Tuesdays in the Toolkit

You can't do much carpentry with your bare hands and you can't do much thinking with your bare brain.

- Bo Dahlbom


I look at exercise, medication, breathwork, meditation, cold therapy, etc. as simple tools. Nothing more, and nothing less. Some tools are used often, others sparingly, but every tool I use, helps in meaningful ways. Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world."

I’m interested in moving my mind, and the right tool, used at the right time, does wonders.

Starting this series off with an unusual tool - Mirror Therapy. I will definitely write about others tools, but why not start with something rather uncommon?

My introduction to Mirror Therapy came from Michael Mahoney’s book, Constructive Psychotherapy. As an aspiring therapist, this book is a gold mine of practical therapies. Mahoney uses it during sessions to allow a client to talk to themselves, and role play different situations.

He is able to witness how his client reacts, but, more powerfully, the client can see their reactions.

Mirror Therapy is a potent, introspective tool. I like to have a mirror directly in front of me, and one off to the side. This allows me to speak to myself, and also catch side glances of my reactions along my periphery. The first time I tried this, I spoke to myself from two drastically different perspectives - the depressed me, and the “normal” me.

What captivated me, was how differently I talked to myself. How much more judgmental I was from the depressed side, then from my usual side. The depressed perspective was, pardon the pun, a tool.

Researching Mirror Therapy more, I found that it is used primarily to help amputees deal with pain arising from phantom limbs. One study, “suggests that a course of treatment (four weeks) of mirror therapy may reduce chronic pain.[…] The mechanism of action of mirror therapy remains uncertain, with reintegration of motor and sensory systems, restored body image and control over fear-avoidance likely to influence outcome” (Wittkopf, Johnson 2017).

Also known as Mirror Visual Feedback (MVF), “the concept behind this ‘visual input’ modality is that it helps patients re-educate[…] a normal relationship between a physical movement and the sensory feedback it provides.”

It does not surprise me that Mirror Therapy can be effective for reducing physical pain and mental anguish. Unless I get my brain scanned in an fMRI machine; this is the closest I can get to observing physical changes that originate from my mind.

Sure, I’m observing these changes through the screen of my facial expressions, tone of voice, and overall demeanor, but it’s something, and it’s considerably more impactful than just talking to myself in my head.

If you live with a mental illness, I recommend 5-10 minutes and that you be prepared for a genuinely weird experience. Random stuff will come up, and you get to go along for the ride. You may have a very intense interaction with your psyche, so if you’re going to do this, try it when you don’t have much going on for the rest of your day.

If you do not live with mental illness, try this out anyway. This is a different way to have a conversation with yourself, and you might make some interesting connections.

Below, you’ll find a video of me showing how I use Mirror Therapy. It is as simple as it sounds; stand in front of a mirror, talk, and see where the conversation goes.

Read about mirror therapy as it applies to psychotherapy in: https://www.amazon.com/Constructive-Psychotherapy-Practice-Michael-Mahoney/dp/1593852347