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Mirroring

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Mirroring

Feeling an Exaggerated Sense of Specialness, Importance and Uniqueness

Specialness and uniqueness: The need for external mirroring feedback typically becomes focused on the need to be recognized as special and unique. This need reflects an exaggerated belief in one’s specialness, which in turn reflects an underlying feeling of being insignificant. So the student feels either an exaggerated sense of specialness, importance, and uniqueness, or painful feelings of insignificance and unworthiness; or the two sets of feelings might alternate, depending on the adequacy or absence of narcissistic supplies. These inner states may or may not manifest in overt attempts to appear special and important. Appearing special, more than being special, is what matters, because this is a specific manifestation of the need for mirroring.

How Life in the Conventional Dimension of Experience Becomes the Living-Out of Patterns and Programs Established in Childhood

There is a curious puzzle in the psychological understanding of this phenomenon. Why does the self need its identity to be seen if the identity has developed mostly through the integration of the elements of the self that were mirrored? The self-identity structure is constituted of the representations of the self that the self knows, partly because they were mirrored. Why is there a need for something to be seen when it has already been seen? Our view is that this manifestation is a distortion of the natural need, which is distorted by its passage through the filter of the self-identity structure and its history of inadequate mirroring. The structure of self-identity is inherently vulnerable and shaky, and mirroring provides it with the cohesive glue that makes it feel more solid and real. As discussed in detail in Chapters 11 and 19, the identity is shaky because it is incomplete and distorted. The cohesion that results from the mirroring of the normal sense of identity is not lasting, so there results the chronic need for mirroring that we recognize as normal. Another factor affecting this need is that the self recognizes itself through the already established, normal sense of identity. Since we do not expect unknown elements of the soul to express their need for mirroring, we feel any need for mirroring as the need of the self-identity, and the deeper mirroring needs of these unknown aspects are subsumed by the mirroring of the normal identity. So the self-identity subverts the dynamic thrust toward development by appropriating the soul’s energy to validate its own structure and reality. It’s a case of mistaken identity. This is how life in the conventional dimension of experience becomes the living-out of patterns and programs established in childhood, rather than an expanding and deepening unfoldment of the soul’s potential.

Narcissistic Vulnerability Distorts the Natural Need for Mirroring

Although the need for mirroring is universal, the student does not always acknowledge it. He frequently defends against awareness of this need, so that even when he is acting it out he is unaware of the meaning of his behavior and might even vehemently deny it. A possible reason for such a defense is that he might want to be seen and admired, but he is afraid that if he is seen, people will see the part of him that he thinks is bad, and he wants what is good in him to be seen. This conflict can cause him to deny his need for mirroring. Even if what he wants to be seen is actually mirrored, this can bring up the older deprivations of this part of the self that was not seen and bring to awareness the hurt, anger, and depression about it. On a deeper level, to be truly seen for who he really is will bring to consciousness the inherent aloneness in the realm that wasn’t seen. So he fights awareness of his need, even though he is always trying to satisfy it. Narcissistic vulnerability distorts the natural need for mirroring, changing it from the need to be seen for who one really is to the need for mirroring of what he believes to be him. This makes the need for mirroring problematic, and thus, being seen is not always what is actually needed.

Soul’s Need to See, Recognize and Integrate the Unintegrated Elements of Her Potential

Even though the situation creates an identity based on partial integration of the qualities of the soul where only some elements and dimensions of the soul are included, the developmental force inherent in the soul will always move towards completing its development. The soul will naturally desire experience of the excluded elements of the self. In adult life, this movement expresses itself in many ways, especially in the need for mirroring. This later need for mirroring is a direct expression of the hunger of the soul for light. More accurately, it is an expression of the soul’s need to see, recognize and integrate the unintegrated elements of her potential. It is an expression of the inherent movement of the self towards self-realization, filtered through the veils created by early mirroring inadequacy. The later quest for mirroring, after the self-identity is constructed, is always somewhat distorted by the distortions in the self-image. Our need for mirroring continues to exert pressure directly, as the normal need to be seen when we feel our known aspects are not seen, or when we are narcissistically insulted. But this need expresses itself also in the need for mirroring for the sense of identity itself; for the satisfaction of this particular need indicates to us that we are being seen and acknowledged. So we experience the need for mirroring as the need for the self-identity to be seen because we recognize ourselves through this identity.

