The hall of mirrors

Pictured: S H Foulkes (1898-1976), born Siegmund Heinrich Fuchs.

In Blue-Eyed Son – the story of an adoption (2004), Nicky Campbell tells how he traced first his birth mother Stella, and then his half sister Esther, who was born before him, had another father, and was adopted into a different family. Now parents themselves, they have met and have begun the search for their respective birth fathers:

“…After a knowing glance she told me that near her house there is a hall of mirrors. It’s a bizarre and disorientating experience. You are surrounded by the strange and surreal. You glimpse yourself and other people coming from all directions in all shapes, all forms and sizes and you’re really not sure who is real and who isn’t. When you find the exit and return to daylight, it’s a good feeling. Esther explained more: “I felt I had just come out of it with Stella, you and the whole regressionary experience.” She explained she didn’t want to go into another hall of mirrors. “I didn’t want to put myself through any more distortions of reality. You think you are looking at other people but, in fact, you’re looking at yourself.”

Esther called it the “hall of mirrors”. For my friend Jack at the BBC it is “bother”. They mean the same thing. As to why I wanted to go into the hall of mirrors, take a trip on this emotional helter-skelter or leap on the Elsinore ghost train, Esther says she doesn’t think I really understood why.

“You’re perfectly good at understanding the motivations of others, just hopeless when it comes to your own.” “.

S H Foulkes, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst once quoted: “It is easier to see the other person’s problems than one’s own.”. He later wrote of “Mirror phenomena” as a major therapeutic factor in group-analytic Psychotherapy:

“The group situation has been likened to a hall of mirrors where an individual is confronted with various aspects of his social, psychological or body image. By a careful inner assessment of these aspects, he can achieve in time a personal image of himself not grossly out of keeping with the external and objective evaluation. He can discover his real identity and link it up with past identities.”.

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