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  • Writer's pictureCoen de Koning

What is it like? Part one: The Mirror.

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

Psychedelics are sometimes compared to mirrors. And I feel there is something to that comparison.

Having a mirror in your home for the first time can radically change your life. Suddenly you can observe how people see you, you can put on your make-up like in the magazines or shave not just based on your vague intuition. You can tell how beautiful you are after a good night’s sleep, a shower, having brushed your teeth and having had a good shave. And you can see what you look like after an exhausting week at work and a bottle of wine. But a mirror alone wont magically turn everyone into mother Theresa. A fascistic skinhead may admire the swastika on their cheek or see that there is some prime real-estate for a powerful statement available on their forehead. A punker may use it to fix their mohawk or realise that dying it purple may actually go better with their eyes than that neon green.

And if you have never seen yourself in the mirror you may not know what you are looking at, or for. You may need some guidance, someone to look over your shoulder with you and tell you what they see, help you notice how your hair sits and what happens when you comb it. Someone to suggest trying a smile just to observe how your face changes when you do.. showing you how people see you when you smile and when you don't. It may be a very new and unfamiliar sight if you have never really looked at other peoples faces but just at their clothes, their cars, their bank accounts or their waists. Maybe you have spent your life hanging on by the skin of your teeth and have only really paid attention to the things you needed for bare physical or emotional survival and not really to people’s faces. A mirror may be a very surreal concept to you and it may take some time to wrap your head around the idea, how to use it effectively and to start to enjoy what it introduces into your life. Especially if you have lived in an environment where no body used mirrors, you were taught never to look into one, that only horribly narcissistic people look into mirrors and loose their soul to it.

Then, how often do you want to use your mirror? Certainly you don't want to spend a large amount of your day staring into it, you may not even want to use it every day. On a weekend you may allow yourself to just be you as you are. You may not even use it every week, as you have experience using a mirror you may find that you know what to look for in a quick glance and you may be able to learn to recognise your reflection in shop windows and use those moments to fine-tune the way you look on the fly. Your mirror may help you recognise your reflection in all kinds of places around you.

Can be a useful tool, a mirror.

Now to reflect this back on the comparison to psychedelic experiences; many people take psychedelics at a festival, in a club or with friends in nature. If in stead you lie down with gentle music on headphones, your eyes covered with eye shades and focus inside the experience will often be quite radically different. The psychedelic experience may help you observe the emotions, feelings and even the thoughts that are alive in you with amazing clarity and sensitivity. Like a mirror this experience can help you see what makes you you and how you respond to the world around you. This awareness can help you see which emotional responses and defence mechanisms have developed in you. It may become clear to you why they are there and perhaps what you can do to take better care of them so they don't make you behave in ways you do not want or overwhelm you. And with some time and a bit of practice you may even learn to recognise these responses as they arise in you in every day situations and take care of them before they escalate.

We can learn all of this without the help of psychedelics substances but just as with shaving or doing your make-up; a mirror really helps.

What do you see in the mirror?

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