During my nearly decade long advocacy for self-knowledge, I have demystified self-reflection as some kind of mystical, complex discipline. This is abundantly apparent in my book Make Self-Knowledge Great Again, as well as in other books such as Peaceful Parenting, where I touch upon the topic.
A popular modality making the rounds in psychology circles on YouTube and elsewhere is “Inner Child Work”. I have been sympathetic, at times, to this approach but have challenged it as well and never posited as a necessary framework for self-reflection.
People, in their anxious rush to discredit and disqualify the simplicity of my advocacy, pigeonhole me as a “this or that”. They need labels in order to attack me with. They burn with resentment over past statements of mine instead of looking past that to the methodology I have long espoused. Self-knowledge is a process of observing one’s own thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and memories in a dispassionate but curious manner in order to better make sense of one’s own relationship to oneself, others, and the broader world. That’s it. There’s nothing “hippie”, antichristian, authoritarian, or whatever about it. It’s a simple methodology.
You get what you put into it. A good deal of what I have learned, I credit to this basic methodology. You can’t help the IQ you were born with, but you can help your own clarity of thinking.
Most people don’t want to do the work. They’re either lazy, demotivated, and avoidant or they’ve convinced themselves they’re better off pursuing whatever self-indulgent fantasy they harbor. People have attacked me with thousand upon thousand word diatribes and every single time it boils down to the excuses they torture themselves with in order to not be free and simply do the work. There is no beating the idea that simple self-reflection on a regular basis yields results but watch people contort their intellects this way and that to try and deny the idea. Can’t beat the idea? Attack the person. It’s all very trite.
Some people will do anything to avoid the work. They conjure up some negative association with me in order to alienate themselves from the basic work. Why grant me that much power? It’s not even me, it’s some bizarro version of me that has more to do with them than it does me. Yet, people do it. Anything to remain miserable. They’ll read 1000 page tomes that give them nothing rather than listen to the guy who says, “Here’s a pile of wood. It would be good if you stacked it.”
Some people do get into a regular journaling habit and listen to their own thoughts for a bit of every day or on a semi-regular basis. They see wonderful improvements for themselves. Others get into therapy or coaching with a competent professional and get benefits from the sessions but then do literally nothing between sessions. This is lazy. This usually has to do with a person being unable to manage their own time, meaning all their time was managed for them as children – usually through public schooling and/or overbearing parents (usually a mother).
There are other things to do besides self-knowledge. But people also shouldn’t kid themselves that they’ll get self-knowledge benefits from whatever non self-reflective pursuit they get into. There’s no competition with self-knowledge. You can be an upstanding, clear headed person or you can be addled, anxious, drama prone, whatever. It’s up to you. There are some people that are more self-knowledgeable than others but so what? Either something is a reward in itself or it’s not. People can be at different levels of maturity. Self-knowledge isn’t the only thing that grants maturity. There’s also being morally courageous. Stuff to get into it. Life is interesting, the more you take an interest in it. Is this so harmful? Is this something to be defended against? I think not.