Fear of Introspection and the Inevitability of Growth

Introspection Psychology – How to be Real with Yourself

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Why do some of us have a fear of introspection? Indeed, the word introspection means something simple but is exceedingly difficult. If you look up introspection in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that it is “a means of learning about one’s own ongoing, or perhaps recently past, mental states or processes.” Let’s look at some introspection psychology.

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Looking at yourself from a mental and emotional standpoint (including your actions) and analyzing them can be difficult and scary. Because of issues like your own biases, along with the almost vague nature of the word, this can become a burdensome task. But well worth it, as without introspection psychology, we can never have personal growth.

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 Introspection and self-reflection lead to self-awareness and self-understanding, and those two lead to personal development, the ultimate outcome of self-discovery.

I believe that implementing introspection psychology is a process that leads to an intuitive understanding of ourselves and provides greater insight into your life and mental state. The fear of introspection is worth breaking through for these benefits.

 At the University of Sydney, a psychologist Anthony M. Grant discovered that people who displayed greater personal insight “enjoy stronger relationships, a clearer sense of purpose and greater well-being, self-acceptance, and happiness.”

Along with his findings, another study showed that “people high in insight feel more in control of their lives, show more dramatic personal growth, enjoy better relationships, and feel calmer and more content.”

The benefits sound great, so just how does the average person navigate introspection?

Avoid Confirmation Basis

Confirmation bias is your natural tendency to search for, interpret, and even favor information that confirms or supports your current beliefs without considering the big picture. No doubt, this is the default for most people because we want to be right. If we really want to change with introspection psychology the fear of introspection most likely stems from not wanting to admit, even to ourselves, our flaws.

Look for ways to challenge your conclusions. Seek information from a range of sources, not just ones that agree with you; that can create an echo chamber where all your biases will be reinforced. 

Try getting another’s opinion, discuss your thoughts with others. Ultimately, get the bigger picture before you decide.

 “The introspection concept explores inner thoughts and feelings following a unique structure of analysis.”

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Look At Your Part In Situations without Fear of Introspection

It’s helpful to make a list of wrongdoing. Either where you were in the wrong or were hurt by someone else. Look at each interaction as subjectively as possible and write it out. 

So, let’s separate it into parts—the who, the when, and the why. Next, take a moment and look at your part in all of it. What could have done better or differently, were you being spiteful or judgmental, or are you shifting blame? 

Looking at yourself is never easy; even the Ph.D.’s admit that “introspection as it can cloud and confuse our self-perceptions, which can have a host of unintended consequences.”

Introspection Psychology Tip #1: Stay Calm

Taking a hard look at yourself and your actions can bring up some heavy stuff. Take it slow and easy. Moreover, the last thing you want is to get all revved up and do something you regret. Anger, disappointment, and feelings of loss may come up. You are taking a hard look at your past, and that can be quite uncomfortable. If you are one of many with a fear of introspection, you can see why!

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Introspection Psychology Tip #2 Have Support

I would recommend if you want to go all-in, have a licensed therapist guide you through the rough times. Alas, if that is not an option to make sure you have people you can talk with whom will be nonjudgmental.

The Practice Of Introspection

Take A Daily Inventory

Regardless, once you have conquered your fear of introspection and done the deep dive into your psyche – you don’t want to allow yourself to go backward.

At the end of every day, look over your interactions. Anything you did well, keep doing that. Anything you feel you need to change, take steps in that direction to change it. Progress is all you’re looking for. If you chase perfection, you will never win.

Other Ways to Implement Introspection Psychology

There are different ways to practice introspection and self-reflection. The best way, however, is to ask yourself questions and record your responses in writing. So, find a comfortable, quiet spot, grab a drink, and sit down with a pen and paper. The questions you ask will depend on you and what you’d like to take from this process. 