The Need for Mirroring Reflects the Insecurity and Instability of the Sense of Identity

Need for mirroring: The normal need for mirroring becomes exaggerated at this point. This need is one element of the overall functioning of the normal self, but at this point it takes center stage, revealing its importance for our sense of identity. We become more aware of our fundamental need to be seen, recognized, admired, appreciated, and so on. This need has two elements: The first is the need for someone outside us to see us accurately, understand what we are about, how we feel, what we think, and so on. It is a matter of another person functioning like a mirror for us, thus shoring up our sense of identity. The second need is that the mirroring feedback has to be not only accurate, but extremely positive. We need to be seen with admiring and appreciative, even idolizing, eyes. The need for mirroring reflects the insecurity and instability of the sense of identity. The individual expects the positive empathic feedback to shore up this self-structure. However, because this insecurity reflects the fundamental weakness of the ego identity, which is due to the alienation from the Essential Identity, it is an expression of a deeper need. This deeper need is for our true self to be seen and appreciated, simply because it is not seen, by anyone—ourselves or others.

The Need to Have Mirrored the Essence of Who One is, Primarily

In the process of the work on self-realization, the student is learning to integrate deeper strata of the self, primarily the fundamental ground of the self, the essential presence. At some point, the need for mirroring becomes primarily the need to have mirrored the essence of who one is. This allows integration of essential presence into his direct experience of who he is, his true identity. The need for mirroring focuses on Essential Identity as the student is dealing with the issues of central narcissism, which is due to alienation from the Essential Identity. The need for mirroring and the mirror transference become most distinct and precise as the issues of central narcissism arise. The student is likely to experience the following issues: The need to be seen and admired, which is characteristic of narcissism in general, becomes more specifically the need to be seen as special and precious. It is accompanied by the need to be seen and recognized not only as special, but as unique. He wants his uniqueness to be seen and applauded, whether or not this uniqueness is specifically in relation to his qualities and existential traits. The more extreme his narcissistic alienation is, the more the need for mirroring is not only for specialness and uniqueness, but for grandiose conceptions of them.

True Support is Not Mirroring and Arises Only when You Confront Your Lack of Support

Sometimes it takes a long time to encounter your lack of support, but it always happens at some point. When you really let yourself experience the hole, the deficiency, the emptiness, without trying to get support or to be seen or to be mirrored, you will see yourself, and this is the way you will get support. Support usually occurs through mirroring. Anyone can support you by mirroring you. Mirroring involves someone showing you what you are by seeing and appreciating you. True support is not mirroring, and arises only when you confront your lack of support, the absence of it, which is there already like a huge abyss. A huge, humungous abyss, a humungous hole into which you go and become a nothingness. If you allow yourself to feel it, then true support will arise in you. When true support comes you feel as if you are sitting on a mountain top. The whole mountain becomes like a fountain of support for your reality. From within, you feel an immensity, a tremendous immensity, a tremendous presence, a tremendous existence that is almost as hard as rock, and it supports whatever reality you have realized.

What Ultimately Ends the Need for Mirroring

This coemergence or coextensiveness of the Absolute and its radiant clarity is what ultimately ends the need for mirroring. The radiant clarity is the mirror-like awareness, and the Absolute is the ultimate depth of Being. So depth and awareness of depth are inseparable. We know the depth of our Being in the very fact of simply being. This experience of the nondual Absolute is a wonderment. Everything appears more clearly defined, more three-dimensional, more textured, but also transparent and luminous. Everything makes up a nonconceptual unity, multifaceted and multidimensional, but glittering brilliantly as if made out of diamonds. At the same time, the whole appearance is a presentation of the Absolute, so it is all a projection of an unfathomable depth that bedazzles with its scintillating mystery. And we are this. Sometimes we are individuated—but inseparable—expressions of it.

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