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Arundale, J. (2000). Editorial. Brit. J. Psychother., 16(3):261-262.

(2000). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 16(3):261-262


Jean Arundale

The concept of the mirror has been considered indispensable to psychotherapists in the quest for the therapeutic discovery of the self, but what aspect of mirroring is needed or meant when so many different uses of the term are available? The pool as the mirror for Narcissus, the joy in the mother's face for Winnicott, or perhaps Lacan's mirror stage when the child gives up his interiority? In the ‘concept of mind’ literature the mirror refers to attunement and reflection, to finding in the analyst's functioning mind the discovery by the patient of a mind of his own; in group analysis the mirror has to do with the discovery of unconscious parts of the self in the group mirror, and so on. In their article on Pirandello's play Six Characters in Search of an Author, Domenico and Giovanna Rita Di Ceglie find parallels to the analytic experience of a particular kind of mirroring with borderline patients. Patients who have had insufficient experience of containment express a need for mirroring of the sort that adds or subtracts nothing, that gives back exactly what is communicated. In this, there is a demand that projective identifications are held unaltered and uninterpreted, repeating identically the original experience, similarly to Pirandello's characters who cannot represent but only repeat or re-enact their story, blurring fiction and reality, leading to the chaos of madness. Helping the more disturbed patients to allow a shared, elaborated meaning and language, a triadic space that allows for real communication and symbol formation, is the process that in the play ends in failure.

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