The problem of the distorted mirror

A mirror 2.png

A recent post which consisted of a quote from Jungian therapist Marion Woodman on the effects of being unseen really seems to have struck a chord of deep resonance with readers.   It has really got me to thinking about our struggle to be authentic, our need to be known, recognised and affirmed and mirrored as we grow up.

A long time ago when I first started blogging I wrote a post on the inverted mirror I can’t find it back now but in it I tried to articulate my own strugggles with what happens when we dont get mirrored back in the way we need growing up.  What also comes to mind as I write this post are those distorted mirrors you sometimes see in fairground arcades or amusement parks.  We have a well known park called Luna Park here in Australia.  It sits on the harbour in Sydney and it has a dark room which is lined with these kind of mirrors which distort your shape to make it seem skinnier or fatter or more elongated.

This to me is a poweful metaphor for how we experience ourselves when the mirrors around us distort us, and then begs another question, since somewhere deep down inside we ‘know’ and feel who we really truly are and how we feel what happens when this truth gets blocked?  We start to see ourselves in a distored way or we may become what Gregory Bateson calls ‘double bound’ which was a term he gave when a child tried to express a truth to a parent about what they saw or felt in that parent and were told they had got it wrong when in actual fact they had it right but the parent was invested in them not seeing or knowing or saying.

According to Bateson and psychiatris R D Laing this type of poor mirroring ends up with the sufferer literally tied in knots about what they truely think, feel, believe and know and having to deny it to win love which then leads to both anger and grief for the lost true self that dogs them and then sends them on a quest or into addiction or some other form of ‘madness’ which is really a quest for sanity gone about in a confused or mixed up way.

The other issue and question which responses to that post has brought up for me is the issue of how now in our culture there is such an overwhelming need to be seen : to post pictures of ourselves and express how we are feeling. This can be dismissed as a kind of pathological narcissism but what is it really saying about where we stand collectively.  That kind of urge is fine if the self we are projecting, or presenting is authentic but what if it isn’t?  And how does it make others feel who are less active, socially engaged or connected to be reminded that they don’t have that kind of life or presentation?  Are we now just a culture judging our own insides by others projected (and often distorted) outsides?  Ideally if we are connected inwardly and can self validate it won’t affect us that much, but if we never learned to self validate inwardly we can end up feeling there may be something wrong with us if we cannot present such images to the world.

I am sure some of you who are on Facebook have had the experience of trying to post authentic posts on serious subjects such as suicide and other thorny issues only to have the posts ignored in the majority.  As one fellow blogger recently expressed it posting a poem and being met with a deafening silence was the kind of response he experienced on Facebook.  For myself I only ever end up with 2 or 3 likes for philosphical, trauma related or psychological posts.    The ones most liked are where they focus on people getting together and sharing light time in some form of entertainment which is fine if you are in that position but not so fine when you happen to live alone and only see one or two friends occasionally.  For myself I have learned long ago not to post too much deeply honest soul searching on my Facebook page, I save that kind of thing for my WordPress blog.

Anyway I seem to have got a little diverted in this post.  Ideally at the end of a long journey where we come to understand how lack of good mirroring left us with deficits we are now trying to hard to understand and heal from, we begin to build a stronger core of self esteem from within instead of subscribing to the lack of authentication we were left with as the legacy of a childhood of abuse or even benign neglect (in my case).  Where our emotional and physical pain was not taken seriously, where it was scoffed at, where we were humiliated or shamed for it, in that place we develop both an emptiness with a gravitational pull inward as well as a wound and a soreness that must be understood and addressed.  We cannot really escape the encounter with that wound if we want to find psychological health.

It’s hard to see that the ones that should have cared for us and seen us did not and that hurt us so deeply, leaving us very confused.  If we dare to try to address the issue with them we may be in for a terrible time of it if they don’t ‘get’ it or us and never will!  In that situation we have to swallow the painful medicine and learn to take our authentic self elsewhere.

We must never abandon our authentic self, even if we have to walk over hot coals to do so metaphorically speaking, for in the end if we dont ‘have’ ourselves and are not made real in our feelings, needs and self expression, if we cant honour and protect effectively from within the pain we are in for more suffering.  As we heal and become more aware we must find true mirrors.  Those that no longer distort our image in all kinds of damaging ways.

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