Mirrors – A Psychological Perspective

Mirrors are fascinating, mysterious and deceiving. It is like having a window to another world. I personally enjoy mirrors, since they make any room to look brighter once the light is reflected, giving the sense of more space and they make me feel content. Every time we gaze into a mirror, we are looking into another dimension, a virtual world to our reach, but not to our understanding. It is a world that is not real; it is an illusion that has no physical existence.

On the other hand, our position towards a mirror give us the illusion of what we are seeing; move closer or just step away from it and we can control the illusion. But indeed do we control this illusion? No, indeed the illusion is controlling us by giving us the false perception of our surroundings and ourselves. It is like having extra eyes to our service. When driving a car, a mirror is a great addition, since it allow us to see what is behind (could we see the past?; it is an illusion that help us to survival. But can we really trust what we see? Just remember mirrors are tricky and their images are only an illusion.

It is amazing how people cherish mirrors and how others despise them. For many women mirrors are a symbol of vanity and pride. These women carry a mirror in their purses and it is a valuable item ~ priceless. But mirrors can have a negative influence for a woman or man who considers themselves as unappealing to the opposite sex.

Not all mirrors are created the same, since each mirror reflects a different image. A woman can look gracefully slim in a mirror, and she can look younger or older, etc. and all of it depends on the mirror she happens to take a glance of herself.

Mirrors may have a lasting and negative effect on those with a low self-esteem image of themselves. This is the mirror we have in our heads, and our perception of the reality depends on which mirror we see the world reflected. Which mirror we choose to view ourselves and others?

Wherever is the insight, mirrors are fascinating and people make up histories, and put a magical and mystical halo regarding this objects. Mirrors have played and important role in literature, history and science.

In Greek mythology, Medusa was a monster, a woman with the power to turn people into stone, with just a single gaze of her face. Medusa was a beautiful woman and was raped by Poseidon. Later, Athena turns Medusa into a monster. It is well known how the hero Perseus defeated Medusa only by using a mirror and reflecting her own image and turning herself into stone. Can a mirror show our duality? Can we see our good and evil between ourselves? Mirrors kill, and Medusa was so unfortunate to see her own image reflected in a mirror, and her own evil killed her ~ an illusion that kills.

My grandma used to tell me that mirrors are the antithesis of men. I guess she was correct since a mirror can reflect the harmony of opposites. A mirror is capable to reflect the myth of beauty and ugliness, joy and sadness, life and death; some say mirrors reflect parallel worlds, even light and dark, and it is very true that only darkness can fade the mirror effect. A mirror can not hold forever an image, but it can show it at once and not little by little.

Mirrors are mentioned in the Bible. Those mirrors were made of polished metal such as bronze and silver. In one reference, the Bible tells us that we see obscurely and that we know in part ~ mirrors give us an obscure image.

Mirrors are used in astronomy, and it is how Galileo Galilei using mirrors discovered other worlds, thus changing the way we think about the universe. Galileo used the scientific approach to conduct experiments. His ideas were a bit bold at that time. Galileo observed a situation, which allowed him to develop his theories, and finally, he performed experiments to test his theories. His studies, theories and experiments were revolutionary during his time. Trial and error, and his scientific approach allowed him to disprove previous beliefs oh ancient Greek philosophers ~ mirrors show new worlds.

In literature, it is a subject that inspired many writers. An example is Snow white and the magic mirror. Here, the mirror has magic qualities, has a voice and it is able to speak the truth and carry out a conversation; in Snow white and the magic mirror it is related to beauty. The mirror relates to issues of truth and self deception and vanity ~ mirrors recognizing beauty and ugliness.

Recently the Duke University Museum of Art was offered a highly unusual object for their collection ~ a rare and exquisite obsidian disk from the Pre-Columbian era, probably used for ceremonial purposes. The DUMA obsidian mirror is unusual in that it is highly refined and convex on both sides. It would have been ground and polished by hand using an abrasive substance without metal tools.

Obsidian is a dark, natural glass of volcanic origin, derived from Mesoamerican sites found in Guatemala, El Salvador and the highlands of Central Mexico. Obsidian mirrors as a symbol of power were adopted by Mesoamerican rulers. These obsidian mirrors “granted” them power and divination properties. These magic obsidian mirrors were the medium that allowed them to look into the future and being a direct connection with the realm of their deities. The obsidian mirror was the link between two worlds.

Many ancient depictions survive showing mirrors being worn as part of ceremonial and military costumes, especially by the ruler. The DUMA obsidian mirror of Aztec origin is closely related to the Aztec deity Lord Tezcatlipoca, whose name in Nahuatl language literally means “Smoking Mirror”. Tezcatlipoca was the sun god and the patron deity of warriors, who could also bring fortune. According to legend, Tezcatlipoca’s foot was bitten off by the Earth monster during the battle waged at the time of the separation of the Earth and waters; he replaced it with a serpent and smoking mirror. He also often wore a large mirror on his head or chest, as is known from ancient Mesoamerican paintings (see accompanying illustration from the ancient Codex Borgia for an image of Lord Tezcatlipoca depicted with obsidian disks on chest and foot).

Obsidian mirrors were adopted by Mesoamerican rulers as objects of power and divination, granting them a medium through which they could look into the future and connect with the realm of the gods. Both reflective and translucent, the obsidian mirror was seen as a threshold between two worlds, with the obsidian conceptualized as a membrane or tissue separating this earthly world from the beyond. Many ancient depictions survive showing mirrors being worn as part of ceremonial and military costumes, especially by the ruler.

