Plato, quoting Socrates, wrote that, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We are more alive when we can reflect on who we are, how we act, and why we act in the ways we do.
Being responsible for our thoughts and actions is only possible if we are aware of them, can reflect upon them, and are willing to change the way we live if we want to.
We don’t just have self-reflection. We need to work at it. There are many people who find it enriching and valuable.
Some people keep journals or meditate to help develop their self-reflections. Although these can be enormously helpful, one can get caught up in one’s own (biased) narratives. How do we know that our self-reflections are really self-reflections and not self-justifications?!
What we need is honest feedback from others and this can be hard to find (and to listen to when we do find it!). We all have “blind spots” – things we are not fully aware of about ourselves and about the way we come across to other people.
Here’s an example:
Elif complains bitterly about how insecure and needy her partner is. There is plenty of evidence that Elif can give for this. It is so obvious that her partner is too needy. However, Elif has not reflected on her own avoidance of intimacy – her fear of being too close and too reliant on her partner. But it is this stuff of Elif’s which is fuelling her partner’s insecurities.
What if Elif is able to reflect on her own fears about having “a needy partner”? Or on her own distrust of deep intimacy? What if Elif can spot her own behaviour and change it? What if instead of avoiding her partner’s bids for intimacy, she embraces them to some degree?
Self-reflection is important to relationships. You don’t have to be the Dalai Lama but you do need to be curious and probing about your own stuff. If you only blame others for situations or woes, how will you develop as a person? How will you avoid taking your same old issues into your next relationship? And the next?
Couples counselling will help develop self-awareness. Personal therapy, in parallel with couples counselling, can help with this, if needed, and there are also lots of web resources on this subject.
For a brief article on Emotionally Focused Therapy, see this article, An Overview of Emotionally Focused Therapy