Oh, this is a wonderful technique. It comes from Heinz Kohut, who developed a psychoanalytic theory called self psychology.
Mirroring is essential to healthy development. And it’s pretty easy to do as a parent when you have beautiful and delightful young children who are constantly doing adorable things. “Oh! You are dancing like a fairy!” you might say without even thinking. Or “You just hit that ball over the pitcher’s head!” or “What a colorful drawing!”
You might also be tempted to say stuff like “You are the most beautiful fairy in the world!” or “What a great hit!” or “You’re the best artist ever!”
This is not mirroring. This is praising.
And praising, while it makes children feel good, is not necessarily true. (And they know it.)
Mirroring is closer to true because it is what you see. It is description. It is without judgment (as close as you can get to not judging.)
Description is very helpful to developing people (and others) because it offers a reality check.
A reality check goes something like this: “If your description matches mine, I know I’ve got a handle on reality (and myself).”
Or sometimes: “If your description does NOT match mine, perhaps I’ve got the wrong belief(s) about myself. I may not have a reliable handle on reality. That’s something I’d better look into.”
I’m not talking about psychosis here (which is when you lose touch with reality). I’m talking about the very common experience of harboring negative beliefs about yourself and thinking there’s evidence all around you that confirms those negative self-beliefs.
Mirroring challenges those destructive, self-fulfilling negative self-beliefs.
And challenges to our negative self-beliefs create space in which to grow. To see ourselves more accurately. To cultivate the best in ourselves.
At the very least, teachers need to be mirrors for their students. And parents need to be mirrors for their children. I also think friends can be mirrors for their friends. And bosses for their employees. Mirroring is good for everyone.