It is common for addicts to be focused on the external world when it comes to providing explanations for their problems. This way they can take the attention away from their own choices and instead look for other things to blame – they do not have to consider the possibility that that it is there abuse of alcohol and drugs that is the problem. The addict is able to justify their behavior by focusing on the actions of other people, the state of society, the miserable weather, their culture, or just bad luck. They may believe that mind altering chemicals are their only real friend. It is only when the individual becomes willing to turn the focus inwards that the possibility of real recovery can become a reality.
Human self reflection refers to a type of self examination where people turn their attention to themselves in an attempt to learn more about who they are. This type of inner work is also referred to as introspection. Traditionally self reflection has been encouraged in religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. Prayer can be a form of self reflection, but meditation is the most well known spiritual form of spiritual introspection. It is also common for secularists to turn to self reflection as a means to understand themselves and thereby the world better.
Those people who devote a little time each day to introspection will find that this benefits them in a number of ways including:
* They develop a deeper understanding of who they are.
* They are better able to identify what they want out of life.
* It makes it easier to establish meaningful goals – this means that the individual is more likely to achieve them.
* It can lead to increased creativity. It is common for humans to have untapped creativity that they are not aware of because they’ve never looked inward for it.
* Looking inward can actually help the individual understand other people better. This is because understanding other humans begins with an understanding of self.
* It is an effective tool for problem solving.
* Those individuals who wish to progress along a spiritual path will usually need to devote at least some time to self reflection.
* It means that the individual can develop an ease with themselves – they begin to feel comfortable in their own skin.
Introspection can be of particular importance to people who are recovering from an addiction because:
* It can reduce the risk of relapse back to addiction. This is because the individual will be better able to spot when they are going off track.
* It will often be a lack of self reflection skills that allowed the individual to fall deep into substance abuse in the first place.
* In order to develop emotional sobriety the individual will need to learn how to be introspective. This is the ability to deal with feelings in a positive way which can only happen when people are aware of their inner landscape.
* In order to build a good life in sobriety the individual needs to find meaning and purpose. This can only come about by the individual developing a deeper understanding of themselves.
* It makes it easier for the person to learn from their mistakes. Failure to do this can mean that the individual keeps on making the same mistakes over and over again.
* Programs such as the 12 Steps have self reflection as a key component.
* Many people find that following a spiritual path in recovery is of great benefit to them. In order to develop spiritually they will need to learn how to self reflect.
* People in recovery can continue to hold onto beliefs and opinions that lead them into trouble. It is only through introspection that they will be able to weed out these harmful mental obstacles.
* It will allow the individual to better appreciate what they have in recovery. The person who remains grateful is unlikely to ever relapse back to addiction.
* People in recovery can sometimes struggle with interpersonal relationships – in fact it may have been this that drove them to substance abuse in the first place. Introspection can improve their ability to get along with other people.
The aim of spiritual paths will usually be for the individual to develop and grow as humans. The idea is that this development will bring them closer to something higher. Self reflection will usually be a key ingredient of this progression along the path. Some seekers can take self reflection so seriously that they choose solitude. A classic example of this would be the Buddhist monk who goes off to live in a cave just so they can reflect on a fundamental question like, what am I? It is not necessary for the spiritually inclined to choose isolation in order to benefit from self reflection. Just devoting a few minutes each day to sitting quietly can lead to significant improvements in the life of the individual.
Those individuals who intend to use the 12 steps as part of their recovery will need to learn how to self reflect. This ability to turn inwards will be particularly required for steps 4, 8, 10, and 11- although arguably all the steps some type of self reflection. The times in the program when introspection will be needed most include:
* Step 4- made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
* Step 8- made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
* Step 10- continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
* Step 11- sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
A another tool that is closely related to introspection is critical thinking. This can be defined as a process whereby people think about thinking. The aim of this tool is to help the individual remove any flawed beliefs or ideas that are holding them back in life. Critical thinking involves being rational and open minded enough to challenge preconceived notions. It can be best summed up with the words of Thomas Henry Huxley who advised people to:
> Sit down before fact like a little child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion. Follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing
There is no doubt that introspection is a useful people for those who are recovering from an addition. Like most things in life though, it is better in moderation. Those who become too inwardly focused can become lost inside their own heads. This means that they miss out on many of the good things in life which are out in the real world. It can also make it difficult for the individual to develop meaningful relationships with other people if they are always looking inwards.
In order to benefit from reflection in recovery it is suggested that people:
* Devote a few minutes each day to this activity. Some people find that this is best down at night when they can look back on their experiences throughout the day.
* Journaling is an excellent way to commit to introspection. The act of writing thoughts down on paper tends to greatly increase clarity.
* Meditation is a particularly good way to encourage self reflection because the individual will be focused on their internal world. Mindfulness meditation is probably the best choice for those who wish to increase their self understanding.
* It is vital to be able to distinguish between healthy inner reflection and over analyzing things. Some people use introspection as a delaying tactic to avoid doing the work they need to do.
* It is easy to become deluded when people are alone with their own thoughts. This is why it is suggested that people share their conclusions from such inner explorations – a therapist is ideal for this type of assistance.
* Some people find that going for long walks in nature or other types of exercise boost their ability to self reflect. The individual can take a small audio recorder with them if they are worried about forgetting their insights.
* It is suggested that people develop the skills of critical thinking so they can remove any unhelpful beliefs or opinions that are holding them back.
* Introspection demands complete honesty in order for it to be effective. Those individuals who are not committed to such honesty may find that they are increasing their own delusions because of their inner work.
* If the person never faces any internal discomfort during their introspection it may be a sign that they are not being completely honest with themselves.