find a reliable mirror

vintage shaving mirror

I have someone close to me who doesn’t know what he’s thinking until he says it out loud. He works out his thoughts in real time, with someone else listening. Once he’s done talking, he finally knows what he thinks.

Have you ever had a conversation like that with someone? It’s almost as if they don’t really need another person there – you’re not contributing anything to the conversation – but yet, they do need someone, to act as a mirror for their own experience, so that they can actually see themselves. When you’re doing personal work – whether you think of it as a spiritual practice, or introspection and contemplation, or even therapy – it helps to have a reliable mirror. This could be another person*, but it could also be a journal of some kind. Many of my art journals serve as mirrors for my inner process, and I’ve used several journal pages as illustrations on this blog.

When you’re selecting a mirror, be mindful. You know that a fun-house mirror doesn’t show you as you really are; even the best mirrors have flaws or slight curves that can distort you. It’s the same with other people. If they’re caught up in power or their own unconscious issues, the “you” that’s reflected back to you may not be an accurate representation of who you really are. It takes a very conscious person to avoid contaminating their reflection of you with bits and pieces of their own values, judgments and fears. But if you can find someone who is respectful, and clear, and without ulterior motive in the end result, cherish them. They can be a gift in your life.

When I use my journals as a mirror, I let a few days or weeks pass before I try to analyze my material. When I’m in the heat of the moment, I find it very hard to see clearly. After several days, when I look back at the words or images that I’ve created, the core issue is usually laughingly obvious, and then I can start to unravel my behaviors.

Do you have a reliable mirror? What would be the top five attributes of the best mirror for you?

*Note that I’m not a therapist, and nothing on this blog is intended to deal with serious mental or emotional issues. If you are feeling the need for support, please seek out the help of a caring professional.