The Cracked Mirror, The Smoking Mirror, The Sparkling Mirror

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall….

Imagine driving 80 mph along a crowded freeway with no rear or side view mirrors to check traffic around you!

Or the dentist repairing your tooth without the use of his small dental mirror.

Or walking through a fun-house that has NO mirrors.

Or painting your self-portrait while leaning over a pond to see your own reflection.

Or disco dancing without a disco ball radiating beams of light over the dance floor!

It’s hard to imagine life without mirrors. Mirrors are used in science and art. They create ambiance in homes. The looking glass theme shows up often in literature. The usefulness, reflective beauty and symbolism of mirrors are undeniable; however, mirrors also hold a mysterious energy of their own and are associated with countless superstitions.

Even the strongest skeptic would flinch if he dropped a mirror and it cracked. Seven years of bad luck–a superstition that dates back to the Roman conquest.

Throughout the ages the mirror and reflective surface motif has cross-culturally carried a supernatural energy resulting in superstitions and legends such as:

A baby should not see his reflection in a mirror before he turns one or he may never grow any larger, or he may stutter, or could die before he is one year old.
It’s bad luck to see your own face in a mirror by candlelight.
A mirror in a room where someone has died should be covered in cloth so the deceased’s soul does not get trapped behind the glass forever.
It’s bad luck to see your own face in a mirror by candlelight.
In ancient times it was considered a harbinger of death if one caught sight of his reflection on a shiny surface. Even in modern times some indigenous people feel that if a photo is taken of them, their soul could be stolen away.
According to vampire legends, since a mirror reflects back an image of the soul (and a vampire has no soul as everyone knows), when a vampire looks in a mirror, he sees nothing.

Besides the mystic of mirrors which evolved over the ages along with the many uses for mirrors in modern life, there’s another profound way in which mirrors serve us, and that is by supporting our self-understanding and in the development of compassion.

We are all mirrors for one another!

Every person you meet who sets off a reactivity within you is actually mirroring back to you an undiscovered aspect of yourself that you’ve been thus far unwilling to acknowledge, a process called projection. You project onto the other what you cannot or don’t want to see in yourself. (If you don’t have a strong reaction to the personality or actions of someone, then he is not a mirror for you.)

Three types of mirrors: Cracked Mirror, Smoking Mirror and Sparkling Mirror.

The Cracked Mirror. An example of this type of projection occurs when you have a strong reaction to someone who’s committed an act which you consider morally wrong; your co-worker is having an affair with the boss; a teacher is in the news for having seduced her student; a mother abandons her newborn baby on a park bench and walks away. Projection always evokes this response, “That’s horrible. I could never do that!”

The truth is we all have a dark side that could commit heinous acts under certain circumstances. It’s called the shadow aspect of the unconscious mind. When one points a finger at anyone they view as immoral or evil, there are always the two proverbial fingers pointing right back at himself. The more one self-righteously denies that he could ever DO such a despicable thing, the deeper his shadow side becomes buried in the psyche. When the shadow side of who we are remains disowned what results could be physical illness, depression, or addictive or impulsive behaviors.

This type of mirror is called cracked because it creates a false sense of separation between the individual who regards himself as the good one and the other he considers to be the evil one. On the deeper and important levels we are all connected. We are all one.

The Smoking Mirror. This form of mirroring or projection happens when one finds various personality traits in another irritating; he talks too much; she eats too much; he acts like he knows everything; she is so negative. Judgement toward others abounds with the smoking mirror and grants the one who judges an excuse to deny that he may have some of those exact same tendencies as the one who is being judged. As Carl Jung stated, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves.”

The smoking mirror is so named because in the gray haze of judgement toward another, there’s little opportunity to see other redeeming aspects of an individual that might be pleasing or worthwhile.

The Sparkling Mirror. This form of projection occurs when one sees in another amazing talents and thinks to himself, “I could never do or be that,” and so disowns great possibilities lying dormant within his own psyche: potentials to write, make art, teach or to create positive change.

A client recently served as a sparkling mirror for me. She shared that she’d had a successful law practice for years, but gave it up a few months earlier to return to school to get a graduate degree in history. When she revealed that she’d also been studying comedy and had a side career a stand-up comic, I was in awe. What? My gut reaction was, “I could never stand up in front of an audience and be funny. I’m not funny!” Only later did I wonder if maybe in my shadow side awaits a comic who, if set free, could create more laughter in the world.

Peering into the mirrors others provides for us is not only a way to learn more about ourselves and to set free all the various potentials hidden in the psyche, but the act also generates compassion toward self and others. All that we think we are not stares back at us in the mirrors others provide. To project onto others aspects of our disowned side is a human tendency, while seeing through mirrors is a feature of the Divine.



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