How Introspection Can go Wrong

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The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that introspection is a means of learning about own’s own currently ongoing, or very recently past, mental states or processes. Reading psychology texts, observing one’s own facial expressions, and examining patterns of brain activity are just a few ways to understand oneself better; but is this process of introspection always easy? Not exactly.

Sophia Dembling, author of Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Live Happily Ever After, noted for Psychology Today that introspection can be beneficial, but when it turns to rumination, you’ve gone wrong. She stated specifically,

“There is an important difference between introspection and rumination. Time spent alone in thought can be positive – a rich environment for personal growth and creativity, but it can also be dangerous when we are negatively turned against ourselves. Introspection can be a process of health self-reflection, examination, and exploration, which is good for your well-being and your brain.”

TED talk speaker Tasha Eurich points out that rumination is based on the question “why?”. When we focus solely on this question trying to achieve deeper meaning of who we are and why we act a certain way, we set ourselves up for negativity and shame. A study of students from a British University were told they failed an intelligence test, and were then asked why they felt the way they did afterwards. Compared to a control group, the students were more depressed immediately afterwards and the negative effects persisted for 12 hours later. If introspection involving “why” doesn’t help, that what does?

Exactly that – “what”. Asking ourselves what is happening rather than why it’s happening gives us more of a sense of positivity and productiveness. When we ask ourselves “what” is happening, we give ourselves a chance to simply accept the present moment. We don’t have to force ourselves to think deeply about an answer that we are unsure of, and we don’t have to dwell on the fact that we don’t know why something happened. Simply examining what is currently happening may lead us to more awareness, which can help us deal with daily problems.





If you have a mental illness or addiction and you would like more time to build your awareness, call us at Avalon Malibu. We are a world renowned, mental health and addiction treatment center that is client-focused. We believe in working with you to develop a personalized treatment plan leading you towards a successful recovery. Our licensed, dedicated healthcare team will work with you to help you build the tools you need. For a consultation, call us at 855-807-1494.

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