Monday, August 11, 2014

Varieties of introspection.

I disagree with David Brooks’ opinions much of the time, but I’m impressed with what a polymath he is. His Op-Ed piece on healthy versus unhealthy introspection is a case in point:
...there seems to be a paradox at the heart of introspection. The self is something that can be seen more accurately from a distance than from close up. The more you can yank yourself away from your own intimacy with yourself, the more reliable your self-awareness is likely to be...When people examine themselves from too close, they often end up ruminating or oversimplifying...have repetitive thoughts, but don’t take action. Depressed ruminators end up making themselves more depressed.
We are better self-perceivers if we can create distance and see the general contours of our emergent system selves — rather than trying to unpack constituent parts. This can be done in several ways.
First, you can distance yourself by time. ...people who write about trauma later on can place a broader perspective on things. Their lives are improved by the exercise.
Second, we can achieve distance from self through language.’s smart, when trying to counsel yourself, to pretend you are somebody else. This can be done a bit even by thinking of yourself in the third person...people who view themselves from a self-distanced perspective are better at adaptive self-reflection than people who view themselves from a self-immersed perspective.
Finally, there is narrative. ..We should see ourselves as literary critics, putting each incident in the perspective of a longer life story. The narrative form is a more supple way of understanding human processes, even unconscious ones, than rationalistic analysis.
Maturity is moving from the close-up to the landscape, focusing less on your own supposed strengths and weaknesses and more on the sea of empathy in which you swim, which is the medium necessary for understanding others, one’s self, and survival.

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