Written by Anand Rai, Guest Contributor
Not a long time ago, I was in a typical college scenario. A friend of mine was having a problem regarding his assignments. He could not finish them on time. He shared this problem with another friend of mine. The second friend asked the first friend ‘what do you think the core of the problem is?’ The first friend said ‘I don’t know. I mean I try to stay as motivated to do my work as possible and all the stuff that makes a disciplined student disciplined, yet I cannot complete my work on time.’ The second friend paused for a bit and said, ‘Why don’t you introspect?’
This quizzed me a bit. Introspection was a technique of psychology, pioneered by Wilhelm Wundt, in Germany during the 1890’s. What use could it have for college students in finishing their assignments on time? Furthermore, what’s more puzzling is that introspection is always done by a therapist during counseling sessions. The initial versions of introspection began with the therapist giving guidance to the client.
I jumped into the conversation. I asked, ‘what do you mean introspect on this matter?’ She said I mean exactly what the term means. Investigating a problem by breaking it down into simpler constituent parts. For example, ‘I am overweight and I don’t like it’ might be someone’s problem. Now introspecting upon this can go in various directions. For example, ‘I am overweight and I don’t like it because it causes me shortness of breath while walking small distances’. It can also go in the direction that ‘I am overweight and I don’t like it because it does not make me look attractive.’
The ‘because’ may be different for different folks and we need to keep finding it, until a point we no longer can. It is to find what my second friend regarded as, the ‘core’ of the problem. The core of the problem is the part that causes us distress. It is what causes the discomfort my friend feels when he is not able to complete his assignments on time. It’s not the incomplete school work that causes him trouble, rather, it is not being able to compete with his mates on the same level, or not being accountable for his academia, or whatever the core might be for him. It is the ‘core’ that causes him the problem, the discomfort.
Now, this might sound uncomfortably close to overthinking. Regardless, it did sound like overthinking to me. I mean, both involve a lot of reflection and thinking on the person specific’s part. They are internal mental processes. Therefore, I could not differentiate them. However, thanks to my good friends I could clarify this doubt as well.
Let’s clear some basics upon overthinking. By the name itself we understand that we do more than required thinking during this. We ‘dig deep’ by thinking about the problem at hand but we think about them in an illogical manner. We become irrational while overthinking. We lose our sense of objectivity. We magnify the things that can go wrong. We diminish in effect the things that do side with us. Our opinion becomes biased.
This is strictly against the idea of introspection. Introspection is about having an objective view about your problems to get to the core of them, and subsequently find a solution to those problems. It is about attacking the center causes of the distress. Attacking where it hurts the most. Introspection looks at a problem and reaches its cause and tries to stop the cause of the distress itself. If there is no cause, no resultant distress would be achieved.
Furthermore, this understanding of introspection liberates one from feeling helpless when one is alone. It tells us that by learning important skills of critical and objective thinking, one can achieve the goal of introspecting and by introspection we can tackle the problems of our lives in a more effective manner.
I would like to leave you with a food for thought. Imagine a world in which people are less stressed by the problems that all humans have to face. People will have more time to think about problems that face our world, like global warming, poverty and education, etc. Therefore, from the above-mentioned way of thinking, there is some amount of introspection that we all are capable to do, at least to some extent, in which we are aware and logical about the ‘thought-progressions’ we make.
As a psychotherapist with 25 years of experience, I’ve been helping people retrain their brains to resolve their problems through rational thoughts and adaptive behaviors as opposed to obsessing and over-analysis.
We all need support at different times in our lives. Most of my clients seek help when their current way of dealing with life’s challenges no longer works for them. With a caring, non-judgmental and solution-focused approach, we will explore your issues and challenges in a safe therapeutic environment at my private practice in Delray Beach, Florida.
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