What is introspection?
A psychological term which has a variety of definitions. For this article we will define it as a self-reflective process to look at one’s inner thoughts, desires, feelings, and behaviors. It can be also defined as an ability to look at or meditate on one’s soul, or spiritual meaning they have on this earth. Strict behavioral psychologists are not the biggest fan of introspection as they feel it is difficult to measure and see the outcome. Socrates allegedly was the first to explore introspection; however in reading tribal history of other cultures, Native Americans, as well as South American tribes used this frequently. The inner self was so intriguing they would use mind altering substance to enhance the spiritual path aiding in self introspection. We do have the ability to contemplate our thoughts, attempt to make objective opinions and listen to our environment to change. The objective issue here is of question. Many argue that no one has the ability to be objective with their own thoughts. This does have it’s place on the objective table of reasoning, and it is this authors opinion that age, life trauma and character help that objectivity. A twenty-seven-year-old stock broker who has had a trauma void life will most likely be less objective from a personal growth stand point than the fifty-year-old-house wife who lost a father at a young age due to a car accident, her youngest child died of cancer, and had gone through a divorce with a narcissistic alcoholic. Life trauma causes us to contemplate as well as with age. Other factors clearly enter into this equation, such as, intelligence, motivation, and a desire for changing one’s current position.
Introspection is the ability to be excessively aware of what you are saying, why you are saying it, and what are the repercussions of a given conversation at a given time. Introspection is also the ability to be alone, and ponder what it is that causes you grief, anger, sadness and happiness. However it is NOT the looking at causative agents, the external cues in life that we like to blame and point fingers at. Introspection is looking at you. What did YOU own in the response? Why did YOU react to a given situation with anger, or defensiveness? When we feel under attack, we may raise our voice, make facial expressions of disdain, verbalize an offensive onslaught back, or throw up a quick wall of defensive rationalizations. Introspection looks at what role and why your reaction was so intense or not intense enough. Those that struggle with introspection usually have a history of being severely wounded in some emotional format. Their life is filled with guarded behavior, aggressiveness or timid, cowering reactions. Through practice one can actually step outside their body during a conversation and feel the triggers that cause these reactions. With self actualization and knowing who in the hell you really are, one can introspect and respond differently than before. It takes practice as well as a fearful journey to the extreme dark side of one’s soul to come to terms with this.
“What lies before us and what lies behind us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Why is Introspection important?
Introspection is crucial for inner strength and the power of seeking true humility. For humility can never be achieved successfully without true introspection. To be humble is to truly see ourselves as powerful but insignificant. It is this yin and yang that tests us daily. In relationships there must be an ultimate trust, if that trust is not there or even minimally breeched defensive behavior and offensive behavior occurs. That is time for introspection, the time to look at YOU, not your partner, you must decide and learn from YOU. Individuals who are suicidal, so depressed that they see no outlet claim many times they are introspective. In fact some times they are, yet they have not journeyed to the self where all their negative experiences, their bad sense of self has a positive flow. A positive connection to the negative sense of self. The drug user who cannot stop the addiction and relapses over and over, must see why they initially wanted to alter reality and see the strength they have in stopping so many times. It is much easier to see the negative when we introspect. It is the strength that is hidden within the negative that changes us. It takes commitment, and desire to learn and master true introspection. A want to be a better parent, a better spouse, a better co-worker and a better human to walk on down the path.
“Rewards for a man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.”—John Ruskin
How can Introspection help relationships?
In a friendship, a true friendship when one approaches and wants to spend time, or suggest interactions together and the other perceives this approach as a negative or as an intrusive comment there are clearly other issues present. There was no intent for harm, there was no intent for finding fault, yet one party becomes angry and backs up their distance with a rationalization. One may have felt overwhelmed, may of felt they cannot meet the expectations in the relationship, or they do not know how to change and resort to what they know. Defensive posture with rationalizing their behavior. This is the time for introspection. If not the relationship will fail, distance or become stressed.
There is no reason an athlete should not be able to make one thousand free throws in a row if we toss out the fatigue factor. Our minds play such a huge role in eye hand coordination that it is grossly underestimated. If there is one distraction, one ounce of doubt about your ability, or one bit of excitement about continuing the string of success failure is eminent. If one introspects and is aware of the influence their past experiences has on their athletic achievement their successive free throws goes up dramatically. After coaching basketball for five years I could easily see the progression when the players not only had a healthy sense of self but they were able to introspect and see what was holding them back. Why can we not do that in relationships, and in our own personalties? We can! We live in a complacent society as well as bathing in a shower of apathy. We need to dry off, start new, recognize complacency and close our eyes. Close them and look back, take a trip to what your old baggage gave you into the present. Introspection is not just a one time affair, we must be cognizant of it’s importance and realize how much it can help us in relationships. For the pay off is much more than being loved, it is loving who you are and realizing how YOUR behavior effects others. Introspection is not just seeing the precipitant for why you do things and feel things, but is the catalyst to see how others see YOU. This importance of how others see you has nothing to do with pleasing your environment or pleasing others. It has to do with HEARING your environment and how they perceive you. We are all on this globe together, we can all learn from each other but the inner work has to begin with you.