Greek gods would be happy to know that mirroring is a tactic associated with modern-day narcissists, considering Narcissus himself drowned while looking at his own reflection.
Legend has it that Narcissus is staring at his own reflection in the River Styx, while reality shows us how narcissistic mirroring happens at every opportunity.
There’s no legend or myth behind narcissistic mirroring in today’s age.
It’s one of the more conniving and deceptive tactics a narcissist uses.
The only way to tackle it is with your own reflection and education.
What is Narcissistic Mirroring?
Mirroring in and by itself is normal, even if it’s not intentional.
We might take on the habits, speech patterns, or interests of our new friends or the styles of our favorite actors and musicians.
Narcissistic mirroring is rooted in manipulation, building a facade of similarities with the narcissist’s victim.
The narcissist needs to build trust and a connection with their victims and does so by being everything that person wants.
They innocuously get information and read your gestures and emotions to duplicate or “mirror” everything about you.
This creates a “soulmate” sense as rich as a Greek myth but as devastating as a Greek tragedy.
- Open arms and ears: Mirroring starts with the narcissist hanging on your every word and offering sympathy, support, and compassion – all emotions they can’t genuinely experience but can fake very well.
- Similar interests: Even if your favorite hobby is beetle fighting, he’s going to feign disbelief because he loves beetle fighting too!
- Fated moments: Don’t be surprised when a mirroring narcissist shows up to your Sunday morning paddleboard yoga or demands to see the organic beets at the farmer’s market in your small neighborhoods. He’s plotting all the time using the information you shared.
The thing about the word “mirroring” is that it seems harmless, but it’s really using the same tactics as an undercover agent would use to build rapport with an asset.
Why Do Narcissists Mirror You
As with most things dealing with narcissists, this isn’t about you. It’s about them taking a two-pronged approach—building a bond you are craving and getting the “narcissistic supply” of your starry eyes and compliments.
We must remember that a narcissist cannot experience true emotions or have a real sense of self. They mirror people as easily as kids put on Halloween costumes. They want you to fall in love with the same false (and superior) image they see when they look in the mirror.
- You feel understood. Too many times, people go through life feeling like nobody “gets” them. We become afraid to speak our minds or show our true selves as we fear being isolated or ostracized. A narcissist preys on this by being utterly, if not obsessively, interested in your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
- They feel the same way. It’s uncanny how a mirroring narcissist can share ALL the same beliefs, values, and interests as you. It gives validation and strengthens a connection that will eventually be used against you.
- You don’t want to mess this up. Because of the intense connection and shared interests, losing the narcissist might feel like losing the other half of your soul or heart. This bond is what the narcissist banks on to keep you under control and serving them.
Examples of Narcissistic Mirroring
While some mirroring habits are obvious, others can be like trying to find a needle in a stack of needles.
Mirroring from the Start
Mirroring starts from the first second they meet you. If you’re shy about being approached, they’re going to act shy to approach you. When you clap each time you laugh, they will do it too. Even with things they can’t control, like what each of you is wearing, they’ll make a point to say, “I have a whole closet full of oversized hoodies just like that one!”
Mirroring Your Trauma
A narcissist needs you to share deep, personal information, so they can store it in your dossier. Much like addiction support groups work best for those who understand the struggle, mirroring your trauma will make you more likely to talk about it. Whether it’s an eating disorder, childhood abuse, or a tense relationship with your parents, they’ll mimic that.
Mirroring Your Beliefs & Values
A narcissist can earnestly look you in the eye and say they’ve wanted a family of four their whole lives too, and wouldn’t you know it, the names you’ve picked out are their dream children’s names as well. They’ll be Jewish even though they don’t know Shabbat from a shallot. They can even go as far as to make up a failed marriage just to get you to admit your role in the demise of yours.
So what if it’s a lie? They can gaslight you later to say they never said that.
Covert Narcissistic Mirroring
A covert narcissist is harder to spot inherently due to their introverted and self-deprecating nature. A cover narcissist will mirror you by taking advantage of a weakness. When you’re worried if your butt looks big in those pants, he’ll feign concerns about his attire. He might only shop gluten-free now—just like you do—even though you swear you spotted some Twinkies in the cupboard.
