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The Mirror Theory

The Mirror Theory

How to Handle Impossible People


We can all think of a few people that we would describe as being "impossible." These are individuals who push the wrong buttons, irritate us to no end and annoy us whenever we talk to them. These are the people that we find arrogant, critical, and negative or possess some other character deficit. How do we handle impossible people?

The interesting thing is that we don't all find the same people hard to take. The guy that annoys me, doesn't bother my wife and the neighbor that she dreads talking to, I can communicate with easily. Why do these difficult people clash with some but not with others?

The Baal Shem Tov explained this with the "mirror theory." Why do these difficult people clash with some but not with others? He taught that when we look at others we are looking at a mirror. When we observe and analyze the behavior of other people we actually discover ourselves in them. The profile we create for others is shaped by our own personality.

None of us are perfect. We all have our deficiencies and areas of personality that are underdeveloped and need work. But we are often unaware of these deficits. Self love often causes us to be in denial, preventing us from resolving and correcting these weaknesses.

When we observe character defects in other people and criticize them, it is really the undeveloped parts of our personality that are showing up. We are only so irritated by these blemishes because the very same issues are unresolved within ourselves. My spouse might not have the same area of weakness, and therefore does not notice it in others.

When we see faults in others it can be used as an opportunity for self reflection. If we think someone is arrogant we can examine our own egos. If we describe someone as being unkind we can examine on our level of kindness, compassion and empathy. If our friend's judgmental nature bothers us we should think about how we view other people.

We should always endeavor to look at people in a positive light. But when it becomes difficult, it is an opportunity to look inwards.

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie lectures on a wide range of topics with a special emphasis on Personal Growth and Self Development, including self esteem, communication and relationship building. He is the director of "Bina" in Sydney, Australia.
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Discussion (18)
May 6, 2015
Spent my whole life doing this with abusive people until I realized is not me. Articles like this caused me untold pain and guilt and too many years trying to find what it is in me that causes me to feel bad, confused hurt crazy around them Would you tell this to someone who itches from walking in poison oak. Or who feels the pain if someone smacks them in the face? Hanging with toxic people and verbal abuse is no different.
December 8, 2014
Looking inward with compassion
Seek with the knowledge of (Shem.) "We should always endeavor to look at people in a positive light. But when it becomes difficult, it is an opportunity to look inwards." We learn from each other relationships as to learning from our behaviors + our mistakes in our everyday realities, We correct ourselves with the knowledge of (Shem.) + Him whom is always in our hearts to look inward with compassion to forgive those whom are always Looking for empathy always with one G-d. In other words, Seek with your heart and the knowledge of our Shem.

Thank you for sharing what is true.
Eugina Giovanna Herrera
New York City, New york
November 20, 2014
business relationship
I currently have someone on the team I supervise that pushes my buttons to the point where I lose my temper. I want to make the relationship work as she has many good things to contribute. When we talk about one situation it becomes an octopus of problems. I have tried to give direction without being caught up in the "she says, he says" scenario. She will not acknowledge her reactions to a person she clearly has animosity towards and presents as "being just fine and what is the problem"? "She is only trying to express herself and understand the other person's mindset for making the decision they made". Help. Any suggestions will at least move me out of the gridlock I feel myself to be in. I understand that she is showing me a part of me that is not expressed but I need real help in real time. There are some pretty smart people on this blog. So rather than dispute the theory, which I believe is pretty simplistic, I just want feedback.
October 9, 2014
A friend of mine mentioned that you should have some time in a day that you look in the mirror and remind yourself that what you are and what you are gonna do ever is is for that person staring back at you in the mirror. I love this friend, and I also find him at time self absorbed and most if the time talking about himself and his opinions. From this article I was hoping to understand him a little better, but I was unable to understand or link him to this.
Anyways, for me, what I do understand is that I think he is right, about the time to live and give for yourself, but with the little humility I would be able to live with myself better!
November 1, 2013
Mirror mirror on the wall, liar liar beware the flaw / fall

Perhaps too few who suck in the entire mirror theroy really take a look at the full image.

How many got to this site thinking that they don't have issues or baggage? We do and yes someone out there thinks we are "impossible".

What brought me here is not just finding ways to learn new skills but the acceptance that my daughters and I live with an Impossible Person. We can do no right, get yelled at made to feel stupid. Even the most subtle understanded whispers are snarky.

They have the ability to turn it all on you, you start thinking you're nuts
August 13, 2013
I believe the mirror theory to a point, but something we have already overcome inside ourselves . This is more like been there, fixed it and moved on As for myself I do encounter situations with even family members like that. If is frustrating not to react, backing off is harder. But bottom line I have come to realize we have to fix ourselves. It is easier to recognize what has already been part of our life experience rather than what we read. Ever heard the expression."Life is the teacher and we are the students" that makes a lot of sense to me
August 8, 2013
Not always true
I always get annoyed when I see someone write stuff like this annoying blog post and expect everyone to just believe this little theory without thinking logically for themselves.

It's a nice theory, sure it "feels good' and "sounds right" but in reality anyone with a brain can see it's not always true..

Not every fault we see in others exists in ourselves. Sometimes we just plain see something we know is wrong in a person.. and it annoys us... that is not because we have the same traits... but rather because that person is just plain wrong.

So yeah, nice theory, but not a fact at all. There is right and wrong in the world, there is such a thing as morality, it's not just "our perspective" and not everything can be explained subjectively!
June 26, 2013
The impossible & controlling person
I have one impossible colleague here. She will even lie to get her way through. She is right and the rest is wrong.
Kuala Lumpur
April 28, 2011
....would that I had the insight of Our Holy Elders, I could no doubt deal with the people who today are placed before me and attempt to exploit me and cheat me in business (because they are well practiced at cheating and I am naturally trusting, something my father regarded as a TERRIBLE FAULT!) but the fact is I do not have HOLY WISDOM to shield me from such people, and the best I can do is spot them from as great a distance as possible and have no traffic with them. I always hope something happens to repair them because they are increasing the amount of evil and misery in the world, not just in my life. And I have no miraculous things to say to them to bring them to a higher level of understanding.
hermine stover
Perris , CA
April 7, 2011
The name for mirror theory is PROJECTION.
My ex was one of these difficult people, always insulting me, etc. and I ended up crying. I found out that it was NOT that I was projecting my faults by mirroring his. It was the opposite. The REASON he was that way was he accused me of doing what he was doing, and I didn't understand it. Everything he accused me of, he was the one doing it. So, be careful of making these blanket answers. Sometimes, if someone is NASTY to you, it IS THEIR problem and not the fact you are perceiving them as a mirror. It could be they are HIDING something and are trying to throw you off their scent. That is also why sometimes people are mean only to you and not others. They particularly don't want you to know or suspect something. Another reason is they are bullies and picking on you because you are weak and that makes them feel stronger. It's like stepping on someone to raise yourself up. Why you and not others? Because you are a threat to that person. With my mom, Anon. in MD, she was such.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
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