There are some basics you can start with, though. For example, think about five lessons life has taught you thus far and record each of them. Unless you enjoy writing and want to go deep, keep your response to a sentence or two. At least, as you get started. Once you have your five lessons recorded, it’s time to dig in. For each lesson, ask how you learned the lesson, why you learned it, when you learned it, and exactly what you learned. Try to keep this to a paragraph. 

This is simply a starting point. A gentle step for those who have a fear of introspection.

Where you take your reflection from here is up to you. However, to get you started, I’d like you to think back on what you believe are some of the most defining moments of your life. Choose three to get started. Take each defining moment in turn and get to know more about each. 

Think about your experience – what you did, what you were thinking, and how it felt at the time. What were you experiencing at that moment? What was going on inside you at that moment? Once you have done this, you can reflect on what you have learned. 

What does the experience suggest to you, and what can you learn from it? You can compare each experience to the values or principles you try to follow in life. 

Finally, you have to take the lessons you have learned and apply them in practice. How can you deal with future situations? Has reliving this experience taught you about who you were, and how has it shaped you as you are now? What would you do differently? What do you intend to do about this based on your period of reflection?

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How to Properly Use Your Past Experience for Personal Growth 

Our pasts can be filled with many negative experiences that we’d like to forget. Hence, the fear of introspection. If we aren’t careful to address our history, those less than happy experiences can shape us negatively. 

However, we don’t have to let the negativity of our past define us. Instead, we can decide to use our history for personal growth. By doing so, we make the best out of a bad situation and go on to live meaningful and fulfilling lives. 

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Growth Mindset and Introspection Pyschology

A growth mindset is an idea that failures are simply a stop on the road to success. Adopting a growth mindset helps us embrace the past by accepting that some negative experiences and choices are simply a part of life and learning. This frees us from the negative emotions of guilt and shame and getting stuck in the past. When we can accept our past as part of our overall learning and development process, we can learn and ultimately move forward (Mandel, 2020). 

Forgiveness is the Grace Found Past the Fear of Introspection

Forgiveness is about giving ourselves, and others grace so that we can move forward. Often when we’ve experienced negative things or have made poor choices, we can get stuck in a cycle of unforgiveness towards others or ourselves that keeps us stuck in the past.

Making a conscious choice to forgive others or ourselves frees us from the event or mistake and allows us to heal so that you can move forward, versus remaining stuck in the pain of that moment.

Forgiveness is essential to releasing emotions like anger, shame, bitterness, sadness, guilt, and others that can keep you bound and stuck (Lindberg, 2018). Thus, working towards forgiveness should be a priority. 

Perspective – A Key Player in Introspection Psychology

Our perspectives play a vital role in shaping our ability to move forward. A pessimistic outlook will keep us stuck in the past and focused on the negatives. 

But an optimistic outlook can cause us to view our lives and circumstances through a positive lens and propel us forward in life. A positive perspective can help us see our past as a building block or a learning opportunity, which we can use to help us. Thus, cultivating positivity is essential to use our past to our benefit rather than being held back by it (Rampton, 2016). Keep this in mind if that clingy fear of introspection rears its head.

Gratitude is a Choice

Gratitude is about a choice to find those things in our lives we are thankful for. When we have experienced negative experiences in our past, this can be hard to do. However, embracing a mindset of gratitude is a strong strategy for using our history for personal growth. 

Gratitude is a more direct way to alter perspective. It refocuses our attention on the positive things we are grateful for and shifts it away from those less than positive experiences. By thinking about those things, we have to be thankful for we can pivot from the past and think more about moving forward in life (Rampton, 2016).

Get over the Fear of Introspection: Don’t Dwell

The most crucial step in using the past for personal growth is learning not to dwell in the past but to live introspectively, dealing with ourselves regularly.

You can never adequately move forward if you continuously think about the past. Yet, to honestly know ourselves, we must diligently use introspection and self-reflection!

