The “Mirror” Of Your Mind

Mirror Neurons 1

 

Tucked away neatly behind the frontal lobes of your brain are these amazing neurons of ours that help us to embrace “the other.” They are called “mirror neurons” and they enable us to experience the experience of another person, to the extent that we can, and that can be greater and greater. They are also the roots of the expanding awareness of the spiritual sense of the “the other,” but that’s for another time.

Start with people, one and a time, and you are also starting with the Universe.

Feeling understood is one of our most basic human needs- to get that sense that someone embraces who we are, not only for what we think, but for how we feel. It is this activity of being a kind of “chameleon” to the experience of another that bonds us to like-minded people and communities. It is the basis of friendship.

People who can’t or don’t use their mirror neurons have limited friendships and very small communities, or are loners.

Your mirror neurons, and your capacity to mirror the experience of another, help you and the other person to mature. It’s call mutuality. In a relationship of love between couples, it’s essential.

It determines whether the love in that relationship, indeed the relationship, itself, will last.

Can you experience the experience of another?

Not just as a parrot, mimicking back what somewhat is saying, but in an understanding an enlightened way, letting the other person know that you “get” where they’re coming from?

Mirror neurons grow when you use them, and so does maturity.

Find new balance and connectedness in your life by finding those people who can do the same for you.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Jodi Ana

    This is absolutley fascinating to me. I was just looking for information on Mirror
    Neurons the other day, in terms of the spiritual sense (ha! Thanks, Universe lol). When you speak of them as “They are also the roots of the expanding awareness of the spiritual sense of the “the other”, are you talking about what some would call psychic or intuitive experiences?

    I am very interested in the science that explains these types of experiences as I am a professional psychic (although I don’t like using that term because it is often tied to ‘fortune telling’, which is so far removed from what I do). Since I wasn’t raised in an environment where this was acceptably ‘normal’, it took me years to accept this about myself. So I am really very interested in the science that explains this phenomenon of how I can feel something in my own body that is what someone else is also feeling in theirs (or basically how I can feel ‘into’ their body), etc. It is very important to me to bring these ‘gifts’ in a grounded way.

    Anyhow, is this what you mean by expanding awareness of the spiritual sense of “the other”? Do mirror neurons have anything to do with this?

    I am also interested in this statement: “People who can’t or don’t use their mirror neurons have limited friendships and very small communities, or are loners.” (I’m behind on my reading so if this is in the book, forgive me). I understand this in the sense that someone isn’t using mirror neurons if they are not surrounded by others – after all, doesn’t it require ‘another’ to ‘mirror’. Are you saying that people who are ‘loners’ or not a part of a community don’t have
    the capacity to experience the experience of another? If that is the case, I would have to
    disagree. There have been times in my life where I’ve been isolated, but during those times, I still had deep empathy for others and the ability to experience what the other was experiencing.

    In fact, I think sometimes when someone has these types of ‘gifts’ to an extent that they don’t understand it or know how to manage it, they may withdraw because the sensations can become too overwhelming. Of course, I’m not sure that we are talking about the same thing, though, without the clarification of my initial question :op

    • Sandra Lintz

      This is a posting error I don’t know how to delete.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    I too believe there is a basic human need to “be known” and “to know.” It is the antidote to loneliness. I am currently the co-chair of a care committee at my church. I discovered, or maybe rediscovered, that when I went to visit, take a meal and/or flowers, that the visit was as good for me as it was for the people that I visited. My spirits were lifted too. Being kind can also be an act of receiving kind.

    I have noticed that some “givers” are too quick to refuse receiving. “Oh, I don’t need anything. We’re fine, thank you.” are common comments. BUT they not only don’t receive, they deprive the potential givers from feeling good by giving. This lose/lose can quickly become a win/win by simply saying, “Oh, yes. How thoughtful of you.” Receiving is a gift to the giver.

    Years ago I collected a handout that I still use today. It is a powerful take on affirmations – no cost and no calories.

