For a socially just society, we need individuals who are introspective and consider how they interact and impact their environments and the people around them. In a multitude of ways, 2020 has slapped us across the face, forcing us to notice that individually we affect one another. Together or separate, we form the collective: we’ve made the mess, and we’re in it together. We’ve elected leaders who divide us. We’ve tolerated systems of inequality. What others do, affects us, and we’re mad about what the others are doing.
Blaming others for our life’s problems is our most cherished pastime, but it gets us nowhere beyond pointing fingers and division. Individually we contribute to the world we live in, and cleaning up our part is the surest way to foster progress and improve society. We must recognize that there is no going back- there’s only waking up. Raising our consciousness through self-insight helps our collective community. The whole is only as good as the people a part of it.
When you know yourself well, you hold significant power and insight over your emotions, behaviors, patterns, triggers, and reactions. The impact of such knowledge can improve many areas of your life, allowing you to take things less personally. Less reactivity frees you up from massive emotional responses to challenging situations, like a breakup or a virus. In deep versions of self-study, you may learn to tolerate various forms of uncertainty.
Through self-study, you learn about how you connect and disconnect from life. You start asking better questions. You notice problematic ways you relate to others, and how you may unintentionally cause yourself and others harm. Improving your self-communication ripples into other parts of your life, and you learn to communicate with others better.
Naturally curious beings, humans regularly study our relationships with others. We love to vent, gossip, blame, envy, fantasize, and engage with or reject other people. We’re a relational species; We wouldn’t have survived long without someone else to help us into our life. As a result, we’re wired to spend significant amounts of energy focusing on our relationships with other people. In the age of capitalism and addiction, proactively studying our links to the more subtle parts of our internal worlds is negligently rare.
Studying your relationship with your feelings is one of the most profound ways towards self-knowledge, and yet, self-knowledge is not encouraged in our society. When our normal has become a constant stimulation of “noise” like news, sounds, and technology, it’s hard to tolerate space with nothing to do. We can’t sit still, experience silence, or wonder what’s going on within. We don’t ask ourselves important questions.
It’s not our fault: it’s comfortable to live smoothly through capitalism, a system that fuels and indulges narcissism, a subtle yet potent defense. When occupied all the time, we’ll never question many things. Capitalism offers us many short-term yet effective way of avoiding what’s going on inside. We buy, indulge, occupy our minds, and busy ourselves; we’re often either connected or consuming. Collectively, we’re an addicted society. We’ll turn to different avenues to soothe the imbalances we feel within ourselves.
The field of mental health continues to be stigmatized, making it unpopular, and often labeled for people who need to be ‘fixed’ or self-indulgent, while disproportionally accessible for the privileged. When there is massive resistance to anything, I’m prone to get curious: What might happen if we all were a little more aware?
You don’t have to go to therapy to work on your mental health; all you need to do is create space and get curious. Observe yourself, and notice your mind. Make sure to investigate any judgments that arise. It’s hard to see anything clearly with a negatively skewed lens. Cynical lining cannot manifest self-awareness or peace, only shame, and division. Challenge the perception, and try to stay curious by working to remain open to what you find. Be careful not to attach to any doctrine of idea or script firmly, or you may live unconsciously, in-authentically, and out of alignment.
Notice the relationships you have with your possessions, body, environment, substances, and beliefs. These areas hold rich information into understanding yourself, and they so often go unconsidered in our daily lives.
In studying your relationship to your body, you get to understand better how your body feels when you take care of it, neglect or punish it, under or overfeed it. You learn what kind of foods your body likes and which it doesn’t. You can challenge specific questions or ideas about how your body should look, asking yourself where those ideas came from, and if they hold value?
You could consider your relationship to exercise. Does it feel like a way you care for your body? Or is it a place you go to punish yourself? Does it feel like something you “should” do, but don’t, and feel bad about it? You learn a lot about yourself by studying any one area. When you expand this way of thinking, you can learn more about your life in all realms.
In studying your relationship with your environment, you begin to understand what feels good to have around you, and what doesn’t. What do you see around you, and how does it make you feel? You might start to see that clutter makes you feel anxious, or it might instead be a reflection of your anxiety. What might feel good in your home might irritate the hell out of me. I may neglect my environment and treat it poorly because I prefer to put my energy into my career and travel. At the same time, you might maintain indoor plants and care for your pets, while never leaving your hometown. You can study your relationship with anything: money, time, sleep, the news, sound. Self-analysis is an exam; the secret answers reflect who you are. What do you have going on inside?
In today’s world, it’s crucial to study our relationship with screens. Technology often makes many aspects of life more convenient and gives us a sense of connection. However, in becoming mindful of how we use social media, not just how much we are less prone to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression as a result of our use.
It’s helpful to regularly review your relationships with alcohol or drugs. How does it help you? What does it give you? Does your consumption harm you or others who you love? How would it be if you didn’t have it? What’s the feeling that comes up just before you feel like you need it?
In studying your feelings, consider the range of human emotions and notice what you tend to feel or defend against feeling. You might ask yourself about your anger. Do you skimp on recognizing your boundaries or perhaps indulge yourself in rage in destructive ways? How do you navigate feelings of anxiety: do you procrastinate, shut down, or overcompensate?
The relationship between our lives and the things we’ve put inside our lives either makes our experience supportive or causes problems. Your ties to anything is personal to you, so it must be a prime focus for one’s attention. Focus on your process- your relationships; don’t avoid your work and distract yourself by analyzing others.
If you aim to be a more conscious human being, live better for yourself, and others, look within. Depth work is sometimes frightening, often painful, and may temporarily evoke shame. However, self-work can wipe the lens of your perception of the world inside and around you, potentially leaving you more accepting of what’s happening. When we understand what’s going on inside us, we can better navigate what’s going on outside around us. The path to becoming self-responsible is an ethical route towards creating more social balance and peace.