Mirrors are a funny thing. They reflect back what is in front of them. However, depending on how you are feeling that moment, what you see reflected back differs. For example, if I am in a great mood and look in the mirror, I will think I look great! I am happy with what I see. If I am in a sad or bad mood, however, I will find fault in my appearance and this just exasperates the mood I am in. My mood becomes what I think is reflected back to me. This is one of the reasons why I do not have a lot of mirrors. I have the standard bathroom mirror, and there is a full-length mirror in my daughter's room. That's it. I am too emotional to have mirrors all over the place.
Animals are different. They do not have self-image issues. They love themselves and are happy with themselves no matter what. This is why they can recover from illnesses and more severe things like amputations much easier than humans. "Lose a leg? Ok! I have three more, I'll figure it out!" They are present in their bodies and never associate their physical self with their self-worth. What does affect them, however, is their pack. In the wild, animals have a structure based on intelligence, physical strength or weakness, and characteristics. There is a leader, soldiers, elders, and young; they each have a purpose and role. They identify with their role. Sometimes, there is push-back; a leader may be challenged and overthrown, or the one who challenges may be thrown out of the pack. This is explained beautifully in the New York Times Bestseller: Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, by Carl Safina. In one section, we follow a pack of wolves and learn about each individual member, thanks to Mr. Safina. If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it
Our animal companions are not in the wild. In most cases, we have had them from a few months old. Sometimes, they are rescued much later in their lives. Regardless of when they entered our home, we become their pack. Sometimes they sort out the pack members differently than we do, but it has been my experience through animal communication, that they generally are correct. You will sometimes get a dog that tries to be the leader. This happens for several reasons. 1) they are maturing and it is natural to challenge authority and puff out their chests. We see this with our human children too. Teenage years are challenging because they are challenging everything and wanting to be the boss. 2) There is no consistent leadership or guidelines. Part of being a leader is to set boundaries. The pack needs to know what they can and cannot do. If you are not providing this guidance, they may see it as an opportunity to take over the position. 3) the leader is bad. Abusive leaders are not good leaders.
Our animal companions look to us as they would look to their pack for guidance and how to behave. If the doorbell rings and you act startled or say "Who is that?" with a concerned looked to get your companion to react, do not be surprised when your companion lunges at the door barking feverishly. If you cross the street nervously when you see other dogs, don't be surprised when your dog doesn't make friends easily or barks and lunges at them. If you mope around the house and become a couch potato, expect your animal to do the same. We are their mirror, which can be good if we allow it to be a two-way mirror. When we see them being happy, we become happy. If they get excited and want to play, it is a chance for us to do the same. Our companions, no matter the species, can influence us as much as we influence them. A good pack or herd takes care of each other, communicates with each other, loves each other, and spends time together. Look in the mirror. What you see will be reflected in your pack members.