It Takes One to Know One

So often, and every day, we find in others a mirror of ourselves.  At times, it’s a loving and welcome mirror; at other times, it’s a teacher.

I’m in Sicily participating in a conference on Gestalt therapy, thoroughly enjoying the scenery, the people, the food, and the atmosphere. At dinner a few nights ago, there was an event that really brought home to me how we mirror and learn.  We had all ordered, when out of the kitchen came a barrage of screaming (in Italian or Sicilian), banging and crashing.  Apparently, a waitress had had enough and was sweeping everything off the counters with her arms, and breaking plates with every impassioned and anguished sentence.

A young British woman from the table next to me then began a slow-building outrage: at first exclaiming to me and others that this was unacceptable, then some minutes later declaring that the service, and then the food was bad (the service was actually good, and the food delicious), finally after about half an hour refusing to pay and abruptly leaving the restaurant, also leaving her table mates to quietly and apologetically trail after her.

From my viewpoint, the young British woman was mirroring, in her own way, the Sicilian waitress. She seemed to need an outlet for her anger and outrage, and chose that moment to express it. How often have I done the same? Whenever I judge someone immature, how am I seeing my own immaturity in the other? Whenever I feel unseen, how am I not seeing the other?

Deliberately and unconsciously mirroring others is how we learned as children. It’s a natural process that continues throughout our lives.  Children feel good when they successfully mirror others; they also feel good when we mirror them: it’s a powerful way of connecting. And when we find ourselves strongly impacted emotionally by another person’s actions, it may be because we recognize that same thing in ourselves.

That night in Sicily was both entertaining (I’d never see that in Canada), and enlightening. Mirroring goes both ways, revealing us to ourselves, and challenging us to really see ourselves in others. It is a powerful way bringing our deepest values into full awareness. As Thornton Wilder said:

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasure.
— Thornton Wilder

Children are our greatest mirrors

Quote of the Day
Life is for each man a solitary cell whose walls are mirrors. -Eugene O’Neill

At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly


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