Reflection (psychology)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term mirroring is used in psychology in at least four areas, each with its own meaning:

Reflections in the understanding of psychoanalysis and the supervision derived from it

In psychoanalytic language, the phenomenon is considered under mirrors that old relationship constellations with the associated conflicts and feelings are repeated in the therapy situation. In this sense the term is another name for the concept of transference and countertransference , one of the most important tools in psychoanalysis.

Enid Balint made this concept fruitful for group supervision , because she noticed (in the supervision of doctors ) that the relationship patterns of the patients, about which were discussed in the supervision, were repeated in the supervision group, including the associated feelings, and on them Way of knowledge and processing.

Mirroring in Carl Rogers' client-centered psychotherapy

In client-centered psychotherapy , mirroring describes the attempt by a person to react to the behavior of the other party in such a way that he takes his perspective and "reflects back" what has been understood. This means that the person gives back in their own words what they have understood from their counterpart in terms of content, feelings and needs.

The method requires a high level of empathic skills and sensitive handling. For its founder, Carl Rogers , this empathy is a pillar of an overall concept that also includes unconditional respect for the other and congruence or authenticity.

A common misunderstanding that has discredited this method is that a “mirror image” can be created by mere mechanical reproduction of what has been said.

Conversely, since the principles of this approach are easy to understand, it has often been included in concepts for conducting discussions, including in Christian pastoral care and pastoral theology and in mediation , where “mirroring” helps to loosen blockages because it helps the parties to perceive one's own position from a distance.

Reflections in Heinz Kohut's understanding of narcissism

For Heinz Kohut , the concept of mirroring refers to the sensitive expression of the mother on the child's expressions, i.e. to the recording and imitation of gestures and facial expressions of the child, possibly their verbalization and a positive emotional reaction that makes it clear that the child is is wanted in his being there and his actions ( see also: baby language ). The associated expression of the "shine in the mother's eye" has become famous.

Sufficient reflection by the caregiver is particularly important for infants and toddlers. Since a child can only try out and increasingly experience his new individual reality after birth and physical cutting of the cord by crawling (with an average of 21 months he then consciously understands himself as "I"), as a baby it still experiences itself as part of its environment, ie as a Unity with his caregiver (symbiosis). Only the empathy of this caregiver, their compassion for their rapidly changing psychosomatic reality, gives a baby the recognition and appreciation that the vital self-esteem is based on in the "self" and not just in the "I" and its character .

Without this reflection, an infant quickly finds itself emotionally alone and thus in real danger. If his frightened, fearful or outraged screaming does not lead to the confirmation of his emotional reality, which is vital for him, he is really forced to adapt to the psychological conditions of his environment. Since every type of life is dependent on interaction, psychosomatic beings like humans cannot do without material exchange (oxygen and food) and emotional interaction with their environment in the long term without harm. Insufficiently mirrored infants will therefore instinctively - for the sake of survival - learn very quickly to act in such a way that they receive positive or negative confirmation of themselves, or that they themselves become mirrors for their environment. Such deformations to more narcissistic characters in the first case or depressive characters in the case of subordination or adaptation are prerequisites for later neuroses - they are referred to as narcissistic early damage. In fact, they have holistic consequences, because they can be demonstrated not only psychologically, but also somatically and in a limited self-confidence . For example, the founder of bioenergetic body therapy Alexander Lowen described the muscular tension and the associated shaping of the body image . Naturally the dignity of man is at poorly seasoned own appreciation also not self-evident are.

If parents want to support their children holistically, ie physically, mentally and spiritually, then they will take the time for adequate reflection, especially during the "I" development - i.e. in the first 2 years. The characters of very many, if not most of the people, are still permanently and often lifelongly deformed by insufficiently experienced empathy in infancy. Because once people's self-esteem is based on a certain image (through the imprint), once people have internalized that they have to earn recognition through their provocative or adapted, subordinate behavior, then they are very difficult to heal from this unconscious conviction that they once experienced as life-sustaining. Therapy usually takes years and is by no means always successful in helping patients / clients to release and consciously feel their repressed emotions, which are contained in body tension. The appreciative reflection of their emotional reality by their therapists can and should help them to do so. This appreciation of the "true self" should justify the vital self-esteem in human existence and not (exclusively and neurotically) in certain behavior, special abilities, based on appearance, position, power or money. If the adult "I" of the patient learns to treat itself respectfully through the acknowledging mirroring, then the "I" also becomes increasingly aware of itself . This tutoring would be necessary much less often if parents knew more about the meaning of the reflection and took it into account in their care.

Mirroring in communication - symmetrical and antisymmetrical

This distinction, which is common in geometry (see Hargittai István and Magdolna), also proves to be valuable in psychology. In a symmetrical reflection, form and content are mirrored identically: a white swan is reflected white in the water. In an antisymmetric mirroring, the form is mirrored identically, while its content is inverted into the opposite. A white swan would appear black in the reflection, which is why one speaks of a reflection of opposites.

Carl Rogers' method is based on symmetrical reflections as well as the mirroring of gestures and facial expressions in the sense of Heinz Kohut. Frank Farrelly , a direct student of Carl Rogers, developed provocative therapy from his approach , the instrumentation of which consists of many antisymmetric reflections.

Example: Great passivity can mean that a person misses many opportunities and complains about a loss of quality in their life. A typical response from Farrelly at this point highlights opposing consequences: he likes to speak appreciatively of the gains others have at this person's expense.

You can only effectively provoke a person to be more active if you treat him with goodwill, empathy, heart and humor. Skilful use of antisymmetric mirroring expands the possibilities of communication considerably, but has hardly been researched and nowhere is the subject of training.


  • Istvàn and Magdolna Hargittai: Symmetry. Reinbek: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag 1998, ISBN 3-499-60358-6
  • Peter Kutter: Reflections and transfers in supervision. In: Harald Pühl (Ed.): Handbuch der Supervision 2 . Pp. 41–54, 2nd revised edition, Edition Marhold in Wissenschaftsverlag Volker Spiess, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-89166-987-9
  • Frank Wartenweiler: Magic mirror mirror magic. Mirroring in communication: symmetrical and antisymmetrical. Paderborn: Junfermann Verlag 2006, ISBN 3-87387-638-8

See also