By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
“They’re meant to be mirrors for us, always reflecting back what we need to see. The question is: Do you want to look in this mirror, and be open to what you need to learn, or simply pretend it’s not there and pass it by?” John Holland
I have always found human interactions fascinating, and in my work with clients I can observe and address the many layers of relationships that are occurring. Here’s a sample.
Mirror One: Imago wounds
Some intimate relationships are based on the premise that Dr. Harville Hendrix teaches in his book Getting the Love You Want, A Guide for Couples. Dr. Hendrix, and his Imago Relationship Therapy process, teaches that individuals often select partners who resemble (closely or distantly) the key people, usually from childhood, who created emotional wounds. The premise says that your inner child may have selected someone who subconsciously reminds them of this individual, but this time the inner child is hoping it will not experience similar wounds, seemingly healing the original wounded relationship. Dr. Hendrix further teaches that these relationships (when there is no danger of abuse) can be places to heal, but only when both partners are conscious of the relationship and how they trigger each other. This foundation is paramount to following his additional strategies, and achieving understanding and healing.
Mirror Two: Looking outward to see inward
Ending relationships, whether friendships or romantic partners, can be challenging. I’ve observed some individuals believe their peace, confidence, good experiences, and inner feelings are due to the ‘other’. I’ve watched them hold on tightly to this person, believing that they can only be happy while remaining in partnership. The ending of any relationship will be accompanied by grief of what was, as well as what is wished would be, but what I described above is different as it involves a ‘holding on’ that is not based on grief, but on perceived self-emptiness. The individual has misunderstood the value of the relationship and has missed their own role in how they feel (what they think is gone). What I try to point out is that the partner provided a mirror so that they could see their own strengths, their own beauty, and their own love. Thus, the partner leaving does not take away these characteristics. They were in there all along!
Mirror Three: Finding your shadows
Shadow-work is very enlightening and healing, but it can seem very scary for those who are inexperienced and unsupported. Shadow-work is the ability to look within and fearlessly see the aspects of the self that ‘hide in the shadows’. (Okay, so there still may be fear, but as Eckhart Tolle teaches – running from the shadow creates far more fear than actually looking at it!) For more on working with your shadow you can work with a trusted professional, or read books like: The Dark Side of the Lightchasersby Debbie Ford, or Eckhart Tolle’s The New Earth.
Relationships can help identify some of these shadow aspects. There’s a saying: Pointing your finger at others means that you have 3 of your own fingers pointed back at yourself. In other words, that which you might be judging in others might be best looked at as an area of consideration as a shadow for yourself. This of course isn’t always true, but it seems that the more pinged one is by a judgment of another, the more likely that it is actually pointing back as a shadow of self.
Mirror Four: Opposites often attract
There are times that I am working with a couple or a family and see that two individuals behave as polar opposites. For instance, one parent is the disciplinarian and the other is more permissive. The paradox is that the more permissive the one parent is, the more punitive the other becomes, which then makes the permissive parent become even more lenient in order to achieve a perceived balance, and vice versa. The reality is that at a subconscious level, each chose their partner to help to balance themself. But what I explain to the partners is that the merging of the two opposite styles does not bring about balance. This concept will work with colors: red + white = pink. But permissive + punitive ≠ balanced, healthy parenting. To bring about the proposed balance, both parents must begin to move toward center by actually changing behaviors.
A similar pattern is often observed when one partner is frustrated by the other’s messiness (for instance). Yet what the neat person sought in choosing the partner was his or her own ability to be less obsessively clean, or to have greater spontaneity. And the “messy” partner likely sought structure for him or herself.
Mirror Five: Emulating the characteristics that you admire in others
It’s good to realize that mirroring isn’t just to see the challenges in relationships or yourself. Who in your life do you admire? These individuals can be real people, or characters in a TV show or movie. This might prove to be a clue for identifying an aspect that you wish to adopt for yourself. Study their behaviors, their communication style and even their clothing. What feels right for you? What are you willing to try? Try it on – whether clothing style or personality style, and tweak it from there.
Mirrors for healing
If you are on an intrepid journey for integrity and authenticity, or just want to know yourself better, these aspects of mirror work can be helpful. How else might you use the mirror concept to further influence your own journey of self-exploration or introspection?
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield, MI. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties, work or school related anxiety, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders, and those who wish to Remember and Become ‘Who You Really Are’. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www.SpiralWisdom.net for more information.
This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to replace medical care.