The best measure is to take whatever lessons you can learn about yourself from the past, apply them, and then move on. This keeps you from getting stuck and being unable to make progress in life as a result. While at the same time giving you valuable guidance.

The past doesn’t have to be a stumbling block, we can be self-reflective without fear of introspection. Instead, it can be a stepping stone towards a brighter future. If we adopt a growth mindset, embrace a positive perspective, come from a place of gratitude, and learn to forgive and move on, we can use our past to progress and become our best selves. 

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How to Deal with Fear of Introspection and Associated with Self-Reflection

Let’s take time to self-reflect each day. Self-reflection allows you to grow and work towards becoming an even better person. However, it can be extremely easy for people to find fear in self-reflection. Where there is change, there is the fear of something changing. 

Introspective psychology tells us that most people do not like change, but sometimes change is needed. If you are finding it challenging to self-reflect due to specific fears, you are not alone. 

Here are some things that you can do to work past your fears and effectively self-reflect to make you the person you strive to be.

The first thing that you need to know is what self-reflection is. Self-reflection is the process used when you stop and think about your life, purpose, and place in the world. 

During this process, you consciously analyze the choices that you have made and identify those recurring patterns that you may need to change or at least ensure that you are living true to your morals and values. There are many reasons why self-reflection is essential, achieving different results in life, controlling what you can and not obsessing over what you cannot, and facing your fears.

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Allow yourself to see things from the bigger picture. 

When you are self-reflecting, you must look at the entire picture and not just bits and pieces of the situation. This is a tough thing to do, but if you want to effectively use introspection psychology with what is going on in your life, you must do this. You will not see the results you are looking for if you do not consider everything that is going on. 

It is tough to think about the whole situation, and most people naturally think about the negative, more so than the positive, which will lead to more fear than need be.

 The more fear of introspection that you feel during a negative situation, the less you will want to think about it, which will lead to not wanting to think about it.

Resistance to new ideas or change

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It is natural to resist new ideas or change because there are many unknowns. The anxiety starts to kick in, and you begin to feel uncomfortable with just the idea of how things, as you know it now, may be affected. Take a deep breath and relax. Change can be useful and, in some cases, very much needed. 

The change will allow you to go to the next step and face your fears of the unknown (which has a strong basis in fear of introspection). It will enable you to become the person that you strive to be. Different experiences lead to different outcomes, but when you are optimistic about the issue and the change you have encountered in your life, you may get further than you ever thought possible.

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Lack of security or safety can cause fear of introspection

It is nothing new when you feel insecure or unsafe; you will not continue doing that activity or being surrounded by those people.

 Self-reflection can be the same thing. You can become very vulnerable, and this is very scary for many people. There is nothing wrong with this; however, you must slowly move past these insecurities so that you can continue growing and becoming better than you were yesterday. 

Find people that you confide in to help you through this difficult time. People in your life could have been through these same situations, and they can give you recommendations on how to move forward. Once you can take hold of your insecurities, you will be able to self-reflect with little fear of being left vulnerable, no matter the situation.

How Who You Are Changes Throughout Life 

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Would you believe me if I said the person you are now is not the person you once were? Or that the person you are now is not the person you will be in several years. 

There is evidence to suggest that who we are, our personalities, change over time. Whereas at one time, it was believed that our personalities and identities were fixed in childhood or by age 30, research now shows that our personalities are malleable and fluid (Gorvett, 2020). 

Psychologists refer to this process of change that takes place as we age personality maturation. The process is a gradual one that begins in the teenage years and continues well into the 80s. 

Studies have shown that we become more socially adaptable, more altruistic, and more trusting as we age. Additionally, we become nicer, develop a greater sense of humor, have more willpower, and gain more control over our emotions (Gorvett, 2020).

A large study demonstrated this principle…

A study involving 50,000 people over the course of several decades demonstrated this principle. The study combined 14 longitudinal studies that looked at information about people’s personalities.

