Stories from Dr. Yukari, Story 25, Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

[ Stories from Dr. Yukari ]

Guided by the hope of St. Nichiren, we continue to work towards a peaceful society. Honolulu Myohoji Mission collaborates with Psychologist Dr. Yukari Kunisue, a trained and experienced therapeutic life coach, to offer a safe online space: Stories from Dr. Yukari



Evolution of Neonatal Imitation. Gross L, PLoS Biology Vol.


One day, a client shared a story with me about a lady who is a hardworking colleague of hers. They two of them met through the international financial corporation that they work for. While her colleague was both intelligent and hardworking, she noticed that she was very negative about everything frequently making negative comments. Most people within this environment often avoided her as much as possible since her negativity often made people weary and exhausted. 


My client, who was younger than her colleague, could not effectively avoid her like the others since they were on the same team and had to work on the same projects. Because she had a hard time avoiding her, she was unsure of what to do. Despite loving what she does for work, she felt the energy quickly getting sucked out, due to her work environment. 


I patiently listened to my client’s story as we began to discuss options. One day, she decided to try an experiment that I had suggested, where she verbally expressed to her one good characteristic of the colleague every day. This task had to be done first thing in the morning. Possible compliments to the coworker included, “wow, your skin looks great!”, “the yellow tote matches you nicely today”, or “is that a new dress? Looks lovely on you”. As long as the compliment remains genuine and it is delivered with a warm smile, it will do the job. This simple task should not take more than 20 seconds and my client agreed to do it.


At the beginning, the colleague seemed suspicious towards the flood of compliments that came from my client. After a few days passed, she seemed more relaxed and accepting of the compliments she has been receiving. I suggested to my client via email that she should continue this for at least one more month. Three weeks later, my client told me, “it’s so strange! My colleague’s exhausting complaints have significantly decreased. I’ve also noticed that her desk looks orderly and people even started to gravitate towards her.”


Due to the positive results my client saw from this experiment, she decided to continue the simple experiment for a few more weeks. The results were amazing and the negative person now gives compliments back to my client and others. With this shift in attitude, her skin seemed to radiate and her facial expression has become much more relaxed. Others have also noticed this change and even stopped avoiding her. 


This specific story reminded me of the mirror neuron. Neuroscientists call the cell network system in the parietal lobule the mirror neuron. The discovery of the mirror neuron is relatively new since it came after computer software developed a new technology of fMRI. 


The mirror neuron helps us react to other people’s behaviors as if it were our own. Our brain has an innate system designed to copy other people’s behavior similar to the way a baby imitates a parent. With this component of the brain, children are able to learn a language, become sympathetic to other people’s emotions, and understand actions and behaviors of other people. Since we were born, we were equipped to feel and act as we were the person we were copying. With the mirror neuron, we become more of an empathetic person. 


Referring back to the story of my client and her colleague, the kind words activated the mirror neurons of the colleague making her more activated and kinder towards others. She mimicked the kind actions of the client as if the kind actions were from her all along. 


Since the days of Ancient Egypt, mirrors were believed to have magic powers. Many myths, legends, and superstitions are often associated with the mirror in many cultures. Japan even considers the mirror to be one of the three sacred treasures.

The Queen of Snow White asks her mirror every day:

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Who’s the Fairest of them all

Queen should have repeated into her mirror neuron.

I am the one the fairest of them all