Mirror and Self

  • Orestis Giotakos
Keywords: Mirror, self, mirror self-recognition test, mirror therapy, social mirror, ego, emotions, interoception


Beyond its use as a tool for self-viewing, the mirror has functioned as a simple yet useful research tool in many studies of mirror self-recognition. Mirrors provide reflected images of ourselves giving the mirror self-experience. However, for Merleau-Ponty, mirror self-experience is a profoundly alienating self-experience and for Rochat, this alienating self-experience is forming a deep experiential ‘‘me but not me” paradox. It is widely assumed that monkeys see a stranger in the mirror, whereas apes and humans recognize themselves, although this potential ability not necessary implicating a psychological self-awareness. Experiments show that “self” is not simply there waiting to be discovered, but is continually in process. According to Cooley’s “looking glass self”, looking in a mirror I am seeing myself as others sees me, or/and I am seeing myself as if I was another, or/and the me I see has not quite the same familiarity as the me I know from inner experience. According to Mead, the “Me” is the social self and the “I” is the response to the attitudes of others, being in an intersubjective space. The different aspects and distinctions between “Me” and ‘I’ during the mirror self-experience could be examined through the phenomenological and psychodynamic theories, the theory of mind, the social mirror theory, and the findings in neuroscience. Brain models, such as the interoceptive predictive coding and the ego- and allo-centric mind systems, might increase our understanding of mirror-self reflections, and moreover the perception of “self” and “body ownership”. Finally, some therapeutic interventions indicate that mirror self-observation, mirror meditation, or even mirror gazing, can have beneficial effects in patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders, by increasing ‘self-focus’ and self-compassion and relieving stress.
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