From isolation to personal development

Psychological Perspectives

During this time of sheltering-in-place and isolation, many people are struggling with being alone or even in the same shelter with family members. Isolation is particularly difficult for extraverted people who need external experiences to feel energized. This is less critical for introverted people who need internal experiences to feel energized. Regardless of one's personality type, isolating can introduce new experiences for personal development.

Personal development means that we get to know ourselves and develop new ways of being. Getting to know oneself often introduces surprises that can serve as motivators for psychological change. Reflection, or reviewing personal character traits, qualities, ego (identity, beliefs and values) and one's unconscious psychology (hidden psychology), can lead to personal development. Reflection requires open, honest and conscious (aware) effort to understand and develop ourselves.

For example, if a person's character includes lying to achieve desires and goals, a conscious effort to recognize the lying is necessary. Once the recognition occurs, admitting and accepting lying as a character trait must follow. The reflection continues by practicing honest expressions and changing the lies whenever possible. These are some of the conscious steps involved with reflection.

Seeking an understanding of our unconscious psychology is an essential part of reflection -- in this example, the unconscious roots of lying. As presented in past columns, unconscious roots are often found in psychological complexes, which are accumulated experiences from life that form in our unconscious psychology and are triggered by external events. In other words, complexes motivate and underlie the lying expressions.

A child, for instance, might discover that lying to parents helps avoid punishment and pain. In time, this practice of lying will gradually form a psychological complex in the child. Obviously, reflecting on one's unconscious psychology is more difficult than the conscious steps described above, but this form of reflection is most important. Change can only occur by uncovering the unconscious psychological origins of an issue.

Discovering the origins is similar to digging a hole in the ground to uncover what is beneath the surface. Some of the tools that help us reflect include: memory recall, writing about previous experiences, creating drawings of what we discover during reflection, contacting people such as parents and talking about our previous experiences – lying in this example, and not allowing the complexes to motivate us in the future.

Reflection and development take time. Time is more available to many of us during this isolation period; therefore, spending more time reflecting and personally developing are a natural combination.


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