The Disease Of Introspection: Talkback.

I posted some thoughts on introspection a few days ago on metamorphablog.com, and there has been a fairly robust discussion in the past few days pushing back at my initial reflections.  The discussion was so thoughtful and good I found it appropriate to post the emerging conversation here as well!

My second post, ‘The Disease Of Introspection: Talkback’ is here:

 

Several insightful–and needed–reflections emerged regarding my post “The Disease Of Introspection” in the past few days that I think are important enough to be pushed to the front page of this blog, as a healthy dialogue is emerging regarding the merits of introspection.  I want to publicly commend Fr. Mirabile and my friend Matthew Green for pushing back regarding my initial comments on introspection, and contributing towards a robust discussion of the deep benefits of introspection.  Enjoy!
Fr. Matt Mirabile wrote this in response to my post:
I think introspection can degenerate into a disease when the quality of that introspection, the internal self-talk, has a negative quality. This is rooted in a core belief that says “I am worth-less, unlovable, unclean, defective”, etc. The disease is in the root of the tree, on the level of self-belief, not in the introspection per se. In fact, how can we escape such thinking unless we look inward and bring that issue to God in prayer? Often we are unable to get behind the inner dialogue to the root. A good spiritual director will help with that. But even here spiritual direction guides a process of introspection in a contemplative way. One looks inward with God, who is the primary spiritual director.
My response to him was as follows:
I believe deeply that introspection, and ‘gazing inward with God’ has deep value, and want to continually open further to the reality that the Spirit dwells within me.  I also desire to continually bring my False Self(ves) into the light of the truth of both how God sees me, as well as the consistent Scriptural reality that as Christ dwells in me, I have been made new.  In choosing that phrase ‘the disease of introspection,’ I was referring to exactly what you so clearly point out: That at times, especially for those who are ‘bent’ or accustomed to one’s inward selves, I believe that at times that inward focus can become addictive in nature, even leading (at times) towards paralyzation and a lack of transformational growth–I see so clearly how broken I am that I grow to prefer this broken self, as opposed to walking in freedom into the True Self that the Spirit is uncovering.  I also see a profound difference between dependence and union with the Spirit in light of my brokenness, and a reliance ON my brokenness to clue me into how I am to live.
Matthew Green, my friend and former colleague, added the following:
Introspective merely means looking inward, reflecting on the soul.  Some people, due to personality and likely emotional disconnection in formative years, have a strong proclivity to look inward and see a great deal of negative and/or emptiness.  These are the people that are prone towards the disease as you posit it.  Such people will find it helpful to learn to pull away from the constant introspective move while not abandoning the very helpful path of looking inward with the help of the Holy Spirit and others, perhaps therapists or spritual directors, who are wise, caring, and supportive.  Other people, however, eschew looking inward and are constantly avoiding dealing with the negative and empty places in the heart and thus are blind to their own motives and deeper identity.  Such people need to cultvate a greater habit of being introspective, but they, too, must learn to do so with the aid of God and others. 
(From my personal blog)
What you offer here is very applicable to a relatively small portion of the population – those who, for various reasons, learned that they needed to turn inward, usually very early in life, and found the space within either lonely or chaotic. For such people, like yourself, turning inward is a habit that must not be abandoned, but needs to be tamed and grafted into relationship as opposed to its usual place in isolation. However, to the remainder of the population, it is dangerous to refer to introspection as diseased. It encourages many who already shun self-examination and the consideration of deeper emotions, desires, and motives to shut themselves down further. This further precludes the possibility of love getting to places that need exposure and healing. I suspect that the majority of people (at least in American culture) need more introspection (in wise relationship and community) rather than less.
My response to him was as follows:
My main point in the original post stemmed from the fact that you so accurately point out–those who are prone to introspection, particular negative ‘dwelling’ forms of it, can actually take what is a healthy, needed, and consistent discipline of transformative growth (I’d actually go so far as to say a major means of relational connection with the Spirit as we are formed in His image) and begin to turn a healthy thing on its head. The point you make on my personal blog is also helpful to remember in this discussion, as generally as an American/Western culture we do tend to radically eschew (great word!) most forms of introspection and simply posit (another great word!) ourselves externally all the time.  An important thing that both you and Fr. Mirabile mention is the relational invitation that God extends to us to look inward WITH HIM, which I failed to mention.

