introspection |ɪntrə(ʊ)ˈspɛkʃ(ə)n| noun

the examination or observation of one's own mental and emotional processes:

My nature is pretty well described by these dictionary and thesaurus definitions of the word.  I seem to spend a lot of time examining the possible outcomes of a particular situation where the impact is on me directly. I don't think I'd ever be described as a 'detail' person, more likely, I think, I'd be described as a 'big picture'  person.  In my day-to-day life, when things are functioning "normally" this mode of operation seems to work for me. I'm able to make decisions with reasonable speed and clarity and see things before they emerge.


introspection noun



navel-gazing .

In my current situation though, this skill (if it can be termed thus) is much more of an impediment. Introspection leads to a huge amount of circular thinking which, if left unchecked, is unhealthy and ultimately very damaging.  The mind, my mind, gets stuck in feedback loop from which it seems impossible to escape. Computer programmers will recognise this as a nested gosub with one sub-routine calling another which calls the first and creates an infinite loop.  The answer in that case is to perform a hard re-set and amend the code.

But I'm not a computer so that option isn't immediately available to me (oh, how I wish it was). Instead one has to try to understand the underlying mechanisms and use any and all available tools to break out of the loop and re-establish a healthier thinking pattern.  The tool set it's suggested I use is called Cognative Behaviour Therapy or CBT. The basic premise of CBT is to recognise, trap and deal with negative thinking before it becomes an endless loop of cause and effect which leads to depression.

The literature I've been pointed towards describes the loop as a vicious circle which is initiated by an external event. Quite often the event is something over which you have no control, but even if you do have control negative thinking through too much introspection alters your mood and feelings which in turn leads to physical symptoms which then changes your behaviour.  The example used is forgetting an important birthday which might make you think that you're useless (altered thinking) which leads to feeling guilty or down (altered feelings). Physically the old churning stomach routine makes you feel ill, sick, whatever which makes you want to hide away (altered behaviour). The hiding away - something I'm really good at - is the most damaging aspect of all of this. Without external input your mind goes into overdrive, the circle more and more vicious.

For me it's usually the combination of a number of things that starts the cycle. Difficulties at work knocking my confidence and self esteem combined with the ending of an important relationship and a myriad of other small, almost insignificant, events have lead me to the place I'm in at the moment. Medication stabilises the situation and therapy helps with the underlying cause(s). The rollercoaster of the past few days has, I hope, been halted and by applying some (or all) of the things I've learnt over the past couple of months and will be easier to prevent in the future.

The key, for me, was to take the time to talk. Not to hide and fear the worst imaginings of my mind will actually happen or are true. 

Twitter @siwhite  -  © Simon White 2011