Obsidian is an igneous quartz used to make the finest tools and weapons in the Stone Age has returned today’s high-tech applications as an ultra pure glass used in fiber optics ~ mirrors for divination. [Duke Magazine ~ September, October 2001 ~ Obsidian Mirror Disk ~ A selection from DUMA.]

Talk to the mirror and rehearse your speech. It is well known that talking with oneself in front to a mirror helps to build self-esteem, self-consciousness and move forward in life. Very inspiring, talk to the person in the mirror and you will learn to love that person in the mirror ~ empowering mirrors.

Mirrors and urban legends is something to ponder about. I dare you to say “candyman” five times in front to a mirror… then, he will appear behind you, breathing down your neck… there is a lot of people that freak out with only the idea of saying it ~ mirrors materializing criminals.

There is an ancient myth that our grandparents believed. It is that the image in a mirror is our actual soul. If you break a mirror, you should expect seven years of bad luck. To break the spell of misfortune, you must wait seven hours ~ one for each year of bad luck ~ before picking up the broken pieces of a mirror, and bury them outside in the moonlight ~ mirrors reflecting our soul.

Liverpool, UK – December 21st , 2005. Psychologists at the University of Liverpool have have found that people still find it difficult to understand how mirrors work. Dr. Bertamini said: “People tend not to understand thet the location of the viewer matter in terms of what is visible in a mirror”. A good example of this is what we call the Venus Effect which relates to the many famous paintings of the goddess Venus, looking in a small mirror. Dr. Bertamini added that mirrors make us see virtual objects that exist in a virtual world; they are windows onto this world. On the other hand we trust what we see, but on the other hand this is a world that we know has no physical existence. This is one of the reasons why throughout history people have been fascinated by mirrors. It is difficult to understand how mirrors work.

The dictionary definition of mirror:
1. a reflecting surface, originally of polished metal but now usually of glass with a silvery,
    metallic, or amalgam backing.
2. such a surface set into a frame, attached to a handle, etc., for use in viewing oneself or as
    an ornament.
3. any reflecting surface, as the surface of calm water under certain lighting conditions.
4. Optics. a surface that is either plane, concave, or convex and that reflects rays of light.
5. something that gives a minutely faithful representation, image, or idea of something else:
    Gershwin's music was a mirror of its time.
6. a pattern for imitation; exemplar: a man who was the mirror of fashion.
7. a glass, crystal, or the like, used by magicians, diviners, etc.

  –Verb (used with object)
8. to reflect in or as if in a mirror.
9. to reflect as a mirror does.
10. to mimic or imitate (something) accurately.
11. to be or give a faithful representation, image, or idea of: Her views on politics mirror
    mine completely.

12. Music. (of a canon or fugue) capable of being played in retrograde or in inversion, as
    though read in a mirror placed beside or below the music.

13. with mirrors, by or as if by magic.
14. Origin:
    1175–1225; ME mirour < OF mireo(u)r, equiv. to mir- (see MIRAGE ) + -eo(u)r < L
    -ātor -ATOR

c.1225, from O.Fr. mireor "a reflecting glass," earlier miradoir (11c.), from mirer "look at," from V.L. *mirare, from L. mirari "to wonder at, admire" (see miracle). Fig. usage is attested from c.1300. The verb. meaning "to reflect" is first attested 1820 in Keats's "Lamia." Used in divination since classical and biblical times; mirrors in modern England are the subject of at least 14 known superstitions, according to folklorists. Belief that breaking one brings bad luck is attested from 1777.

Mirrors reflect a true picture of something else. But, if it is a true image or picture, why as I look at a mirror, everything that is on my right appears to be on my left side, and vice versa, but it doesn’t reverse top and bottom. If mirrors reflect a true picture, why I can’t read the text I have in front of the mirror? Well, I can affirm that the dictionary definition of mirror is not accurate. Mirrors do not reflect a true image of something else. Mirrors only show an illusion or virtual image and this image is deceiving.

Mirrors in our dreams ~ Dreams are Mirrors of growth. Dreams are fascinating and dreams have figured prominently in our cultural, societal, and religious development. Mirrors are complex symbols and in Jungian terms are related to a number of motifs. They symbolize your true self ~ not your ego self ~. The way you see yourself or the way you want others to see you. They can symbolize the intellect, namely, our thoughts or reflections; so looking into a mirror can symbolize reflection in general or, especially, self-reflection or appraisal. It may represent coming “face to face” with an inner worldly issue. What you see may be related to your persona, and a need to strengthen/change it. Zen priests often speak of the inner mirror, which Buddha or god mind, the self in Jungian terms. Seing images in the mirror may be a safer way to consider material from the unconscious, similar to a dream within a dream, an expression of material ready to emerge into conscious awareness. Mirrors symbolize imagination, another link/door between the unconscious and conscious worlds, as Alice goes through the looking glass. In fairy tales mirrors are often magic, connecting us to various aspects of ourselves, as does the mirror in “Beauty and the beast”. They are linked to self aggrandizement, as in the myth of Narcissus and the twin theme. As a reversal, mirror images can be linked to the shadows and to the opposites or opposing forces ~ their battle and their union. [Sandra Thompson, “A dreamer’s dictionary”. P. 379]

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