Repost: Experimenting with Self-Discovery in Real Time

I don’t think this is going to be anything like any of my other blogs.  Actually, I’m not for sure what this is going to look like or how it might turn out.  That’s why I’m calling it an “experiment.”

I will conduct my experiment by asking a series of personal, self-discovery questions and then answering them.  Each response will be used to generate another query and answer.  I will repeat this several times.

I want to be slow and deliberate each time I create my questions, but I want to be quick when writing my responses.  Answering quickly is my way of allowing the ideas to flow.  I want to get them out very spontaneously and then go back and clean up the language afterwards.  I don’t want to edit my responses in any sort of substantive way other than to make them more readable.

There are probably several reasons for doing such an experiment.  One of them is to drill down, farther and farther, toward some kind of foundational idea.  Another is to see if I discover any interesting connections between the ideas that are generated from this activity.  At the conclusion of this exercise, we’ll reflect on whether it had any value and if you could do something similar.

Let’s start…

My First Self-Discovery Question:  Why have I spent so much of my life feeling afraid and anxious?

My Answer:  Maybe it has something to do with my upbringing, that I didn’t have any siblings for the first eight years of my life?  So, I ended up dealing with things on my own or feeling like I didn’t have a peer to turn to for help or answers.  I think such a feeling of being alone in the world, surrounded by only a very small number of much older adults, turned me into a very serious kid.  I’ve heard from many that I was this sort of youngster.  Being this way also contributed to me becoming very self-critical and a kind of perfectionist.

My Second Self-Discovery Question: Why did I become so hard on my myself and such a perfectionist?

My Answer:  That is a very good question.  I’m trying to think if any of my parents or grandparents were perfectionists or if something happened to me early in my life—some kind of trauma, other than being alone much of the time—that would cause me to become this way.  Well, I can’t see that any of my relatives were perfectionists, per se, but my parents got a divorce which was very traumatizing.

My Third Self-Discovery Question: How did my parents’ divorce contribute to making me self-critical and serious? 

My Answer:  I remember the period when my parents were having trouble in their marriage.  It’s still very clear in my mind.  I even remember the actual day my mom moved out, taking me with her.  I’m trying to get inside myself to see what was going on internally.  I know I didn’t freak out or panic or even cry a lot.  I think I tried to understand what was happening more than feel it.  Does that make any sense?  I think from a very early age I used my reason more than my emotions.  Once I got in school and was around other children, I played, of course, but I was just as happy being aloof and watching, observing, studying, and I suppose this made me appear to be “serious.”  (It is likely people were reacting to me as if I were serious which then became a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.)  Also, because I was so alone, I don’t think I had a lot of positive reinforcement for the good things I was capable of doing.  I didn’t hear or receive praise from other kids (there were none around), at least until I got into school and found out, by listening to others talk about me, that I was smart and had talents.  I think not knowing that I had talents made me assume that I had none or that I was “nobody.”  This feeling of being nobody must have begun to take root and started to turn me into someone who needed to prove (to myself) that I was somebody.

My Fourth Self-Discovery Question:  To what extent are some of these early psychological factors still at play in my life?

My Answer:  I’d say quite a bit.  I enjoy laughing a lot—it feels like taking a powerful medicine—and experiencing great peak emotional moments, but I often distrust emotions.  Emotions, by their very nature, are extreme and unreliable.  I know, for instance, that if I’m angry, I’m liable to overreact, so I intentionally keep myself silent and wait for the emotion to subside and my head to clear.  It is only then that I trust myself to make a response.  I pride myself on being a thinker and I love being a thinker, but I don’t trust emotions as much.  Emotions are dangerous.  Did I really say that?  Plus, being overly emotional means that I’m not going to be able to show “moderation in all things,” one of those philosophical principles of life I try to live by.  I try to keep an even keel at all times.  Otherwise, I feel tossed about on rough waters.  This raises an interesting question:  How much emotion is too much?

So, I’ve finished the experiment.  I know I could have extended it quite a lot.  In fact, I included an interesting query in the last line of my last response—how much emotion is too much?  I think that one would have been interesting to answer.

I feel that this had value for me.  I hope you can see how these kinds of queries help us drill down into things and make fruitful discoveries.   For example, it was interesting to read that I wrote not receiving positive feedback from other children had kept me from knowing myself or what I was capable of.  Does that mean we can’t know ourselves unless others tell us who we are?  What a wonderful question to ponder!  If I were to redo this experiment, I would certainly want to ask and answer that one.

