Posts Tagged ‘Mirror Theory’

It was basic developmental theory that first introduced me to the significance of the mirror. As a college senior, I first read about Jaques Lacan, who first identified the mirror stage of development. He observed that as an infant develops her awareness of the outside world, she begins to identify with the images around her, eventually discovering that she is also human and therefore capable of doing the things she has witnessed. In other words, she gained self-awareness through observing and identifying with other people. Ever since I learned this in college, I have firmly believed we are all mirrors for one another.

Later in my adult life, a friend taught me a great spiritual truth: If something about someone else bothers me, that is because I’m bothered by the same trait in myself. Now, this should have been easy to swallow since I already had such a fondness for Lacan’s mirror theory. But even now, over ten years later, I still struggle to be honest about the reflections I see. It would be so much easier to just write you off as annoying or stupid or (fill in the blank). But instead I am now faced with the fact that if you’re annoying me, then I’m probably quite annoying to someone else as well.

When I allow myself to become aware of the reflective quality of my relationships, then I have a choice. I can constantly try to alter the mirror so that I can become comfortable with the image I’m seeing. Or, I can use the opportunity to see if anything in my own life is flawed. Think about it. When I look into a glass mirror, I’m checking to see if I look presentable enough to go out the front door and face the world. Any hairs out of place? Anything stuck in my teeth? I use the tools at my disposal to correct any blemishes, and then I can start my day with some measure of confidence.

And so when I look into a human mirror, I should logically do the same thing. When I look at you, what do I see? Am I overcome by love and appreciation for the many talents and gifts that you have to share with the world? Or do I sneer and snicker in disgust at the wide array of bad habits and character defects you possess? More often than I want to admit, the answer is the latter. And to follow suit, more often than I even know it, as soon as I see the flaw I’m trying to figure out how to fix you, how to counsel you, how to manipulate and manage you until you just start acting right, dang it!

It’s time for us all to stop polishing the mirror and start paying attention to what we see. If I could look at you and simply see beauty and grace, then I wouldn’t be going around trying to fix all of your quirks. And if all I can see is your quirks, well…I’ve probably got more than a few of my own issues to work through.

If we are to truly adopt the Christian way of life, we must heed the words of our model for good behavior. After all, in the 7th chapter of Matthew Christ himself said it best:

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

Think I’m going to go see about my own log now. How about you?


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I decided a long time before I had kids that I did not want to hit my children.  And it’s a good thing I made that decision ahead of time, because this week I’ve grown into a new understanding of why child abuse occurs so often.  The girls have pushed every button I have a hundred times.  And after long days at work and long hours spent working out disagreements with other adults, the last thing I want is to come home to screaming hungry tired demanding children.  But that’s my life and so I’m learning all over again how to live in the reality that I created for myself.

Working full time is hard.  Raising kids is hard.  Working full time and raising kids is next to impossible.  Yet thousands of people do it.  And after the impulses to inflicting bodily harm that I’ve experienced this week, I’m amazed the human race has survived as long as it has.  I’m not certain that there has always been a level of consciousness among humans to deal with familial conflicts compassionately and peacefully, and I personally know many many people who survived beatings as children, even into young adulthood.  Matter of fact, I know several adults who have endured years of domestic violence.  I know people who have disowned their families.  I know several more who have joined the military and fought in wars and killed others for reasons far beyond my comprehension.  I knew people who even felt it necessary to end their own lives, at young ages.  Yes, the human race must have a special calling on this planet, and God must be keeping us around for a reason, because from a logical standpoint we should have destroyed ourselves long ago.

So, last night, when I was exhausted from working late and the laundry wasn’t folded and the dishes weren’t done, and both kids were screaming and refusing to do anything I or Brendan asked them to do until he and I started arguing too, I was able to reach deep inside and get the hell out of the house before I did things that I would regret later…well at least before I engaged in too many regrettable acts.  I did not hit, slap, kick, shake or throw either or my children (or my husband).  I did yell at everyone, and I did try to physically force both Ida and Kellan to brush their teeth.  And I stomped around and whined right along with them, slammed the doors and slammed the dirty dishes around in the sink.  When I wonder where they learned to throw raging temper tantrums, I am sad to say I don’t have to look very far.  They have learned a lot of it right here at home.

But as often as they act like royal pains in the ass, more frequently my girls are beautifully compassionate and demonstrate God’s love through their innoncence.  They are creative and brilliant, they hunger for understanding and knowledge, and they light up virtually every room they walk into.  People love to have them around (most of the time).  And I realize that they must have picked up a lot of these things at home too.

Children are mirrors to adults, as we are to them.  They imitate us, and reflect back to us what they need and want.  Within their needs and wants, I get to see a bit of what is really important to me as well.

There is a whole theory of human development based on this concept of the mirror.  My loose understanding of this theory follows:  A baby spends all her time trying to imitate the people and things she observes in the world around her.  Eventually she begins to differentiate herself from these other beings, and realizes that she is separate from them.  Once she realizes this, she begins to develop fear.  For example, a child learning to walk is not at first conscious of the fact that she is walking.  She is simply doing the same thing that the big people around her do all the time.  But then she takes those first few staggering steps…hovers…and falls.  Perhaps she gets back up and tries again.  Perhaps she cries out in frustration.  But she also realizes that the possibility of falling exists where it never existed before.  And that opens up a space for fear.

My recollection of the mirror theory stops there.  When we live in fear, we reject faith.  When we reject faith, it becomes far too tempting to choose the easiest way out.  In my case, the easiest and most thoughtless thing to do when my children swing their little fists at me would be to swing back.  But since I have chosen a path of faith, I am called to make a different choice.  Sometimes I succeed at this, sometimes not.  The point is, I’m consciously choosing to do things a little differently than the way that was demonstrated to me as a child.  I’m paying attention.  Talking with my parents about their successes, and their mistakes.  Talking with others and trying to remember that no matter how badly things get screwed up, there is always forgiveness and God’s infinite love.  And then I’m asking God to guide my thoughts and actions within that love.  And if God’s love is in me, how can I help but reflect that love so that others can find it in themselves?

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