Several insightful–and needed–reflections emerged regarding my post “The Disease Of Introspection” in the past few days that I think are important enough to be pushed to the front page of this blog, as a healthy dialogue is emerging regarding the merits of introspection.  I want to publicly commend Fr. Mirabile and my friend Matthew Green for pushing back regarding my initial comments on introspection, and contributing towards a robust discussion of the deep benefits of introspection.  Enjoy!

Fr. Matt Mirabile wrote this in response to my post:

I think introspection can degenerate into a disease when the quality of that introspection, the internal self-talk, has a negative quality. This is rooted in a core belief that says “I am worth-less, unlovable, unclean, defective”, etc. The disease is in the root of the tree, on the level of self-belief, not in the introspection per se. In fact, how can we escape such thinking unless we look inward and bring that issue to God in prayer? Often we are unable to get behind the inner dialogue to the root. A good spiritual director will help with that. But even here spiritual direction guides a process of introspection in a contemplative way. One looks inward with God, who is the primary spiritual director.

My response to him was as follows:

I believe deeply that introspection, and ‘gazing inward with God’ has deep value, and want to continually open further to the reality that the Spirit dwells within me.  I also desire to continually bring my False Self(ves) into the light of the truth of both how God sees me, as well as the consistent Scriptural reality that as Christ dwells in me, I have been made new.  In choosing that phrase ‘the disease of introspection,’ I was referring to exactly what you so clearly point out: That at times, especially for those who are ‘bent’ or accustomed to one’s inward selves, I believe that at times that inward focus can become addictive in nature, even leading (at times) towards paralyzation and a lack of transformational growth–I see so clearly how broken I am that I grow to prefer this broken self, as opposed to walking in freedom into the True Self that the Spirit is uncovering.  I also see a profound difference between dependence and union with the Spirit in light of my brokenness, and a reliance ON my brokenness to clue me into how I am to live.

Matthew Green, my friend and former colleague, added the following:

Introspective merely means looking inward, reflecting on the soul.  Some people, due to personality and likely emotional disconnection in formative years, have a strong proclivity to look inward and see a great deal of negative and/or emptiness.  These are the people that are prone towards the disease as you posit it.  Such people will find it helpful to learn to pull away from the constant introspective move while not abandoning the very helpful path of looking inward with the help of the Holy Spirit and others, perhaps therapists or spritual directors, who are wise, caring, and supportive.  Other people, however, eschew looking inward and are constantly avoiding dealing with the negative and empty places in the heart and thus are blind to their own motives and deeper identity.  Such people need to cultvate a greater habit of being introspective, but they, too, must learn to do so with the aid of God and others. 

(From my personal blog)

What you offer here is very applicable to a relatively small portion of the population – those who, for various reasons, learned that they needed to turn inward, usually very early in life, and found the space within either lonely or chaotic. For such people, like yourself, turning inward is a habit that must not be abandoned, but needs to be tamed and grafted into relationship as opposed to its usual place in isolation. However, to the remainder of the population, it is dangerous to refer to introspection as diseased. It encourages many who already shun self-examination and the consideration of deeper emotions, desires, and motives to shut themselves down further. This further precludes the possibility of love getting to places that need exposure and healing. I suspect that the majority of people (at least in American culture) need more introspection (in wise relationship and community) rather than less.

My response to him was as follows:

My main point in the original post stemmed from the fact that you so accurately point out–those who are prone to introspection, particular negative ‘dwelling’ forms of it, can actually take what is a healthy, needed, and consistent discipline of transformative growth (I’d actually go so far as to say a major means of relational connection with the Spirit as we are formed in His image) and begin to turn a healthy thing on its head. The point you make on my personal blog is also helpful to remember in this discussion, as generally as an American/Western culture we do tend to radically eschew (great word!) most forms of introspection and simply posit (another great word!) ourselves externally all the time.  An important thing that both you and Fr. Mirabile mention is the relational invitation that God extends to us to look inward WITH HIM, which I failed to mention.