The Mirror Principle: The Single Relationship Secret That Will Change Your Love Life Forever
[originally written by Anna Yusim, for Thrive Global]
What sages and mystics have purported for centuries is now being studied by neuroscientists and psychologists. Our own personal worlds are a reflection of who we are and what we think, feel, and dream. Our thoughts and emotions also have a profound impact on the people we draw into our lives. The Buddha said, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” It is therefore not surprising that in changing our inner worlds, we also profoundly change the people we attract into our lives.
Have you ever noticed how you can attract the same kind of person into your life over and over again? It could be in business, relationships, socially or otherwise. As a psychiatrist in Manhattan, my patients will come to me with the following complaints: “I keep drawing in emotionally unavailable men” or “I keep attracting women who end up cheating on me” or “I always feel used by my business partners.” In addition to thinking about my patients’ complaints from a psychodynamic, interpersonal and existential perspective, I also like to incorporate a spiritual principle I call “the mirror principle”:
We don’t draw into our life who and what we want
We draw into our life who and what we are
Everybody who comes into our lives is a reflection of us in some way. If somebody has entered your life, they have something important to teach you about yourself.
My patient Sebastian, whose identity has been disguised to protect his confidentiality, has a story that beautifully illustrates the mirror principle. Sebastian came to me because he felt like he kept drawing into his life women who used him.
“I love beautiful women!” Sebastian told me as he leaned back in the leather chair in my office and began to catalog his conquests. He loved his wife (though hers was not the first name that came up), his adorable one-year-old twin daughters, his revolving door of mistresses, and his countless one-night stands. Since college he had made a habit of sleeping with at least one woman a night when he went out of town on business trips. He never remembered their names or kept their numbers. Although he “loved” them, they meant nothing to him.
A business colleague had recommended that Sebastian come to therapy to find out why he kept attracting women who only cared about his money. Since Sebastian enjoyed complaining about how all the women he loved tried to manipulate him, he was glad to give therapy a try.
As attracted to his exceptional wealth as he was to their exceptional beauty, Sebastian’s mistresses inevitably asked for favors: a car, an apartment, jewelry, and spending money. It was truly amazing to hear how many women wanted nothing from Sebastian but his money.
Yet he had been using them as well. Sebastian was exploiting women who exploited men. The women were mirror images of Sebastian. He and the women he attracted were perfectly matched.
It was my suspicion that, whatever wounds he hid beneath the highly polished facade he presented to the world, these women shared the same wounds. But introspection on that level was of no interest to Sebastian, who preferred to play the victim. “It’s the women,” he often said. “All of them are out to take advantage of me!”
When the image we secretly hold of ourselves does not match the people we attract, it surprises us. But it shouldn’t. In the 1960s, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a renowned plastic surgeon, discovered that even when his patients were visually transformed with a whole new face, the old doubts and insecurities that they hoped to escape still haunted them. Only through personal introspection and deep internal work, or what Dr. Maltz called an “emotional face-lift,” could their psychological scars and negative beliefs about themselves be positively transformed.
I have certainly experienced the mirror principles many times in my own life. After I ended a long-term relationship in my early thirties, I began to develop a pattern of drawing into my life single men who were interesting, intelligent, charismatic, successful and, like clockwork, emotionally unavailable. They all truly believed that they wanted to marry the right woman, but deep inside they all had a deep-rooted fear of commitment. As you may know, these kinds of men are excellent pursuers. As long as I was not fully available to them, they were eager to pursue me. But as soon as I raised the question of a relationship, they ran like the wind.
I kept drawing in one emotionally unavailable man after another until I finally realized that the problem was not with the men. On some level, I too was emotionally unavailable. These men were mirrors for this important truth I had not yet faced about myself.
Despite telling myself that I really wanted a deeply committed relationship, I had been gathering around me all those emotionally unavailable men because a part of me felt safer avoiding emotional intimacy. Before I could attract the kind of man I wanted, I had to open my own heart to love and become emotionally available myself.
After having my heart broken time and again, a deeply spiritual man with a beautiful soul and open heart walked into my life and swept me off my feet. At first I was confused by the experience. It felt very different from my prior dating experience. Jesse was kind, generous, straightforward, and comfortable with his emotions. He did not play games. He was honest with me about how he felt and what he was looking for in his life.
At first it was a little overwhelming. Then I realized that was actually a good sign. It meant I was outside my comfort zone. Something had shifted. I had finally drawn in a different kind of man! Two years later, Jesse would become my husband.
As Sebastian and my stories illustrates, the world is our mirror. Everybody we attract into our lives reflect us in some way. Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, also known as the Baal Shem Tov, elaborated on this point in saying, “Should you look upon your fellow man and see a blemish, it is your own imperfection that you are encountering—you are being shown what it is that you must correct within yourself.”
If a certain kind of person keeps coming into our life, he or she has something important to teach us about ourselves. Recognizing the mirror-image nature of relationships is the first step in improving our relationships and ourselves.
Anna Yusim, MD, Psychiatrist and Author, is one of our newest Experts partnering on new Episodes here at Pillow. Dr. Anna Yusim is a Stanford- and Yale-trained psychiatrist, keynote speaker, and best-selling author of Fulfilled: How the Science of Spirituality Can Help You Live a Happier, More Meaningful Life. She has a psychiatry practice in Manhattan where she has helped over one thousand patients. After working as a neurobiology researcher with Dr. Robert Sapolsky and completing her medical training, Dr. Yusim felt that something was missing from her life. In her quest to find it, she traveled, lived and worked in over 50 countries, while studying Kabbalah, learning Buddhist meditation, and working with South American shamans and Indian gurus. She lives in Manhattan with her husband.
More information on this topic can be found in Anna’s book, Fulfilled: How the Science of Spirituality Can Help You Live a Happier, More Meaningful Life, and on social media:
Author website: https://www.annayusim.com