Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Navel-gazing – useless or excessive self-contemplation (from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/navel-gazing)

Call me old-fashioned, but I never cared much for psychology before. I remember taking a course in college, but honestly the only thing I remember about it is signing up to be a participant in various studies to I could get extra credit on exams.

I never, never expected psychology to be such an important part of my novitiate experience, but time has proven me wrong.

At first, this emphasis on “know yourself, know your issues, know how to cope with them” seemed excessive, even self-defeating. Why spend all this time thinking, talking, and remembering just to be able to shout “I'm screwed up!! And X, Y, and Z made me so!!” [insert your own favorite players there – parents, siblings, cultural mores, pop icons, etc]

But lately I've begun to wonder if this isn't so much about excuses as it is about explanations. An excuse is something you hide behind (“I couldn't do ______ because of __________!!”). It provides you an out, and escape, of an otherwise uncomfortable or unwanted position. It seemed at first that a lot of this “navel-gazing” was all about finding excuses (“I can't meet community obligations because I didn't have enough rigid boundaries when I was a kid!”). However, the more we talk about self-reflection and personal development, the more I see it can be used to explain our “quirks” or our “buttons” – not with the idea of using them as excuses, but with the goal of being able to work around them and try to make sure that they don't stand in our way.

So, I guess I'm coming around to the overall usefulness of this psychology stuff – or at least, I'm willing to talk about it!


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