What is Mirroring a Narcissist?
Mirroring a narcissist isn’t for the faint of heart because you’ll need to use the same awful and ugly habits they’ve developed. This can also be called “giving them a dose of their own medicine.”
A narcissist relies on the information you’ve provided to be used against you and keep you submissive. They feel they’ve learned your habits and what to expect. They know what buttons to push. They know when the silent treatment drives you nuts, how you hate going to bed angry, etc.
When you mirror a narcissist back, your goal is to bamboozle them. They temporarily lose the control they so desperately need to keep their fragile facade in place.
According to Sam Vaknin, the author of “Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited,” a narcissist utilizes the information you’ve provided against you to maintain control over you. They are aware of your habits, what triggers you, and what buttons to push. However, when you mirror a narcissist’s behavior, you can temporarily disarm them and cause them to lose their grip on control.
As Vaknin suggests, you need to go down to the narcissist’s level to penetrate their thick defenses. By mirroring their behavior, such as having a rage attack if they do, you can provoke their fears of being abandoned, which could lead to a sudden shift in their mood and behavior. This approach could be unsettling and seem eerie, but it may ultimately help you gain the upper hand.
Examples of Mirroring a Narcissist
When you choose this tactical response, you should know it will put you out of your comfort zone, but it’s a true survival skill anyone involved with a narcissist needs to know.
Don’t Let the Door Hit You From Behind
A narcissist will inevitably use abandonment or a disappearing act to get you back in line. This tactic is built around the hope you’ll beg for them to return. They get your attention and submission in one act. Turn the tables by not contacting him and living your best life, even if you’re hurting.
Eventually, he’ll send some “flying monkeys” to find out why you aren’t begging him to return. You say things like, “I hadn’t even noticed he was gone,” or “It’s a weight off my shoulders.”
Face the Fire-Breathing Dragon
A narcissistic personality knows what upsets their loved one and habitually tries to resolve or avoid it. Whether he loves the silent treatment or goes into a shouting match with his arms flailing, you return in kind. If he preys on your body image issues, fire back about his saggy behind.
“If he leaves the house, you leave the house too. Disappear on him,” Vaknin adds. Just be sure that he knows you left, it’s unclear when (or if) you’ll return, and that you are better for having done so.
Be as Suspicious as He Is
Narcissists are generally unable to be monogamous because the most incredible person eventually bores them. If he comes home late smelling of brandy and perfume, tell him you need to “run an errand” and be gone an hour or two. When he asks where you went, be as suspicious as he was. Bonus if you don’t give a rat’s arse where he was.
Pros and Cons of Mirroring the Narcissist
There are short and long-term benefits to mirroring a narcissist, but it’s a tough road, and not everyone is cut out for it.
- He (temporarily) stops the bad behavior. At his root, a narcissist fears rejection and exposure of his misanthropic self. When mirrored, he’ll try to win the victim over again with love bombing.
- You gain control (for a moment). You’re learning a great lesson in tactical response and how to turn the tables. Without your predetermined response, the narcissist expects, he no longer has you emotionally chained.
- You have an epiphany. With ongoing mirroring of a narcissist, you’ll see the relationship as the flimsy fabric it really is. Whether you need one or a million of these moments, eventually, you’ll have the determination to escape.
- The power is short-lived. You can win the battle but not the war with a heartless and emotionally vapid human. They are wired to do this after years of practice. You are a novice.
- It will get worse. Especially when it comes to mirroring outrage or shouting, it can easily escalate to violence. A step too far and someone could get hurt, or you could be charged with assault (and they’ve got a bunch of lies stored up to make you guilty).
- You’ll feel bad about yourself or eventually crumble. Narcissists attract people who are already “people pleasers” and lack self-love, so either this will push you further into self-despair or cause you to admit what you’ve been doing. They’re back in control and ready to punish you accordingly.
Shattering a narcissistic mirror will likely mean shattering a relationship, even if it’s with a parent or sibling.
Look for the warning signs from the start. Professor Vaknin says it best, “The narcissist is an emotional cripple. You should either accept them as they are or avoid them altogether.” Easier said than done, but you’re on the right path by reading this article.