The Mirror Effect: When Others Reflect Our Own Demons

Last updated by Lauren Hart

I’ve been complaining for a few years now that I’ve stopped making new friends. I have this feeling that people don’t come up to me... But it has to be said that I don’t go up to them either. I’ve realized that this is the mirror effect. It’s my behavior that reflects on others, and it works the other way around too! It can be positive or negative, but very often it reflects our own difficulties. Let’s see what the mirror effect reflects.

The Mirror Effect: When Others Reflect Our Own Demons

What is the mirror effect?

Carl Gustav Young explained the mirror effect as follows: “Everything we see in others is a reflection of ourselves”. Everything we do and how we act is reflected back to us by others. As a result, they allow us to learn more about ourselves. A bit like a young child who reproduces the behavior they see in their parents to develop and become aware of their own body. External reality is a reflection of our inner state!

🧐 Who is the mirror? The other person, with whom we exchange or have a relationship, whatever the nature of that relationship.

A concrete example of the positive mirror effect

To understand the mirror effect, we can take the example of friendship. We generally make friends with people we value. We look to others for the traits of our personality that we like and the values that are important to us 🥰. It’s a mirror effect that can be described as positive, but most of the time it’s rather negative.

>>> Read; What are the 6 primary emotions?

How does the mirror effect work?

In reality, the mirror effect is often a defense mechanism. We could say that projection corresponds to this behavior. We project our feelings onto others based on our own vision, which is how the mirror effect works.

Let’s imagine we hate someone for being self-centered and self-assured 😒. We think they take up too much “space” and only talk about themselves all the time, boasting about their virtues. We’ll feed these thoughts to protect ourselves. Deep down, if we have a problem with this person for this specific behavior, it’s hiding something else. Our negative emotions are caused by a lack of self-confidence and jealousy at seeing another person so comfortable 😥. In any case, good self-esteem can get you through tough situations, here's how.

👉 The mirror effect will reflect back to us a buried problem, through the resentments we may have towards someone else.

Why is it so important to understand the mirror effect?

By understanding the mirror effect, we learn to turn inward to find solutions to our problems. This psychological mechanism conditions our lives and our relationships with others. We always think that others are the problem before questioning ourselves 😅. It’s important to constantly readjust and avoid developing false beliefs with the mirror effect. To find out whether the mirror effect applies to a problem you’re facing, you need to look inwards and perform introspection.

Turning the mirror back on yourself

Let me take the example from the introduction to this article: I can’t seem to make new friends. I’m talking about real, deep, strong bonds, not acquaintances we see occasionally. But if I’m lonely, it’s not necessarily other people’s fault. Perhaps I don’t project an image that encourages others to come to me 😶:

  • Perhaps I’m not interested enough in others;
  • Perhaps I don’t start talking to others;
  • Perhaps I don’t maintain the friendship bond enough, etc.

👉 There may be a whole host of reasons I need to find within myself to understand my problem and my behavior. To do this, I need to get rid of my limiting beliefs such as “other people don’t like me” in order to correct the problem.

The mirror effect in a relationship

One of the most sensitive configurations to the mirror effect is when you’re in a relationship 😬. It’s difficult to manage such an intimate relationship with another human being, and we very often encounter tensions. We tend to easily blame the other person, without taking a step back. However, when our relationship runs into difficulties, we need to ask ourselves the right questions. If we don’t, we can end up getting stuck in misunderstanding and suffering, culminating in a brutal break-up 💔.

Goodbye to limiting thoughts

When we argue, we have the impression that it’s our differences that stand out, when in fact it’s the opposite. The other person reflects back to us what we criticize them for, in other words, our limiting beliefs:

  • They don’t look after us enough, they don’t tidy the house enough, they only think of themselves, etc.

We need to ask the question the other way around:

  • Do we go to them? Are we doing as many chores as we’d like? Are we also thinking about ourselves?

👉 The more we turn the problem upside down and reverse the mirror effect, the better we’ll be able to understand the problems in our relationship.

The guilt of the mirror effect

Personal development allows us to question ourselves in various situations, and it’s important to do so. However, we must be careful because sometimes we’re not at all responsible for a problematic situation. If you have a narcissistic pervert in your life, you need to look at it in a different way. Here are the traits of a narcissistic personality, by the way. You’re in a toxic relationship, and you’re being manipulated by someone who’s perfectly aware of what they’re doing.

What’s more, we mustn’t overlook the impact of psychological illnesses such as the symptoms of depression, which affect our social relationships. In this kind of situation, it’s crucial to get professional support and ask for help.

👉 Being kind to yourself is the best way to get to know yourself sincerely and free yourself from toxic emotions.

Editor’s note: A fascinating mechanism

As you can see, the mirror effect is a fascinating psychological mechanism! Before blaming the other person, take a look at yourself! What’s it doing to you? Why do you feel this way? Where does this feeling come from? 👉 However, spotting a mirror effect and understanding it isn’t as simple as it might seem, which is why it’s worth contacting a psychologist to understand what’s going on inside you. This work will enable you to put in place new behaviors that will improve your relationships and help you to flourish.

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!


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Article presented by Lauren Hart

Writing is a beautiful means of expression that I cannot do without. It has allowed me to channel my hypersensitivity, plus I love writing about psychology and personal development. For me, self-understanding is the best way to move forward!

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Wengood's favorite tunes 🎵

Wengood's playlist


  1. Only LoveBen Howard
  2. Invalid date
  3. Fix YouColdplay
  4. Beautiful DayU2
  5. Thinking out LoudEd Sheeran
  6. White FlagDido
  7. Lay Me DownSam Smith
  8. Nine Million BicyclesKatie Melua
  9. Put Your Records OnCorinne Bailey Rae
  10. Summertime SadnessLana Del Rey
  11. Imagine - Remastered 2010John Lennon
  12. Shake It OutFlorence + The Machine
  13. Space Oddity - Love You Til Tuesday versionDavid Bowie
  14. What A Wonderful WorldLouis Armstrong
  15. With Or Without YouU2
  16. HelloAdele
  17. Don't Stop Me NowQueen
  18. Skinny LoveBirdy
  19. WingsBirdy
  20. Californian SoilLondon Grammar

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