16 Jan 2022

OPINION: 'Think of all of the difficulties you encountered and you pushed through'

Cathal O'Reilly writing in this week's Nationalist

Plans to develop a communal reflection area  in loving memory of young people who have died, and in remembrance of those who have died suddenly and tragically over the years

File photo

Introspection is a welcome exercise as long as it is a healthy balance between reflecting on the harder times but also the good. 

It requires us to really look deep within and examine our behaviour. 

It is a deep self-processing.

Like everything, there is no fixed way that one should indeed look  introspectively. A simple reflection brought on by awareness may suffice. 

For some people, introspection has become a fixed way of being. This may be due to a possible looking at the past and thinking about traumas, difficulties, hurts, losses, grief, bad experiences and the passage of time.

But if one was to ask me the question of how I should introspect, I would suggest doing so in solitude. 

It is of course the most difficult form of introspection but once new life realisations are made, it becomes  most enjoyable. This has certainly been my experience and also the experience of many world-class writers, leaders, poets and humanitarians. 

Think of Nelson Mandela and the growth he experienced in solitary confinement in prison for so many years. 

The introspection of his own character and of the world’s problems. He became one of, if not the greatest leader of all time.

Think of Viktor Frankl who survived the concentration camps as a Jewish psychiatrist under Hitler’s rule. 

He found solitude in his mind in the most adverse experiences known to man. He used introspection about his lived experience to bring so much hope to many people all over the world in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning.

However, what I suggest for you to really think about is that of yourself. Think of all of the difficulties you encountered in your life and how you pushed through them.

Think of the coping mechanisms that you somehow knew to implement without anyone telling you how to survive life’s greatest ordeals. There was, in fact, some level of introspection that was present in all of that.

You had to reflect, however slow or fast, on how to cope and you did indeed come through everything. So, the human spirit not only has a capacity to naturally introspect on life matters but it is an absolute necessity to survive.

No, it doesn’t always involve looking out the window and pondering life. It doesn’t always take a crisis in your life. It doesn’t always have to be a conscious effort. 

And it certainly doesn’t require you to be a philosopher of some sort.

I would encourage you, however, to provoke introspection for at least five minutes a day. 

Preferably, first thing in the morning.

 I suggest sitting in silence in a place you are most comfortable and where you will be uninterrupted. 

This may be somewhere at home in your house, in nature, parked up in your car and so on. The idea here is to find a moment’s quiet for yourself and reflect on everything good in your life as well as honouring the struggles you have come through and may be going through presently. 

Some readers may be living alone and tired of quietness however this is a conscious effort to find time for you. To really look within and feel what you are feeling in the present moment.

It may bring up uncomfortable thoughts and feelings but I do encourage you to sit through these as you will come to new realisations and insights. That much I promise. 

It may also be a blissful experience where you find your heart laughing as a genuine smile washes over your face. 

This isn’t supposed to be a hardship either. Remember that.

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