Mirror, Mirror: Mother’s reflection of herself influences daughter’s self-image

By Amanda Cuda
Connecticut Post, April 3, 2003

Close your eyes and imagine you self standing in front of a mirror What do you see? Are you happy with it? The answers to those questions might reveal not only how you think of yourself, but also how well you relate to your daughter — at least, according to Jaqueline Lapa Sussman.

“Mothers are the only way to help their daughters with their self-image said Sussman, a Weston resident and psychotherapist. “Girls are not going to get a healthy message from their peers or the media.”

Sussman is an expert in a growing field of therapy known as eidetic imagery which uses “snapshots” or mental images collected in the brain to gain insight into someone’s personality.

These mental film clips can influence a person’s self image, as in the above example, and his or her relationships with others. She has written two books on the subject, 2001’s “Images of Desire,” and the recently released “Freedom From Failure” (Forge Books, $25.95), and has trained numerous government officials, executives, athletes and others in the technique.

“We store little snapshots in our brains of the things that go on around us” Sussman said. “Each person understands these images, because it’s their own experience.”

Sussman will address women’s relationships with themselves and their daughters when she hosts a workshop Friday at Weston Public Library Titled “Mother-Daughter Communication,” it teaches mothers how to use eidetic imagery to help overcome obstacles to talking to their daughters.

The workshop also will focus on how a mother’s concept of herself is passed on to her daughter. As the mother of a daughter, Sussman said she’s noticed how preoccupied teenage girls are with their appearances.

“I notice that there are tremendous issues about body image and about being thin and pretty,” she said. “It seems exacerbated and stronger than it did in previous times. What I realized was this was a real problem that was affecting their self-esteem in very strong ways.”

Hoping to address this trend, Sussman held a workshop on the issue last year, which was such a big success that she decided to repeat it this year.

In the past workshop, Sussman had the mothers attending try the mirror- visualization exercise. When she asked the mothers whether they felt positive or negative while “looking” at themselves, the results were somewhat disconcerting. “In an audience of 50 women, one raised her hand to say she liked what she saw,” Sussman said. “The women had an instant awareness of the feeling they had of themselves, and that’s an image they pass on to their daughters.”

In interviewing teenage girls for her last book, “Images of Desire,” Sussman saw a recurring problem with low self-esteem, even among “popular,” attractive girls. She noticed that their mothers exhibited this same behavior.

“They walk around with this feeling that they’re never enough,” she said. ‘And I also saw the mothers walk around with that feeling.”

Visualizing themselves brings the mother’s feeling into sharp relief, Sussman said, so that they can address their own problems, as well as any similar issues their daughters might be having.

Sussmah said she also uses imagery to help mothers be better prepared to talk to their daughters.

“I sense a tremendous need in mothers to connect with daughters and bond with them, and, at the same time, give them space,” she said. “It’s a really important, but really delicate task.”

To help mothers identify any communication problems they might have, Sussman has them close their eyes and visualize their daughter in the house. She then asks the mothers if they feel like they can go to their daughters and talk to them.

“Immediately, the feeling that’s there for your daughter comes right out,” Sussman said. “Mothers will tell me ‘Oh, she’s shutting me out’ or ‘I’m mad at her.'”

She then has the mother visualize how she can talk to her daughter. Sussman often has mothers pretend that they are a different version of themselves — one who feels comfortable reaching out to her daughter.

“We do know how to deal with our daughters somehow, we just need to figure out how,” she said.

Sussman said that, although there is no set method of talking to your daughter, parents need to be sensitive to what works and doesn’t work with their child.

“There are no words that parents can or cannot use with their children,” Sussman said. “But you need to know your child’s sensitivities. I know my daughter’s sensitive spots. I know that if I talk to her in a certain tone, it’s over.”

Sarah Heath, director of Weston Children and Youth Services, is coordinating the workshop, and said that Sussman provides a valuable service to mothers. She said body image and communication are issues facing many parents and children.

“In all communities, we see self-esteem issues, especially with girls,” Heath said. “I think it’s helpful for the mothers in our town to have a better feeling of how their behavior affects their daughters.”

Sussman said that, although there is no set method of talking to your daughter, parents need to be sensitive to what works and doesn’t work with their child.

“There are no words that parents can or cannot use with their children,” Sussman said. “But you need to know your child’s sensitivities. I know my daughter’s sensitive spots. I know that if I talk to her in a certain tone, it’s over.”

Sarah Heath, director of Weston Children and Youth Services, is coordinating the workshop, and said that Sussman provides a valuable service to mothers. She said body image and communication are issues facing many parents and children.

“In all communities, we see self-esteem issues, especially with girls,” Heath said. “I think it’s helpful for the mothers in our town to have a better feeling of how their behavior affects their daughters.”

“I sense a tremendous need in mothers to connect with daughters and bond with them, and, at the same time, give them space,” she said. “It’s a really important, but really delicate task.”

To help mothers identify any communication problems they might have, Sussman has them close their eyes and visualize their daughter in the house. She then asks the mothers if they feel like they can go to their daughters and talk to them.

“Immediately, the feeling that’s there for your daughter comes right out,” Sussman said. “Mothers will tell me ‘Oh, she’s shutting me out’ or ‘I’m mad at her.’ “

She then has the mother visualize how she can talk to her daughter. Sussman often has mothers pretend that they are a different version of themselves — one who feels comfortable reaching out to her daughter.

“We do know how to deal with our daughters somehow, we just need to figure out how,” she said.

Sussman said that, although there is no set method of talking to your daughter, parents need to be sensitive to what works and doesn’t work with their child.

“There are no words that parents can or cannot use with their children,” Sussman said. “But you need to know your child’s sensitivities. I know my daughter’s sensitive spots. I know that if I talk to her in a certain tone, it’s over.”

Sarah Heath, director of Weston Children and Youth Services, is coordinating the workshop, and said that Sussman provides a valuable service to mothers. She said body image and communication are issues facing many parents and children.

“In all communities, we see self-esteem issues, especially with girls,” Heath said. “I think it’s helpful for the mothers in our town to have a better feeling of how their behavior affects their daughters.” cess treats the brain like a computer. The brain stores and processes information in the form of “images” that commonly run through our minds like film clips. With imaging techniques, we are able to replace negative images (the baggage we carry) with positive ones that permit us to glow with our natural sensuality The first step to reclaiming our natural sensuality lies in our desires, and imaging can help us discover them.