Therapy is Self-Reflection
Therapy can make you happier and more successful because therapy is, among other things, a process of self-reflection. In fact, it’s like self-reflection on steroids.
Unfortunately, self-reflection is kind of a dying art. People either feel like they don’t have the time to self-reflect or think it’s a waste of time.
On the other hand, people are also afraid to take a good, long, hard look at themselves. And that’s a mistake because there is so much to be gained by examining yourself and your past.
The self-reflection of therapy provides many advantages that can make life easier:
You learn about yourself.
Most people are shockingly low in self-awareness. Some are too busy, or at least they think they are. Others would prefer to distract themselves rather than spend one minute in self-reflection.
However, there’s much to be learned by taking a few minutes each day, or an hour once a week with a professional to review the choices you’ve made; both positive and negative.
When you know yourself, you can make better plans that utilize your strengths and avoid your weaknesses.
Recognizing your weaknesses and dealing with them is powerful. Doing so will allow you to stop shooting yourself in the foot over and over.
You learn from your past. If you look at the biggest mistakes you’ve made over your life, you’ll find they’re surprisingly similar. You may have either spent money you couldn’t afford, got involved with someone you shouldn’t, or made poor decisions to get away from stressful situations.
If you’ve never taken the time to review these mistakes, there’s no doubt, you’ve repeated them.
Reviewing the past can also help you to identify what works so that then you can advantageously repeat those actions.
You take intelligent, thoughtful action. Lots of people are highly action-oriented and avoid “wasting” time on thinking too much. But the reality is, it’s incredibly helpful to spend a little time thinking and strategizing rather than just jumping in with both feet.
Reflect on your intent. Ask yourself some clarifying questions and use the answers to direct your energy efficiently.
If you don’t want to, or can’t go to therapy, check out the following six-step process to help you hone your self-reflection skills. It’s a simple guide that will help you see each step clearly.
How to examine your past and present:
(we call this, “creating your coherent story” in therapy)
- What happened?
This is simple enough. Describe the event to yourself. “I said something mean to my wife again when I was trying to make a point.”
- What was I thinking and feeling?
What were you thinking at the time? What did you think afterward? “I was low-grade stressed out and irritable. I felt a sense of relief to get my point across, but then I felt embarrassed and not sure why I keep doing that.”
- What was good or bad about the experience?
“I made my point. But now I feel like a jerk and my wife thinks I’m one too.”
- How does this affect the various parts of my life?
What does it say about me? “My relationship with my wife is on shaky ground because I can’t stop doing this. It’s not just a problem with my wife, I do this with my employees too. I’m impulsive and handle stress poorly.”
- What else could I have done?
“Learned to communicate in a better way. Learned self-reflection skills. Figured out why I do that so I can stop.”
- If this happened again, how would I handle it?
“I would consider what I’m about to say before I say it. I would get the help I need to learn how to do that.”
Self-reflection is a useful tool that’s free to learn and apply. Imagine being able to leverage your strengths, minimize your weaknesses, and avoid repeating your mistakes.
You’re not a terrible person. You can make good use of those painful events from your past to make your future more peaceful and easy. You just need some practice. So spend a few minutes each day and apply these six steps for some self-reflection. I bet you’ll be happy with the results.
If that seems like too much and you need something even easier, contact me with the subject line, “WOA self-reflection tool” and I’ll hook you up. (You’ll get an audio “active meditation” practice that will supercharge your ability to self-reflect.)