself compassion for these traits, you will be more apt to offer compassion to other people's traits that you deem as "problems."
And then something magical will happen:
That annoying trait in your spouse? You won't recognize it as a glaring issue anymore, because you will have healed your feelings about your own inadequacies. You will have more compassion for your spouse's limitations, too.
Don't believe me? Try it!
Then take it one step further. This experiment can also be applied to traits you love in others, too.
Whom do you admire, and why?
If you are star-struck over Oprah because she's powerful and free-spirited, perhaps you are not acknowledging that you also embody those characteristics!
If that's news to you, how about trying to see those possibilities within yourself, then start incorporating them--even just a wee bit--into your life?
That speech you want to give but you're too terrified? Channel Oprah's confidence (which is also your own) and go for it! The raise you want? Embody your own kick-ass power and ask!
You get the point...
If you notice traits in others without any negativity, you are not hiding a shadow trait. It's when any trait makes you crazy/angry/impatient/jealous, etc, where your own trait--good or bad--is being covered up.
Expose those characteristics in yourself by noticing when and how you react to people on TV, to your co-workers, to your spouse or kids, or to a stranger.
Then see the beauty in your own shadow selves.
Freedom will quickly follow...