Sorting through my mail today, I came across the most recent quarterly reviews of new psychoanalytically-oriented books. A particular review of Lew Aron and Karen Starr’s new book, “A Psychotherapy for the People: Toward a Progressive Psychoanalysis” stood out (I’m a big fan of Lew Aron).
The book itself sounds great, but what really caught my eye was a line the reviewer, Carlo Strenger, wrote about why psychoanalytic therapy has lost its momentum in our culture.
“…I’m afraid that psychoanalysis is unlikely to turn into a ‘psychotherapy for the people,’ not only because most people have neither the time nor the means for psychoanalytic therapy, whether classical or more open and flexible; but because in a culture that is ever less connected to values of complexity and cultural depth, most potential patients do not have the interest in their own psyche needed for self-exploration.” (italics added)
I am sad to report that this resonated with me. In my life and in my practice, I often feel shocked by people’s disinterest in self-exploration. It seems like these days, people are more interested in solving a problem than in knowing themselves. I have come up with many theories about why this is, but to list those seems beside the point. Instead, in an effort to revitalize interest in the process, I’d like to make a case for self-knowing.
Here are some reasons why you should get to know yourself:
1. When you know yourself, you make better choices. You know what you want.
2. When you know yourself, you go easy on you. You accept who you are, flaws and all.
3. When you know yourself, you treat others better. It’s easier to forgive people when you’re clear that you’re not perfect, either.
4. When you know yourself, you have fewer psychological symptoms. Knowing yourself, your feelings, and how you came to be who you are relieves all kinds of pain. Trust me. I see it every day.
5. When you know yourself, you are more confident and satisfied. You have a solid sense of yourself.
6. When you are a parent and you know yourself, you have better relationships with your children. You are more patient. You can more easily remember that you were once a child, too.
7. When you know yourself, you know your limits. You’re less likely to be walked on, taken advantage of, or led astray.
8. When you know yourself, you’re less likely to repeat negative patterns from your past with others.
9. When you know yourself, you restore your own power. You get to make conscious choices about how you want to be…and how you don’t want to be.
10. When you know yourself, you don’t need to lie or to blame others. You can own your shit with humor and humility.
11. When you know yourself, you are less judgmental and more accepting of individual differences. It’s easier to see the commonalities among us when we realize that we are equally capable of all types of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
12. When you know yourself, you often discover and unlock new talents.
13. When you know yourself, you love better.
14. Self-aware people make a better society.
If you haven’t gone through the process of self-exploration, you should give it a try. Find an analyst and learn who you are. Getting to know yourself is a rewarding process that benefits everyone. For, as Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
©2014 Stephanie A. Heck, Ph.D.