 Of the personality traits deemed the Big Five — neuroticism, conscientiousness, openness, extroversion, and agreeableness — all of them showed changes among study participants. 

All traits showed a downward trend of roughly 1-2% per decade across the studies, except for agreeableness, which saw an increase. These results suggested that as we age, we change, experiencing shifts in our personality. These results were steady across all 14 studies (Weller, 2018). 

Another study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology looked at how personality changes over time. Researchers from the University of Houston, the University of Tuebingen in Germany, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at data drawn from a personality questionnaire given to high school students in 1960. The team then followed up with those surveyed nearly 50 years later by asking questions that compared and contrasted their teenage personalities to their present-day personalities (Guerra, 2018). 

The study’s results showed that dominant personality traits remained dominant throughout one’s entire life. Still, that personality is malleable, and that life events can cause you to gain a different perspective. However, research also points out that the amount of personality change experienced varies from person to person.

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 Apparently, the environment we are exposed to and the company we keep play a large role in shaping our personality over time…

The study results also showed that while some personality elements were gender-specific, the rate at which men and women experience changes in their personality is relatively the same. 

There was no specific gender with the edge over the other in terms of personality maturity over time (DiSalvo, 2018). 

Psychologists from The University of Manchester and London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) published a similar study in Social Indicators Research. The researchers looked at an extensive data set of 7,500 individuals who answered questions on their life satisfaction and personality at two-time periods four years apart. 

Personality can Change – to Some Degree

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Personality was measured using a well-validated personality questionnaire assessing five broad dimensions that cover the breadth of a person’s character: openness-to-experiences, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. 

Results showed that personality changed at least as much as the external factors. Again, this demonstrated that personality can and does change over time and can also influence well-being (Nauert, 2018). 

Ultimately, the research supports the idea that we do change throughout our lifespan. While our core traits likely remain set in stone, other facets of our personality are malleable and can be altered by our environments and the people we surround ourselves with. 

Thankfully, the research also suggests that most of these changes are for the better, which should be an encouragement to us that all change isn’t bad. And jumping into introspection psychology and releasing the fear of introspection can be the best thing you ever do for yourself.

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p.p.s -I am not a doctor, therapist or coach. I am primarily self-educated. Mostly I am an obsessive reader, lifetime learner, doing my best to share what I have learned. I am only offering my OPINIONS. I don’t “recommend” technically, I just share my thoughts. I’m no expert. In anything. You are responsible for your own health, mental, emotional and spiritual care. Seek the help of a professional if you need it.

References:

DiSalvo, D. (2018, August 20). Can personality change, or does it stay the same for life? A new study suggests it’s a little of both. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2018/08/20/can-personality-change-or-does-it-stay-the-same-for-life-a-new-study-says-its-a-little-of-both/#20a9a0ba79ca

Gorvett, Z. (2020, March 16). How your personality changes as you age. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200313-how-your-personality-changes-as-you-age

Guerra, J. (2018, August 21). Experts reveal just how much your personality really changes as you get older. Elite Daily. https://www.elitedaily.com/p/does-your-personality-change-over-time-you-are-who-you-are-but-heres-how-youll-grow-10173733

Nauert, R. (2018, August 8). Personalities can indeed change over time. Psych Central – Trusted mental health, depression, bipolar, ADHD & psychology. https://psychcentral.com/news/2012/03/07/personalities-can-indeed-change-over-time/35663.html

Weller, C. (2018, January 10). A study of 50,000 people is the best evidence yet that personality changes throughout your life. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/psychology-study-shows-personality-changes-throughout-life-2018-1

Lindberg, S. (2018, August). How to let go: 12 tips for letting go of the past. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-let-go

Mandel, M. (2020, June 29). How to grow from mistakes and stop beating yourself up. Tiny Buddha. https://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-grow-from-mistakes-and-stop-beating-yourself-up/

Rampton, J. (2016). 8 steps to move away from the past you need to leave behind. Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/272275

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