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Author Topic: BPD BEHAVIORS: Mirroring  (Read 37317 times)
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« on: May 30, 2007, 09:57:39 PM »

I know that the term "mirroring" is often used in conversation about BPD, but I must admit I don't completely understand the concept.

It was brought to mind recently when my DH's upbdxw wrote to SS's baseball coach that "No worries.  we all use different mirrors to look at ourselves."

This was an excerpt from a lengthy e-mail that she sent to the coach and cc'd all the boys' parents.  She was accusing him of being dishonest in not admitting that he had been using profanity in front of the boys.  My reaction is that it is a very odd thing to say.  What are your thought about it?

What exactly is mirroring?

« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2007, 12:13:59 PM »

Mirroring back the behaviour they think is expected to gain aproval.  It took me a long time to see that my stpdtr did not have my morals and code but was only mimicing me.  She says and does what she thinks is wanted because she dosn't know what to do herself.  She says, "when I see you, how do you want me to act?"  or "I am not sure how you want me to respond to that".
Randi Kreger
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Author of the 'Essential Family Guide to BPD"

« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2007, 05:46:41 PM »

I used the term "mirroring” in Stop Walking on Eggshells in a section called, “Be a Mirror, Not a Sponge.” What I meant was that when your BP insults you, etc., don’t soak it in, but deflect it off you as if you were a mirror.I made a mistake! The term has another meaning in the psych literature. There, “Mirroring” means acting like another person as a way to show a connection. :
This is what Wikipedia says:Mirroring in simplest form is copying what someone else is doing while communicating with them. Observed in people exhibiting similar postures, gestures or voice tonality.This copying or miming includes: Gestures; Movements; Body language ; Muscle tensions; Expressions; Tones; Eye movements; Breathing; Tempo; Accent (linguistics); Attitude (psychology); Choice of words; Metaphors, and; everything discernable in communication.Mirroring happens very naturally when people are conversing. The listeners will typically smile or frown along with the speaker talking to them. If one person throws in sports metaphors, another person, who is in rapport and mirroring, will likely parry along similar lines.Somewhat like a communication dance. There is matching as if it was a dance, while having normal conversation. People do this naturally with their silent body language and spoken words.When meeting people, if you display the same expression as they have, or mirror their expression, they will generally be much more friendly. You might see this related to the way a person accepts their own image when looking in a mirror.
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« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2007, 12:06:39 AM »

When I think about my ex mirroring me I'm usually thinking about when we first met and he seemed as though he was my other half. I believe we all mirror each other to a certain extent as mirroring is like a social skill, but with my exbp it was over the top. Everything I felt, he felt. Everything I thought he also thought. He wanted the same things I wanted, he loved the same things I loved, etc, etc... It was intoxicating to me to find this person that was just like me.

I didn't really see it for what it was until we broke up and he immediately replaced me with another woman. When I saw him again six or seven months later I noticed that he had morphed into someone new. He was copying his new gf. Going to her church, talking like her, citing her beliefs and principles as his own. I know this because I met her too and spent some time with the both of them. Observing him as an uninvolved third party made it so easy to spot this mirroring technique that he uses. I don't know if he does in conciously or not, but it just jumped right out at me.
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« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2008, 02:12:59 PM »

I understand that my ex probably "mirrored" me in our early stages which is why I became so attached so quickly.   I didn't get to see the real person until the mirror came down.  And then it was really ugly.  sad 

Does mirroring mean the BPD person matches your interests exactly?  Or your personality?  Or your values?  I don't think that is the case with my ex.   I actually thought I found an independent thinker, with some similar interests, but also many different ones.  So that didn't really feel like what I've read about mirroring.

Or maybe it means that I really only want to find someone just like me?  Or that I am so shallow and/or self-interested that the "perfect person" needs to be a mirror image of me?  Of course, I'd like to think I am more interesting than that, but if not, then that is a good lesson learned. 

I'm trying to understand how it all works so that I can understand my role, and hopefully, avoid anything like it in the future.

Any wisdom, thoughts, experiences on mirroring would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks.


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« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2008, 09:14:28 AM »

The term mirroring is very useful, but also very confusing because of its other, more prominent uses.

1) The theory of mirroring was developed by Heinz Kohut, MD.  Kohut said that children need to have their conversations and accomplishments acknowledged, accepted and praised by others.  Kohut felt that it is important for a child's legitimate feelings of be mirrored by its parents. The parent's mirroring gets internalized in time by the child, so as the child gets older they can provide their own mirroring, their own sense of self-appreciation.  Children who do not get enough mirroring are considered by many psychologists to be at risk of developing a narcissistic personality later in life.

The basis of healthy self-esteem is that one's natural self, with all its emotions, with its successes and failures, is acceptable and loveable. If the child does not feel their parents love them for themselves, apart from accomplishments, they will develop what object relations theorists call the "false self," - the self that is fabricated in order to get the approval of his parents, based on the ability to achieve good grades, a good job, a good mate, etc.

As most know, "false self" is often talked about as an issue with people affected by Borderline Personality Disorder.

2) A popular (non-clinical) use of the term mirroring is described by Nicholas Boothman (author). Its a communication technique.   Boothman wrote How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, more or less, an update of Dale Carnegie's classic How to Win Friends and Influence People.  Boothman says that adjusting your posture, voice, words and gestures to match those of a new acquaintance is critical for "connecting" because we are all attracted to others who are just like us,  "People respond when you speak at their pace. To establish an instant rapport, mirror your new friend's head nods and tilts [etc.]".  

