Some of us often find ourselves circling back to similar life situations, or making the same mistakes. We feel stuck in a cycle of harmful people or habits. It is like we aren’t making any progress. Like we are somehow failing to learn from our experiences and grow as human beings. Sometimes, we feel a certain way and don’t know why. Sometimes, we do certain things and wonder why we did them. And sometimes, we are so caught up in our lives that we just stop taking conscious decisions altogether. We let our lives guide us, instead of the other way around. We develop a negative self schema and grow cynical. And all of this happens due to the lack of a single personal practice — self-analysis or introspection.
In order to make sense of the world around us, it is essential that we make sense of the world inside us, first.
Lilly Singh writes in her book How To Be A Bawse: “Once you discover the ins and outs of your mind, you basically have the cheat code to your game of life. All you have to do is input the data and you have access to extra mental weapons, stronger protection and new passageways.”
Know Who You Are
You won’t be able to drive a car if you don’t know which pedal does what. Similarly, you won’t be able to be in control of yourself if you don’t know how your brain responds to specific situations. This is why, the biggest part of self-analysis is knowing who you are. There are a lot of ways to do this.
1. Self-Administered Personality Assessment
Personality is commonly defined as a group of dynamic psychological systems that determine one’s unique adjustment to their environment. Based on several personality theories, personality assessment techniques have been developed over the years by different psychologists to determine different dimensions of personality. The most commonly found assessment in pop psychology is the MBTI or the Myers-Biggs Type Indicator, based on Carl Jung’s Type Theory of Personality. However, this one is subject to a lot of harsh criticism. Most psychologists prefer the Big Five Personality Test, based on Costa and McCrae’s Five Factor Model.
Personality assessments not only reveal vital information about who you are, but their self-administrative nature means that you are compelled to look within yourself to find the answer. You have to accurately assess what you would do in a situation and choose the correct option. This is where self-analysis or introspection comes into play. However, I’d advice against relying solely on personality assessment. Self-administrative nature also means that there are high chances of biases or misjudgment of self. This is why you should not only analyse what you would do, but also what you actually do.
2. Maintaining Journals
While personality tests present you with a series of hypothetical situations, journals give you insight into your actual life and actions. Journals not only act as an outlet for your feelings and emotions, but also enable you to see everything clearly in front of your eyes. Thoughts become less confusing and easier to follow when they are down on paper. Here are a number of different types of journals you can maintain:
This is the simple daily journal where you write about everything that has happened during the day. If you cannot maintain writing daily then I suggest you give this option a pass.
This is different from the daily journal in the sense that you do not write in it every day. You only write about events that have had a great impact on you, positively or negatively. This leads to an emergence of patterns, and you can effectively analyse what kind of situations illicit a strong response from you, and what you can do about them.
This is another kind of daily journal, but focusing on your mood rather than the events itself. Divide the day into three or four parts and note down your mood during each part, with a couple of sentences accompanying it. This will help you to determine patterns in mood swings and also what affects your mood in what way.
Sometimes, certain events or experiences of our childhood affect our present behaviour. In a childhood journal, you can write down every single thing that you recall from your childhood. Usually, the things we readily remember are those that were of some significance to us back then. Moreover, there are also some things, mostly traumatic events, that our conscious blocks out to prevent anxiety. Though in maximum cases only a psychologist can bring these to the fore, sometimes certain places, people, smells, songs or other media can trigger random memory flashes and push some of these traumatic events to the conscious level. These should also be jotted down in the childhood journal.
Dream analysis is the best way to know our repressed and unconscious motives and urges. Maintaining a dream journal helps us to access those areas of our mind that are otherwise kept under lock and key. Write down every single thing that you recall from your dream as soon as you wake up. This will also help you identify recurring dreams and make sense of nightmares when you approach them later on with a calm mind.
3. The Technique of Free Association
Free Association was a term coined by Sigmund Freud in his theory of Psychoanalysis. In this technique, you have to lie down comfortably and express out loud whatever thought crosses your mind, no matter how questionable or irrelevant they may seem. Use a tape recorder to record everything and listen to it later to understand what is going through your mind. Can you find some connection between these thoughts and certain life events? Do you think they are arising because of your feelings towards certain things? Can you identify what those things are?
Performing Free Association by yourself also reduces the intensity of Resistance faced, since you do not have to reveal your deepest secrets to a complete stranger. Instead, you are all alone by yourself, and no one else will hear the things you record. This makes it easier for you to express yourself.
4. Make Lists
This one is pretty straightforward. Make a list of things you are good and bad at. Jot down all your fears one by one. Recall all your failures and successes. With these lists, you will get a pretty clear picture of who you are.
And after you have carried out some combination of all of these four methods to know your mind, you can move on to the next step, which is how to use your new-found knowledge to your advantage.
Apply Your Knowledge
Once you know how your mind works, you can easily manipulate it to serve you in the way you want. You know your strengths, and you can now use them to your advantage to tackle your weaknesses. You can figure out how to avoid situations that you know will bring out a negative response from you. You can choose a job or field of study that matches your interest and aptitude. You can avoid people and situations that you have identified as threats to your mental peace.
In this stage of applying your knowledge, one very important thing to keep in mind is how you embrace your fears.
Embracing Your Fears
Remember, your biggest fear can become your biggest strength.
Batman embraced his fear of bats in such a way that he became the very embodiment of a large bat. Tyrion Lannister famously said, “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
What we learn from these pop culture heroes is that fear is necessary for success. Also, the push of fear is stronger than the push of dreams. You can sit on your bed and dream all day. But unless you really fear the consequences of those dreams never coming true, unless you think: If I don’t achieve this, I will die, you will never get the motivation to give your 100% in those dreams. Voldemort was so afraid of death that he ventured into a field of magic no one ever dared to. His fear was the sole reason he became the Greatest Dark Wizard of All Time.
This is why, identifying and manipulating your fears is probably the most important part of self-analysis. For as the Doctor said in The Dark Knight Rises: “You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak. How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible, without the most powerful impulse of the spirit; the fear of death?”
Here at The Insider Tales, we have compiled a PDF for our readers to aid them in their process of Self-Analysis. It contains a series of questions compiled from the bestselling self-help book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill that will help you discover who you are. You can download the PDF here.
Image Sources: Flickr, lillysinghbook.com, Wikimedia, International Psychoanalysis, Oprah.com, ComicsAlliance.