    THE POWER OF AFFIRMATION

    To have affirmation as our basic attitude and practice creates a shift in the way we look at life, at others, and at ourselves. It invites us to look at what is right rather than wrong, and focus on what is to be celebrated, rather than that which needs to be fixed. The result is as much growth and change, if not more so, than under any system of criticism.

    Affirmation has a strong positive effect on us; we become energized, relaxed and responsive. It increases our self-esteem and decreases our insecurity. It encourages truthfulness rather than denial and makes us more open.

    Because so much of our self-image is based on the response of others to who we are, we are hungry for feedback. We need to be told what we are doing right, what others appreciate in us, what gifts they see. We can never get enough of it and from this we learn that we can never give too much to others. To practice affirmation is to give and receive grace!

    adapted from Phil Porter and Cynthia Winston Henry

  • Audrey Sloofman

    I am on vacation with my boyfriend. Yesterday we arrived in an exotic country across the globe and I watched this man who is usually extremely confident and graceful in most every situation become uncomfortable and awkward. He began complaining about everything. It was especially interesting to me because I was enthralld by this exotic place and the people and even the quirky, less-then-great things seemexciting and fun for me.
    I could see that I was actively using the up spiral, and consciously building a positive mindset with everything we encountered as we entered this country. I decided to give him space to go through what he needed to as he is a very self-aware person who is committed to consciously creating an extraordinary life and I knew he would be in a different place if I let him process it through.
    What I found interesting was that after a few hours of his complaining I was struggling with my own capacity to keep my emotions positive. All of his complaints had a validity to them and I struggled between absorbing his “reality” and maintaining my allowing and reframing my reality. I supposed I had this mirror mind for him.

    Today he was otally different place. Happy and at peace and lovely. We dicussed what had gotten triggered for him and he expressed his deep gratitude for the compassionate nd space I had given him as well as the ability to discuss and look at what had occurred for him.
    I am pretty sure I Mirrored his Mind. 🙂

  • jeris hollander

    It is likely no coincidence that I have been reading these blog posts at particular times that seemingly “mirror” a current personal experience. For as long as I can remember, I have believed that one of my strongest skills is the ability to understand and empathize with how others feel. This is one aspect of my personality that has drawn me to the world of coaching.

    In reference to friendships and relationships, the concept of mutuality can not be stressed enough. I have learned that when a relationship is imbalanced due to one person’s inability to adequately use these mirror neurons, it will eventually lead to the degradation of the relationship. I recently had a difficult conversation with an old friend regarding some challenges each of us are facing. Throughout this conversation, I felt that I deeply understood her feelings and point of view, and I expressed this to her. However it became increasingly apparent to me that she was not open or receptive to mutual understanding. Initially this may have appeared to be purely situational, but I soon began to realize that this imbalance has always existed in our relationship. An imbalance which has shown to be consistent in many of her relationships. For as long as I have known her, I have witnessed her struggle to maintain long term reciprocal friendships, which may be in part related to an inability utilize these mirror neurons.

    This quote really stood out to me because I have always believed that being “understood” is indeed the root of a strong relationship, whether it be friendship, romantic or familial. “Feeling understood is one of our most basic human needs- to get that sense that someone embraces who we are, not only for what we think, but for how we feel. It is this activity of being a kind of “chameleon” to the experience of another that bonds us to like-minded people and communities. It is the basis of friendship.” It is clear that the presence of mutuality creates strong bonds between like-minded people, in effect, forging a connected and mature relationship. So here is my question…why do we so often hold on to, and at times gravitate towards these imbalanced relationships, trying time and time again to prove or justify ourselves and our feelings? Perhaps it is the deep rooted human desire to feel understood by others, despite their capacity to do so. I would postulate that the key is to develop a discerning eye for those who can and will use their mirror neurons, and lean into these mutuality based relationships, gently allowing the contrary to naturally fade out. Looking into a mirror together is so much more fulfilling (and less exhausting!) than trying to chase someone down with one.

