The conscious exercise of introspection is one of the most effective coping mechanisms I depend on when managing recurring symptoms. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines introspection as “a reflective looking inward: an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings.”
I describe introspection as the conscious exercise of stepping outside yourself so you can observe you as though you are looking at a completely different person. So in other words, it would be like you approaching and observing a stranger sitting on a park bench. The difference of course is that you can’t read the mind of a stranger, but you can of yourself.
By using my imagination, I can literally envision myself stepping out of my own body and sitting, facing myself. This simple thought process offers me a temporary escape or reprieve from my pressures. It enables me to think clearly about how these symptoms are affecting the ‘other me’ – how they are influencing ‘his’ thoughts and ‘his’ feelings.
I can see that it hurts him. I can sense the magnetic pull that radiates from his symptoms, trying to lure him back into the depths of his deep well of depression. I can read his mind – those all too familiar thoughts characterized by hopelessness that recur almost instantaneously, triggered by years of depression-induced conditioning. I can see all of this when I look in his eyes.
Then I smile. And I say to him that everything is going to be ok. We take a few deep breaths together and we acknowledge that it’s ok to feel this way. It’s ok to feel these symptoms from time to time. We will acknowledge them and respect them and effectively manage them because we are in control – not our symptoms. We will be proactive and embrace the blessings in our lives; we will focus on our goals that empower us and give our lives meaning; and most importantly, we will take from life’s challenges, the invaluable lessons that we can learn from and use to make us better – not only in our own lives, but in other lives as well.
After this, when the ‘other me’ smiles back, I get up and step back inside myself. This is the power of introspection.