Interestingly, Boothman is now writing a book entitled  How to Make Someone Fall in Love With You in 90 Minutes or Less .  :P

3) The term mirroring at BPD Family has come over the years to mean an extreme version of what Boothman talks about - basically a person with BPD becoming a chameleon.  I'm not sure of the origin of this usage - I think the "non" communities just adopted it.  Members often use "mirroring" to describe the way a person with Borderline Personality Disorder "changes themselves" to gain your love.   It's not just about mimicking your style, but even about mimicking your "dreams".   Many members describe how a BP picked up on their values and modeled themselves after their dream girl (guy) - taking that persona on.  A BPD can be one way in one relationship and very different in another based on what they think that person deeply desires.  

Often the BP eventually comes to resent their SO for this -  feeling that they sacrificed themselves and the SO did not live up to their end.

I hope that helps!


PS:  Lost in the Mirror: An Inside Look at Borderline Personality Disorder by  Richard A. Moskovitz MD (1996) uses the term "mirror" in the title but it has no relationship to anything in the book.  Dr. Moskovitz originally titled his book Becoming Real: Growing out of Borderline Personality Disorder, but for marketing reasons the publisher renamed it Lost in the Mirror

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« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2009, 02:31:23 AM »

This is a great workshop...important to contemplate when disengaging why we feel we have lost so much.  The mirroring burns in that feeling of finding the soulmate that is hard to shake later no matter how much evidence comes up to the contrary.

Often the BP eventually comes to resent their SO for this -  feeling that they sacrificed themselves and the SO did not live up to their end.

And in turn I resent the BP...because I was cheated out of a chance to meet, fall in love with and marry someone who actually shared my interests and values.  And the fake version I found is now someone else, WITH someone else, and barely remembers the experience.

Good food for thought.

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« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2011, 12:34:43 AM »

The whole experience felt like a real insight into mirroring, I noticed that a lot of people use it seemingly unconsciously especially partners pointing their feet at each other or even on a train pointing their feet at the train door. I had seen it used in job interviews and with doctors but nothing on this scale.

One of the earliest experiences of mirroring he used was when he was drunk he walked across to stand right next to me very closely and it was obviously mirroring ever movement of my arm and my entire stance. This came across as quite deliberate and was at the stage he was most flirtly.

Others seemed unconscious or seemed to panic him, he went to talk to someone at the next desk but stood in front of me and grabbed my desk. He wasn't looking at me but thrusting his thumb at me. Then we were in a meeting as and per usual he came to sit next to me and during the meeting the foot jolted round to face up at me, it was very odd and when I did the same to him he quickly withdrew his foot and never referred to it again.  On another occasion when I returned the mirroring movements he was making during another meeting he utterly panicked and seemed to act like a child who had been found out doing something serious by a parent.

The whole thing left me so confused, there were other incidents which seemed to clearly indicate a sexual attraction. Then when he says he is not interested in me and never would be as if the whole few months didn't happen. I'm left feeling like a predator and him the victim.  I got completely obsessed by him, I completely fell in love with him and I felt he had with me. I don't understand the behavior at all - reading BPD material I do recognize some aspects but am not sure.
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« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2011, 01:01:38 AM »

The term mirroring comes from object relations psychoanalysis and refers to the dyadic relationship between mother and infant--in a good dyadic relationship the infant's states are matched by the mother--she is sensitive to her child's needs for affect regulation. With BPDs the theory is that the mother was not attuned affectively to her infant; she didn't sooth her child when the child needed it, didn't react positively when the infant needed it developmentally. Some people say that this impairs right-brain development and the capacity to self-regulate affect. The upshot is that the BPD has no self or object constancy.

Anyway, I think the importance of mirroring stays with us as human beings because it is a fundamental part of how we become what we are. We would not survive without early mirroring of some kind. All of us are sensitive to being empathized with, being "seen" and understood. So, someone who is good at mirroring other people's states can sure get their attention. Mirroring can happen through how a person looks in your eyes, is attuned to your actions and postures, interests and dreams. it can happen on many levels.

BPDs are starved for what they didn't get and they never got through the symbiotic phase with their mother(ing figure) appropriately. They are sort of stuck there and hunger for it. The famous (infamous) borderline mirroring is an attempt to get the self they didn't get by proxy--hence the honeymoon phase of a borderline relationship, which is so intense. But the BPD has no constant sense of self or other and so is reliant on mirroring someone else (being intensely infatuated) but it isn't stable. The BPD had such negative experiences with the mother figure that the BPD starts feeling engulfed (no boundaries) and then starts raging, splits, and abandons the person he/she was infatuated with to avoid his/her own abandonment fears. Then the BPD starts the whole thing up with someone new and the cycle goes on. Mirroring happens when healthy people fall in love too, but healthy people have a sense of self and object constancy and so intense infatuation is just part of a relationship--not the whole thing. I think one of the things that makes us vulnerable to BPDs is their ability to capture this intensity that was surely a part of our very early preverbal development. I think we are vulnerable to mirroring.




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« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2014, 12:51:24 PM »

i feel like after a couple years of dealing with my exBPDgf i started to mirror her persona.

lost my grip on everything for a while and when i was no longer her savior, when she turned me into her she decided it was time for the next chapter, next guy, next cycle...  

i struggle with the feelings that my downfall, breakdown and toxic new mentality is what finally drove her away
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