When one is a baby and then a child, they are completely dependent on their parent’s responses to them. Through their caregivers responding, one will be able to have their need for food and nurturing to be met.
And this also goes on to include one’s self image and how they view themselves. This will generally be formed by how ones caregivers acted or don’t act towards them. At this age, one needs their caregivers to mirror back what they are going through.
So this can include: how one feels, what they are good at, what their needs are and what kind of person they are. Done in the right way, this can cause one to create a strong and healthy sense of self.
This is often described as the true self and this early mirroring could set one up for life. The challenge here is that this doesn’t always take place and this can lead to all kinds of problems not only as a child, but for ones whole life.
The Missing Element
So instead of one having each part mirrored by their caregivers, they won’t receive any or if they do, they will receive the wrong type. But even if they don’t receive any, they are still going face the same consequences and that is the absence of healthy mirroring.
There will naturally be extremes to this and of course, no caregiver can always mirror their child in the right way. However, this is not necessary, what is necessary is that one receives just enough. Ones needs and wants could be ignored, as could their feelings, and this could result in their true identity being covered up and overlooked.
In this case, one might develop what is often described as a ‘false self’. With their true self not being given the chance to see the light of day, they are then forced into creating a whole view of themselves that will please the people in their environment.
This is also going to create a lot of pain and suffering, because the true self will not simply be covered up and forgotten about. As a child this will have to be denied; but as an adult, this pain can come to the surface. It might not be faced though and could still be denied.
Another common consequence of not being mirrored during these years is a lack of emotional development. One might have worn a mask that allowed them to survive as a child and continued to wear this as an adult, but underneath the mask is likely to be a needy child.
A child that is calling out to be: loved, nurtured and validated for who they are. But although this is true, taking off this mask can create a lot of pain and suffering in the short term. So unless one has the drive, a sense of their being something more and the right support, they might not even bother.
Level Of Competence
Without healthy mirroring during these years, one is unlikely to feel competent as a child or as an adult. Of course, as an adult one has the potential to experience more control in how they see themselves. Whereas when they are a child, their whole identity is completely dependent on the people around them.
Although one does have more control as an adult, they are still going to be affected by what others do or do not mirror back to them about who they are and what they are capable off. No one is their own island and each one of us is interdependent.
A Healthy Self Image
If one does feel competent and sees themselves in an empowering way, it will be either the result of their childhood years or what happened after these years. One could have met someone who saw them in a different way to others. And even though this may have been just one against the many, it was enough for their true self to gradually grow.
Or this could have been due to one seeking the assistance of a therapist, healer or some kind of mentor. This person might have used a fancy technique or had all the tools under the sun, but what really made the difference was the fact that they saw ones true nature.
One could be extremely good at something or highly intelligent in one or many areas of life, but all the time they go without the right mirroring, they won’t realise it. If they were to receive feedback from the right people, their whole life could be transformed.
Holding The Space
They held the space for one to gradually leave the roles that they were playing and allowed them to step into their power. It is often said that a therapist is just as important as a technique and this comes back to how important mirroring is. When one feels comfortable with them, they can relax and truly let go of what is holding them back.
The People In Our Life
When one is a child, they exercise very little control in who they are or are not around. Their parents are their parents and that’s the end of it in most cases. As an adult, one has a lot more control in who they spend their time with.
So the people that one classes as friends will often be the ones who mirror back to them how they see themselves. Or if this is not the case, then one could be operating from their false self and feel that they have no choice in the matter.
Relationships can end when ones idea of who they are changes and the other person is responding to them in the same way. The connection has been broken and unless one compromises or the other person embraces the change, it will be over.
The Right Mirroring
If one is not receiving the right mirroring in life it will be important to make some changes. This is not so that everyone that one meets will give them the right mirroring in life; this is not possible or necessary.
What matters is receiving this from the people one is close to and spends most of their time with. If ones idea of themselves was not shaped by the external world, then one could spend their time with anyone and have nothing to worry about.
This is not the case, so one needs to be aware of who they spend their time with and if these people reflect who they are and what they stand for. And if one feels like they are completely disconnected from their true self and wonders if they have it in them to realise it, then it will be important for them to seek the assistance of a therapist or a healer.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.