How Introspection Could Be Hurting You
Introspection was coined by good old Freud himself. The act of looking inwards and analyzing oneself.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret, there is actually no relationship between introspection and insight.
What gets us is that it does feel reassuring at first, maybe because it makes you feel in control. But in the end, you’re just opening old wounds trying to piece together a bunch of unknowns and looking for an answer that might not even be there.
Even when you’re right about why you feel a certain way is it even helping?
I used to hear yelling coming from downstairs or from my roommates’ room and it would instantly send chills down my spine. There were times my boyfriend would find me paralyzed in fear, crouched in the corner of the room after he burnt his food and angrily threw the pan in the sink. I’ve had bosses raise their voice or try to discuss something with me and I would be trying my hardest not to cry.
These moments would happen all the time. They were triggers that would mentally send me right back to my childhood where there was no shortage of screaming, slamming, and stomping. It brought me back to that young girl who felt unsafe, unwelcome, and scared.
I knew exactly why I was feeling this way, but understanding made no difference in how I felt. Every time felt just as real as the last.
There is no behavior or thought I have without knowing why I’m having it. I am curious almost to a fault, it’s almost a compulsive need to always know the ‘why’.
I use to think this was helping me like I was being my own therapist but I later learned it was hindering my progress. It was leading me down a rabbit hole, that was getting me even more lost than where I started.
Why It’s Harmful
It's Used As A Form of avoidance.
Over analyzing yourself and others is a way for you to feel like you are being productive. But it’s quite the opposite.
You can understand exactly why someone did what they did and it still won’t bring you any peace.
You can understand exactly why you react in the way you do and still do it.
Understanding why we are the way we are is only half the battle. If even that.
Memories Are Complicated
Memories have as much significance as we give to them.
Our memories are easily tampered with, and when we are reminiscing, we are giving them more power.
When you remember a past event or feeling you are remembering the last time you remembered it. Over time our memories become foggy, putting too much focus on your memories can be misleading.
Introspection Is Unreliable
It makes you think that you’ve found the real reason for a feeling or thought, but you’re actually just explaining it away.
Confirmation bias tells us that we favor information that confirms what we already believe. If something traumatic happened to you in the past, you may blame all your pain on that. Placing your thoughts and feelings on the wrong source.
This stops you from actually making any real connections to the problem. It's ultimately unproductive.
Without being guided through by a professional, such as a therapist it may also be dangerous.
It Makes Us Constantly Focus On The Negative
A study of 14,000 university students showed that introspection harmed their overall well-being. With self-analyzers having higher rates of anxiety, and more negative feelings towards themselves.
When we constantly ask ourselves why.
“Why am I always sad?”
“Why can’t I ever have a healthy relationship?”
“why can’t I find a good job?”
It puts us into a victim mentality. Instead, ask What Instead of Why.
“What am I feeling?” VS “Why am I Feeling this way?”
A shift in language moves you into a more productive mindset. This way you are able to identify what is going on and fix it.
This way I am identifying my feelings, without diving into the constant rumination of my past trauma.
Prevents Us From Growing
Without actually putting effort into changing your behavior your time hyper-focusing on the inner working of your mind is fruitless.
I used to explain my behavior to people as if knowing the reasons for my actions would justify them.
So much of my time was spent reliving unhappy moments of my life, without ever looking for ways that it could be used productively.
Choosing To Heal Instead
I once went to therapy and my therapist really wanted to focus on my relationships with my parents. With a hyper-focus on repairing those relationships, so I could then let go of all my pain towards them.
I get where he was coming from but for someone like me, someone who is an extreme over-analyzing. It was the wrong call.
It came down to the decision of do I want to deeply understand how my trauma has affected my mental health and behavior? Or do I want to heal? I was holding myself back from healing.
Letting go of all the pain without understanding it and moving forward has made me feel 100 pounds lighter.
Disclaimer: Go to therapy and seek guidance. This was my own experience and what I have found works for me. Sometimes seeking answers brings peace to people. It just wasn’t working for me.