What do you think about my experiment?  Such could be used in journaling or for self-exploration or to come up with blog ideas.   These queries could stretch out in all directions, taking us many places.

I look forward to reading your responses.

15 thoughts on “Repost: Experimenting with Self-Discovery in Real Time

  1. This is an interesting experiment. How do you feel now that you have had a few moments to process what you wrote? Have you resolved some old issues, or has this opened a door to exploring some things deeper?

    I found that as I wrote both of my personal development books that I was forced to look deeper inside of myself and seeing the written words helped to both validate and crystallize thoughts that had been swirling in my mind. I’m working on a 3rd book, and it is forcing me to see some things about my family that I just hadn’t seen before.

    Writing and guided writing is a wonderful process to develop deeper insight into ourselves!

    1. Hi. I find that this sort of freewriting is often used to start me thinking along certain lines or about a particular topic. I also make interesting discoveries and find intriguing connections between things that heretofore had seemed unconnected. Freewriting is never the end of the road. It only suggests that I need to travel farther or turn in a direction. A lot of my first drafts of things look a little like this experiment. I find the “golden nugget” and then use it to shape something that looks more like “product.” Thanks for the comment, and I agree that “guided writing” is a “wonderful process.”

  2. Thank you for opening up your head and heart. Serious self-inquiry is a scary thing for a LOT of people, and by your doing so, you’ve given others permission to do the same. My daughter was an only child too, and hated it. She ran around collecting surrogate families with kids all over the neighborhood. I had two older sisters—one was quite a bit older and not very nice. The other was extremely popular and wasn’t around much—hence, I too felt alone. I still do, but now now, it is by choice. I’m SO grateful for my blessed alone time! Thank you for a wonderful post. Keep drilling!

    1. Thank you for the kind and encouraging words. When I was a freshman in college, I took an introduction to psychology class. During the course, the professor said something that I’ll never forget–I’ve actually not forgotten it over many decades. She had a class where she spent part of the hour or so talking about the differences between loneliness and aloneness and showed how the former was something that could, over time, cause harm. The latter was a state that could be used to do all sort of wonderful self-discovery. Knowing the differences between these two is something I still think about often and use to guide my life. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Very interesting questions and experiment Troy. An interesting read too that encourages me to ask similar types of questions to myself.

    1. Thank you, Todd. I think it’s really difficult to understand things outside ourselves unless we understand our interiors. You can never go wrong asking questions. Socrates thought the basis of learning and knowing and being self-actualized was in asking questions.

  4. All good questions Troy, about emotions I don’t know. I think that we should find a balance between expressing and controlling them. For instance, if you feel you would need to cry out in tears, do it, but if you think you are about to yell at someone, don’t do it because you may regret it and you lose a lot of energy.

    1. Hi, Crisbiecoach. You are right about balance. Have you heard of the rhetorical concepts of logos, ethos, and pathos? If not, check them out. These terms are very relevant to our current discussion. I know that many of my worst decisions came when I was feeling emotional and immediately took action during that period of disturbance. Emotions (even positive ones) can cloud our judgment and can cause mistakes. Getting married because one always feels a kind of romantic giddiness when one is with a person one is attracted to. I say feel and appreciate those emotions, but then make decisions when one is not under the influence of such intoxicating feelings. What do you think?

      1. During the Brussels terroristic attacks in 2016 I was very close to the explosion that happened in the subway station. That was my station to get off to go to work. I was in the office and I could hear what was going on in the street nearby. It was a crazy situation and we had afterwards some psychological sessions. It’s there that I learned you never have to take decisions when you are emotionally unbalanced. As I didn’t know that, the sessions were organized when the situation was a kind of back to normality, I bought a very expensive trip to Slovenia (my husband’s country of origin) for my family. I can’t tell why I did it also now that I am writing about it. Of course, that trip wasn’t harmful, it was fun actually, but under the influence of emotions you could do also things that may have serious consequences for you in the future. So, to conclude, I agree with you Troy. Never take decisions when you are emotionally unbalanced.

    1. Hi, Cheryl. I did not. The key is to move fast and not to censor or edit as one goes. Write fast to outrun that voice in your head that says, “Don’t say that; that’s dumb” or “Or you sure you feel that way?”

      1. And I really liked the questions you asked your self. Therapeutic writing or flow as you called it if I remember it right.

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