The image in the mirror

it was Donald Winnicott who understood that ‘the precursor of the mirror is the mother’s face’ so when the baby looks at the mother she can see how she feels …what she feels is reflected back in the mother’s face…or the mothering person’s face. So if the baby sees joy and pleasure she can start to feel good about herself. All this leads to the question what happens when the mother is preoccupied or depressed or very sad or in pain. Adam Phillips writes that the central self ‘suffers insult’. The long term effect can be deeply damaging. So how we view ourselves in the mirror is deeply affected by how we were first viewed. I also like the work by Jacques Lacan on the mirror stage. Here he takes the small child from about 6 months up to about 12 months and her exploration  of her reflection in the mirror. he talks about a particular moment of recognition and jubilation when the infant is moving away from the simple reflection in the mother’s gaze. Most interestingly Lacan writes about this as the start of our confusion with our image as reality. The small child experiences herself as all over the place but what she sees is a unified image of her own disarray. In other words the image is of completeness but the reality is of an inner fragility. All this can be seen as deeply spiritual. The move is to be able to see ourselves as loved in the eyes of God whilst remaining aware of the fragility and frailty of the ego as the representative of our reality. The truth is more nuanced.