Monday, March 07, 2005

Introspection vs. self judgement and scrupulosity

The number one handiest tool in the tool bag of anyone aspiring to self-mastery with an intent to serve is introspection. Introspection is the action of looking inside--of holding a mirror up to one's own inner workings, strategies, defenses, emotional reactivity, as well as to one's genuine accomplishments, points of progress, and longings. Introspection must be distinguished from masochistic self-judgement and scrupulousity. I had to become an expert in these two errors before discovering the truth of introspection. Masochistic self-judgement is where, in reflecting upon the events of the day/week/month/year/life (depending on how much catching up you need to do), you mercilessly condemn yourself for myriad percieved slights and wrongs which you have committed, and wallow in guilt feeelings regarding those actions as if that somehow represented "taking responsibility" for one's action. (It represents no such thing, by the quote a not so famous author--me--guilt is merely a pretender to the throne of responsibility.) Scrupulosity is that pathological state of inner affairs where one succumbs to a state of distorted "hyper-awareness" regarding one's behavior, to the point where every action or potential course of action is found wanting when compared to an idealized version of behavior, and even though one has sought forgiveness and made amends for long lists of "sins," two seconds later one finds oneself knocking at the door of the confessional to report the latest untoward thoughts, however transient, or to recollect newly perceived twists on past wrongs. For the scrupulous conscience, there is no relief, somewhat like someone with an eating disorder, where no amount of dieting/purging relieves the person of their distorted body image: the scrupulous individual cannot find relief from the distorted soul image. Introspection, by way of comparison, stands apart from self-judgement and self condemnation: the object of introspection is to recognize, acknowledge, and accept one's patterns as prerequisites to creating more fruitful choices and courses of action. (These steps--recognize, acknowledge, accept, choose, act--I learned at the
  • IM School of Healing Arts
  • which I attended with my wife years ago in NYC--Thanks Levent! We'll come back to them in another journal entry, as they are very important to understand.) Judgement and condemnation belong to another paradigm altogether, and a very distorted one at that. When we practice introspection, we are in it to achieve the freedom that only comes from taking adult responsibility for our choices. Turn an event of the day over in your mind. Observe the feelings and charge that you experienced. Notice the triggers for one's reactivity. Take stock of how the events played out, as if watching from a distance. Keep on the track of learning for yourself from these observations as opposed to judging oneself or another. Introspection is about taking the time to recognize one's patterns, and becoming observant of the machinations of the personality-in-action, with an end view to self-mastery. One need not have achieved self-mastery to practice introspection. That would be demanding that a child, new to a game, should already excel at it. Introspection is a lifelong practice of self observation--we get better at it the more we do it--gentler, more astute, more refined, always necessary.


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