Everyone I suspect knows someone who is clueless. I mean in the sense that they continually blame everyone else for their troubles. It’s never their fault. It’s never their tone of voice, choice of words, time of confrontation, lack of preparation, and so on that is the cause. Somebody else “pushed their buttons”, disrespected them, forgot how many times “I saved them from disaster”.
They never see themselves as causative of their own pain and misery. The classic example is the wife beater who after the rage has been spent and the hitting has ceased, comforts his beaten wife with the words, “if only you didn’t set me off with your __________.”
What is at work here is classic narcissism or an inability or failure to look within.
I am not saying that one is always at fault for what befalls them. Far from it. But I am saying that we are at fault for repeated scenarios with the same result–we are responsible for failing to figure it out and change the dynamic.
What is lacking is of course what we call introspection–the examination of one’s own mental and emotional processes.
As Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” While that may be a bit extreme, it isn’t by far. The unexamined life leads to a life of heartache, a constant wailing of “why me”, and “why is everyone against me, when I’m such a good person and work so hard to help others?” The answer, brutal as it may be is, everyone is not against you, you aren’t such a good person, and you don’t really help others much at all.
Look introspection shouldn’t be hard. We are having a running dialogue in our heads from the moment we awaken until our subconscious takes over during our sleep. Most of it is wasted on trivial nonsense unfortunately. We rail about what has happened and what we fear may. We seldom deal in the here and now.
Yet, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes (i.e., marry the “same” lousy man again and again) until we delve deep enough into our motives to see what is pressing us to pursue that which will inevitably disappoint us.
Why did we do this? Why did we choose that?
Those are the questions that we have to answer when we are feeling up against it. And superficial answers won’t help. A simple example:
I wake up in a bad mood every day. Answer: I don’t enjoy my first task which is walking for an hour. Fine, but tons of people don’t wake up happy and they all have reasons too. Better answer: I have a pessimistic outlook generally and want to avoid all “chores” because the day will probably turn out lousy for some other reason and then I have had a completely crummy day.
Now that answer may be crazy, but it starts to get at the heart of the problem–you and your pessimism about life in general. From there you can dig with some hope of really finding a nugget of wisdom in that hole. What makes you pessimistic? Who in your life was like that? What was your relationship? Who in your life was always happy? How did you relate to them?
You see? A whole series of questions are generated by an honest deeply thought of response. The answers to those problems will lead to more doors and more avenues to check out. You’re answer many not come in one hour or in one week, but if you challenge yourself to discover the shadow hiding within, answers will come.
They say that we are two people, maybe more. We are the person we portray to the public and the person we really are, hidden away, even from ourselves. Life is a process of uncovering the shadow person within and slowly but surely melding the two until we are whole.
Introspection is an essential part of that process. It’s how we grow to be comfortable in our own skin. It’s how we actually make choices about changing behaviors that will lead to improvements in our mental and emotional health. It’s how we become better persons. It’s how we become human.
This is not easy work, and it can be really hard to begin. Here is my way of cutting through the crap.
I believe in God, so I choose God as my companion. I just start explaining to God what is wrong. God asks very pointed questions. She is gentle, but allows for no nonsense. I can’t get away with the easy answer. I cannot lie, since God knows a lie, so I’m forced to abandon my defenses and let all my ugly little secrets come forth.
God is awfully good at treating me tenderly in these sessions. The reason for that is that I know that God’s love is unconditional. God knows me already, better than I know me, and loves me still. So I can be honest to a fault.
Okay, so you don’t believe in a Creator God who is involved in His creation. What do you do?
Imagine any person who you have this type of closeness too, the one person who loves you no matter what, who probably already knows of your failings and shortcomings. Imagine the person you most respect for their well-lived life (from your prospective). Imagine the person who is always happy to sit and talk, offer a piece of advice, not judge.
It might be a parent, a spouse, a sibling. It might be a friend. It might be a character in a book that you attribute all those qualities to. I recall that the psychiatrist on M.A.S.H. used to write letters to Sigmund Freud to work out his emotional response to the work he did. You might choose any person you think of as fair, smart, insightful, etc.
Take a walk, close a door, relax, and start talking.
If you are like me, you will find that this becomes a favorite time to explore within. And you will, I promise, take a deep cleansing breath at the end, feel ever so much better, and at the same time enjoy knowing that you have moved forward toward being happier and healthier.
Here is a chart with some discussion tips: