The most important mirrors for you are your parents. But only too often, parents are unable to mirror you accurately Because of their own difficulties, they can only mirror themselves, so it’s like seeing yourself in one of those not-so-fun funfair distorting mirrors.
And this is thrust on to the mirror image of your body. You might be thin as a rake – and the numbers on the scale verify this – but you see yourself as grossly overweight. Your hips, thighs, or belly seem huge and unsightly. Only when you can contact, then accept your true, inner and unmasked self, will you be able to look at your reflection and say to your body, “I love you.”
A good partner or a loyal friend is often a more satisfying mirror, reflecting your true self, dreams and longings, your frustrations, confirming and supporting you.
As therapist, I am a mirror, a true mirror for my patients that their parents could not be. The therapeutic situation is modeled on Freud’s “blank screen” and I reflect back to my patients both the truth and falsehoods within themselves. Unlike others in their world, my selfhood is not imposed on them. They don’t have to deal with my quirks, foibles, defenses, and frailties. Their agony and their glory, in its wondrous and myriad variety is mirrored in my eyes and in the posture of my immutable attention.
I become merely the third ear, the listening self, the engaged and constant presence, the being-in-them – and no more. In the clarity and safety of our relationship, I am a receptacle for their projections. Our unspoken contract – that they know and do know, resent and welcome – is that I will unmask them. My orientation is to support their hidden voices, their unspoken dreams, and subterranean terrors. This is then translated as love, and eventually they learn compassion for themselves as they cast off imposed distortions from the veracity of their own natures. The quest for the unsullied purity of the soul is begun in earnest.
My friends, family, and acquaintances are not as fortunate. They are exposed to the shrill complexity of my temperament, my despairs, angers, panics, and nettlesome neuroses. As the years unroll, I attempt to remove pieces of my projections and own them for myself. I am not quite successful –I thrust on others a toupee, an eye-piece here, there, a deceptive smile there, a set of false eyelashes. For it is dangerously vulnerable to allow others to peer into the mirror of a soul and see reflected there, their own divine humanity