The Art of Introspection is the most crucial part in the journey of your self healing process.
"Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. “
In my previous article, I talked about the very first step of your journey, the Acceptance of the situations of the past, the emotions, your reactions. A hidden aspect of this acceptance is the need to stop living in denial, the excuses, the justifications for everything that hurts us, irrespective of the perpetrators, whether someone else or ourselves.
The next step is introspection, an absolutely honest one-on-one conversation with ourselves, to dig deeper in our psyche, and to develop the very understanding of why do we feel the way we feel, or why do we do the things we do, or why do we do them in a certain way.
“To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality is.” -C.G. Jung
But, what is introspection?
Introspection is the examination of one's own conscious thoughts and feelings.In psychology, the process of introspection relies on the observation of one's mental state, while in a spiritual context, it may refer to the examination of one's soul. Introspection is closely related to human self-reflection and self-discovery and is contrasted with external observation.
In a nutshell, it is the art of observation of our thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions, and bringing our conscious awareness to it, without involving a bias, or judgment.
"Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead." -Yvonne Woon
But, and there’s a big but. Obsessive navel gazing, aka over analysing, though very satisfying (it massages our ego after all), can be damaging too.
"Truth suffers from too much analysis." -Ancient Fremen Saying
We could spend enormous amounts of time in self-reflection and emerge with no more self-insight than when we started. We need to overcome the need to over-intellectualize and accept things just the way they are. A failure to do so tends to keep us in a vicious loop of analysis, often colouring our experiences with biased perspectives or justification of untoward actions of others towards ourselves, thus leading to self-blaming and shaming, or it can lead us to live in a constant state of victim hood.
Whenever we feel hurt, the first word that comes to our mind is ‘why'. Why did it happen to us? What this causes is that we find a couple of reasons based on our existing beliefs, our innate confirmation bias. And our brain often creates narratives that mislead us. For example, if someone doesn’t reply immediately to our texts or calls, a lot of people tend to think that the person is ignoring them or is cross with them, when in fact they might actually be busy, or not in a mental state to engage with anyone.
Another problem in asking why is that it keeps us stuck in the past. Whenever similar situations arise, we end up revisiting the older memories repeatedly in order to make sense of things. This in turn prevents us from actually finding a solution and instead enable us to drown in misery.
So, the question arises, How do we introspect then?
Instead of jumping to ‘why’, pause, and use the word ‘what'. What happened exactly? What did I feel in that moment? What could have been different? What else could I have done? What did it teach me? What can I do to heal from it? What can I do to move forward? And most importantly, if I ever get into a similar situation, what would I need to do?
Can you see how just a simple word has changed the narrative from self-victimization to a sense of freedom, however small at this stage, but freedom nonetheless?
This little word can help us to put an exact name to our emotions, which in general often tend to get mixed up, like intense anger often has sadness hidden beneath it, or a sense of loss or failure, or perhaps a sense of helplessness.
The best way to answer these questions is to write them down, preferably in a journal, where the sanctity of privacy is maintained and the memories can be easily accessed. Writing down our thoughts can also enable us to filter out reality from a false or misleading narrative that our brain usually feeds us. And the best of all? It’s immensely therapeutic. It’s sometimes cathartic. And it enables to lighten the emotional baggage that we carry. Sometimes we can do this on our own, and if not, we can take professional help.
The key is that we must be willing to dig deeper, have that courage, and for our own sake, we must be ready to face the uncomfortable in order to shed everything that doesn’t serve us anymore. In the larger scheme of life, this awareness, this knowledge of the self can empower us in ways unimaginable, and gives us the power to not only survive but flourish and rise to our highest potential.
In the next article in this series, we will dig deeper into our emotions and know ourselves a bit more, a bit better and grow a lot.
"But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in."
Schultz, D. P.; Schultz, S. E. (2012). A history of modern psychology (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. pp. 67–77, 88–100. ISBN978-1-133-31624-4.
psychology | Origin and meaning of psychology by Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com. Retrieved 2020-09-05.