  • Sandra Lintz

    “I see you.” In the movie Avatar, by James Cameron, the Na’vi of the distant moon Pandora used this as a greeting. It is used in a manner similar to that of the Hindu greeting, “Namaste,” which can be translated to mean that the greeter sees or recognizes god in the one being greeted, the same god that resides within themselves. Some say, “Namaste” translates to “the god in me sees the god in you”. I love the respect, reverence and awe that come with these greetings. Now we are learning that specific mirror neurons facilitate this recognition of another as similar to ourselves creating the ability for empathy. In order to have empathy one must be self-aware as well as aware of the other, hand-in-hand.

    The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines empathy as the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions. The act of recognizing and seeing another person’s emotions can make our neurons for that emotion activate; they are called mirror neurons. Dual-awareness is needed but we do not have to lose someone to empathize, to connect on an emotional level and share grief with someone who just lost a loved one. The mirror neurons come to assist. Their grieving causes the mirror neurons to activate within us and we have empathy for grief.

    Empathy gets associated with sympathy or compassion, things which are primarily linked to negative emotions or events such as pain, sadness, grief, and loss. But the definition of empathy says it’s an understanding or sharing of emotion, not negative emotion. Think of the implications of sharing and empathizing happiness and celebration. You may enjoy a wedding but shirt, shoes and mirror neurons are required.

    Without knowing it I have seen mirror neurons in action in other people as they respond to me. When my spouse is frustrated or angry I used to be triggered into anger and begin the argumentative spiral downward. For years I worked on not getting triggered but now the positivity and practice of going to an emotion of peace by following a thought stopped the negativity within me. This, in turn, diffused my spouse’s anger more quickly. Part of the faster resolution of the problem was facilitated by her mirror neurons reacting to my peace as well as her not having someone on the receiving end of her anger responding with anger (an anger which her mirror neurons would detect and react in kind to). Actually I see it now. The mirror goes back and forth. The pattern of negativity will go on until the cycle is broken. Going to peace breaks the cycle thanks to mirror neurons. “I see you” and Namaste are greetings welcoming, not only a person, but a new moment in time, a space where positivity may thrive, a space where the greater good can thrive. Positivity can be contagious thanks to mirror neurons.

  • James

    This sentence from “The Mirror Of Your Mind” post is what
    we, as coaches, understand and deliver to our clients through active listening
    and powerful questions – “feeling understood is one of our most basic human
    needs – to get that sense that someone embraces who we are, not only for what
    we think, but for how we feel.” However, we can only listen well and ask great
    questions when we take the time to “brain couple” with our client to understand
    where they are coming from and hold an objective view while doing so.

    This ability takes a significant amount of maturity on
    behalf of the coach – to be able to see where the client is coming from, but
    not become thoroughly enmeshed in their experience of the situation. To
    experience the meaning that the client has around a certain series of events,
    is a great gift to that person, and ultimately helps them develop new thoughts,
    feelings, and meaning around a particular experience.

    As coaches who employ the NeuroPostive approach with our
    clients, we’re able to encourage our clients to experience more gratitude,
    peace, love, and joy by empowering them to experience different thoughts,
    feelings, and meaning by pulsing in the Emotional Gym, helping them learn how
    to stay in an UpSpiral, and accessing their strengths not only when they’re
    faced with challenges, but also when they are experiencing flow – in their
    work, life, career, etc.

    The connectivity part of this research is the main point of
    this post. To realize that connecting with other humans is a basic human need
    and leads to great amounts of peace, love, joy, and gratefulness in one’s life
    is to understand that it’s the relationship within coaching that produces the results
    from the methodology. It’s not simply the the use of “this” strategy or “that”
    strategy, but an investment in connecting with another person at a deep level
    to as Barbara Fredrickson posits, build more emotional, psychological, and
    intellectual resources to broaden the thoughts and actions of another. In other
    words, each of us mature when we use our mirror neurons and connect with each
    other.

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute