Tune in: The Healing Practice of Self Reflection
Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Do you feel like you have it deeply ingrained within you to keep pushing forward to achieve or to gain the next thing without stopping to reflect on the journey its been? I know that it certainly feels that way for me and all too often I forget to take a moment to stop and reflect on the challenges, the losses and the triumphs and everything that I’ve learnt in between. More importantly, I can get so consumed by my fears and the chaos that can be life sometimes that all too often I forget the meaning behind my drive, motivation and pursuit. Idealistically, through my modalities I want to help promote the mental health and wellbeing of those in our community who are struggling, who find themselves caught in the dark. Yet I realise that in order for me to do that requires me to take good care of me, to understand my strengths and the areas that I need to work on, to be self-aware. I also need to ensure that I take adequate time to practice self-care and look after my own wellbeing so that I don’t burn out.
The Battle Between Burning Out and Negative Self Talk
Perhaps this is also something that you can relate with? Have you ever fallen short of achieving a goal because you got so tired and worn out in the process that you eventually gave up or put it on hold? Or were there perceived “weaknesses” that you beheld that led you to believe that they were something that you couldn’t overcome, preventing you from progressing any further? I can most certainly relate to you on this one, I am constantly in battle with the surging thoughts that tell me that “I can’t do it”, or even more challenging, “that I’m just not good enough.” Yet I realise that these are just mental tapes that have been played over and over in different forms over the years and if I’m not aware of them they can be all consuming. The volume of these tapes can also be amplified when vitality falls low. When I neglect taking time out and practicing self-care this negative self-talk becomes even louder. Have you ever noticed that in yourself? For example, if you're a parent have you ever snapped at one of your kids for misbehaving and then, after the guilt flares up, told yourself that you were a terrible parent? Of course, you’re absolutely not. In reality, you were just exhausted and had little energy to draw upon to handle it, but the negative self-talk took hold and made you feel that your actions reflected that you were a bad person.
Managing the Self Talk and Observing Our Growth
An effective way to gain clarity and awareness of our internal dialogue while also reminding us of how much we are growing and evolving on this rugged path that moves us through life, is through the practice of reflective writing, or journaling.
Humans have the unique ability to exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more about their character, purpose and essence – This is practice is referred to as self-reflection
Part of the assessment for a counselling subject I was completing last year required us to keep a journal dedicated to personal reflection and the practice of self-awareness. As a counselling student, reflective writing is encouraged to help monitor and facilitate deeper learning that can lead to both personal and professional growth and meaningful change.
This isn’t just a useful tool for a counsellor in training, however. The practice of self-reflection is often encouraged by psychologists to get their patients actively involved in building their own mental wellbeing. Self-reflection through journaling is scientifically validated as a valuable life skill to help us become aware and more mindful of our feelings and mental processing, helping us to better understand our own nature and purpose, which is helpful because how many times have you (and I) misread a situation, missed an opportunity, or lashed out at the people we care about the most based on the surging thoughts racing through our heads that either negated our potential or were influenced by our own personal state of exhaustion or frustration that life wasn’t moving in the way that we wanted it to?
Tuning in to yourself and your own inner needs is powerfully healing
In a spiritual context, introspection and reflective writing has been referred to as “the examination of one’s soul,” and from my own practice I would whole heartedly agree with this. Applying my thoughts to paper through the written word, sometimes through creative pieces and in poetry, had been extremely therapeutic during the rough times, helping me to decipher the irrationality of what was going on inside my own head, helping me to gain clarity and perspective that helped me to push through and rebuild confidence from a broken self-esteem.
There is something purely divine and empowering about creating a space of solitude with blank pages laid out in front of you, a pen in hand, perhaps music playing in the background and putting the pen to paper to engage with a free flow of writing as you sift through the junk of thought that can accumulate over the course of a day, of a week, over time in general. Whatever comes to mind is written down. For example, what has been bothering you, why didn’t that work? Eventually though, once you move past the “thought junk” you eventually tune into a more nurturing and compassionate voice that appears from somewhere a little deeper, and this voice speaks to you only the truth about what it is that you really need. What are your deepest desires or fears? What do you want to achieve or what life do you want to create? What personal values have you disconnected from? If you just went through a challenging situation, how did you cope? What did you learn from it? Did it help you to build certain skills? Did it help you become more aware of what’s important to you?
Practicing Self Reflection Before the Years End
2018 is merely days away and we can get so caught up in the chaos of gift buying, preparing for Christmas and catching up with family that we move into the next year without reflecting on the one that we’re leaving behind, yet so much can happen in a year, right? Families and living situations can change, relationships can evolve (or breakdown), there can be significant progression in your work or study. There were probably moments when you didn’t hit the mark but survived, moments when you did and you felt proud, experiences that felt like they were challenging the very essence of your being and experiences that not only made you feel so grateful to be alive, they invigorated you with life thanks to an internal surge of joy. Creating a little bit of solitary space for yourself, if you can, put a pen to paper and take the time to reflect and write the significant parts down. Remember to include anyone and everything that enriches your life and makes you feel grateful. With gratitude and compassion, hold this reflection in your mind’s eye as the new year reigns in, whether the year was a tough or exciting one, you made it through. I hope that 2018 brings you much joy.