The Virtues of Solitude – 4. Introspection

There are two kinds of people in this world: the introspective person, and the extrospective person.

The extrospective person directs their mental focus outwards, understanding the processes of the external world.  This is the opposite function of the introspective person, who directs their mental focus inwards, making sense of the inner world and all its workings in relation to the external world, focusing on thoughts and feelings.  Now ask yourself, which one are you?  It may be hard for you to answer definitely at first, so here’s a question: do you prefer to see yourself as a scientist or a lawyer?  The answer you give to this question says a lot about how you perceive yourself and the world. Introspective people can be seen as the scientists.  A scientist begins with an observation, then moves on to research, and finally experimentation.  The scientist begins with the inner, and moves to the outer.  If you chose a lawyer on the other hand, you are most likely an extrospective person, beginning with an external conclusion, then working backwards developing all kinds of theories and explanations to validate that  conclusion.  The lawyer begins with the outer, and moves towards the surface of the inner.

Many of us don’t like dealing with our inner worlds.  We don’t like being introspective and questioning of ourselves, our motives, our decisions and our actions.  Unfortunately, this creates a false, illusory sense of self worth, as we’re unable to truly understand ourselves.  In order to develop introspection, we must first be aware of ourselves and the world around us (yet this too is rarely the case).

Introspection, a powerful virtue of Solitude, awakens our minds, heart and spirits.

Introspection of Thoughts and Feelings

The Virtues of Solitude   #4 Introspection

A major source of unhappiness in our lives is our inability to practice introspection, and to identify the nature and causes of our emotions through self-reflection.  Experiencing an emotion without practicing any introspection reveals nothing about reality – you only know that an external factor makes you sense an internal feeling, which is pretty much the same insight an animal has.  Not very insightful, is it?  Unless we’re capable of being honest with ourselves in the identification of our inner states, we’ll never be able to discover what we’re feeling.  We’ll also never be able to discover the origins of those feelings and whether those feelings are an objectively wise response to the reality of the situation, or a dangerous false perception of the situation.  In order to behave as wise as we possibly can, we must examine the emotions and beliefs that govern our behavior. Without introspection, it is possible to live a life of self-deception.

Introspection considers the context of a situation to base our decision in reality.  It examines the causes and motives of our feelings and the consequences an emotion will produce if we act on it.  We must use our emotions and passions as the sails to our existential boat, but our examination and reason as the rudder to guide them.

The Only Way Out, Is In

As you slowly become introspective of your internal reactions to the external world, you begin to feel your life is somewhat unreal, as if you had been acting out a drama. This drama is formed over an entire lifetime of education, training, culture and tradition that is taught through your socialization – of which is not your natural state.

The Virtues of Solitude   #4 Introspection

You can’t cut off your chains unless you can see them first, you cant desire escape from your external reactive prison unless you’re aware you’re inside one in the first place.  Only after finding the freedom of knowing your true self through introspection, can you decide where you want to go.  Unfortunately, the majority of people in our world function in an extrospective way, always asking “how” and turning to the external world for answers, rather than asking “why” and searching the internal world.

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