Mirror Metaphors

Life is Good The proliferation of mirrors as metaphors abound in therapeutic literature, philosophy and psychoanalytical texts implying that the reflected image, either real or imaginary, may provide insight in a clinical context (Gormley, 2008; Weinberg, 2004). In Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Rorty used the mirror to describe the power of metaphor in the history of foundationalist epistemology stating that:

It is pictures rather than propositions, metaphors rather than statements that determine most of our philosophical convictions. The picture that holds traditional philosophy captive is that of the mind as a great mirror containing various representations – some accurate, some not – and capable being studied by pure non empirical methods (Rorty, 1979, p. 12).

For Haglund (1996), “Part of the power of the mirror metaphor is that the single image captures many aspects of human development and human experience” (p. 226). Shengold (1974) believed that the mirror was a metaphor for the mind which reflected the image of self and others. Pines (1984) described mirroring in group psychoanalysis as a process of objective self-reflection. In western philosophies, the psyche is seen as a mirror of reality, while in Buddhism, it is the world that mirrors back who we are in all aspects of our lives (Bolen, 2005; Nhat Hanh, 2006).


Bolen, J. S. (2005). The Tao of psychology: Synchronicity and the self. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Gormley, L. (2008). Through the looking glass: The facilitation of mirroring in group process. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 33(3), 207-220. doi:10.1080/01933920802205038

Haglund, P. E. (1996). A clear and equal glass: Reflections on the metaphor of the mirror.  Psychoanalytical Psychology, 13(2), 225-245. Retrieved from http://www.psychoanalysisarena.com/psychoanalytic-psychotherapy-0266-8734

Nhat Hanh, T. (2006). Understanding our mind. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.

Rorty, R. (1979). Philosophy and the mirror of nature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Shengold, L. (1974). The metaphor of the mind. Journal of the American Psychoanalytical  Association, 22, 97-115. Retrieved from http://apa.sagepub.com/

Weinberg, H., & Toder, M. (2004). The hall of mirrors in small, large, and virtual groups. Group Analysis, 37(4), 492-507. doi:10.1177/0533316404047782