When does self-reflection become self-destructive

by | Conscious Living, Featured Articles, Print Articles, Summer 2023

Self-reflection is a big topic in the spiritual realm. Fundis from Alan Watts to Carl Jung often highlighted the need for introspection and internal exploration. These people were able to move beyond their illusions and denial about life. Illusion or denial patterns are very much part of our need for self-preservation.

Last week I was listening to Alan Watts speaking about his experience with Carl Jung. He was lucky enough to have met him. What he said struck me and I had a bold realisation. Carl Jung was a complex man filled with complex ideas about psychology and spirituality. He was, in my mind’s eye, a spiritual alchemist. What struck me was this: Allan Watts said that there was a twinkle in Carl Jung’s eye when you met him. As though he knew that whatever struggle the clients faced was somehow also a reflection of his own experience and that it was not at all as serious as the person experiencing it felt it was – that Jung had made peace with the darkness within rather than judging it. This felt so peaceful to me and that, perhaps, at times we get it wrong. It is not about judging ourselves for that which we lack, or for that which we are, but rather just accepting it as it is – rather than feeling that it must change. The big thing I think we tend to miss, despite telling ourselves the same, is that all we need to do is accept. Acceptance allows for change, what one does not accept, one cannot change.

Acceptance is the act of allowing. The act of seeing something and simply making peace with it. Acceptance has always been, to me, an action. There is a feeling that follows and that feeling very often comes with a sense of peace and serenity. It is the act of letting go of wanting to control something that is, at that moment, out of one’s hands.      

Denial and illusions help us to face the world that seems harsh and full of darkness. Issues like loss and death are big parts of what we try to protect ourselves from. I remember speaking to my grandmother after my mom’s passing. My mother died in a way that none of us had expected. She took her own life. My grandmother said to me that one day she decided not to think that my mom was dead. She decided that she would just pretend that my mom was far away and that she could not be contacted. This denial then played out as a harsh realisation for my grandmother later. After a couple of years, she realised that pretending that my mom was not dead was not serving her. The realisation hit her with such severity that she was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This is an extreme case where denial is used as a tool to cope. Sometimes we find ourselves running away from the realities of the world and of loss. Denial serves a purpose; however, it has a deeper meaning. It is about our not being able to, or not wanting to see what the reality is in our day-to-day lives. This also counts for behaviours and patterns that keep us stuck.

What does this all have to do with self-reflection becoming destructive? I will speak to you from my own personal experience. I delved deeply into my darkness to get to know the person I was afraid to see. The part of me that would come out when I was black-out drunk, played the part of my personal watered-down version of Mr. Hyde, in the context of hurting myself. I am two people at times. There is the me who wants to control everything, is fearful and stubborn, the one that refuses to be seen and adds more and more resistance against the good; the one that sees nothing good in herself, but rather the nuisance she was told she was when she was a child; the insecure one, the fearful one, the shy one, not accepting help, being proud and being independent. Then, on the other side, there is the me that I did not get to know very well, the good part, the one that is full of love, makes people feel loved and accepted, the one who is kind, the one that loves connection, the one who has solid boundaries and follows her intuition; the one who has gained a library of information and wisdom through all the experiences that felt as though she were being ripped apart and sewn together, just to be ripped apart again. That part of me is strong and powerful, but somehow feels so scary to climb into.

The focus I had all these years is to see my negative traits, the dark the part of me that I do not like and I focused solely on the negative. I was in fact just sacrificing myself repeatedly. My beliefs being that I was nothing, that no one heard me and that I was a burden. That part of me was highlighted and stepped forward predominantly when I did not take the time to see who I truly was. In my self-reflection and misplaced need to be good, I became my worst enemy. I did not allow myself to see that which was reflected to me in the mirror: The strong, powerful, loving and able me. I cut my legs off every time I saw something I did not like, instead of observing myself and being gentle, accepting and loving. Despite my misguided belief that I was in fact doing what was best for me, it was a practice that just became another tool with which I could harm myself.

Self-reflection is just that – self-reflection. Hidden motivations, fears and insecurities are really what we need to witness without the harshness of judgment. When we reflect with an ounce of judgment, it becomes more of a masochistic exercise which creates more fear and more anxiety. How does one step back and just observe when we have been so used to judging ourselves and others? We become aware. We balance the scales and look at the good, we celebrate the small and large victories. We take a step back to observe the greater picture. Compare yourself to who you once were versus where you are now. To me my alchemic process has been indescribable: From a person who was so debilitated by fear 10-and-a-half years ago at my starting point, the little person who hid and was afraid to mutter a word and be seen; then to the person who was a victim, the person who blamed everyone, the person who felt so very powerless but tried to be better; the person who sat in her grief and was unable to find light within, to this person sitting in front of the computer, the person who feels more confident in her words and feels safer in herself, the person who has started seeing her worth and abilities, the person who is finding balance in her good and her bad, the person who stands proudly as a survivor of many battles. This person who sees that the hurt, pain and ill-treatment was never about her. It was about them; it was about their inability to love themselves and for that I have empathy. I choose to become – me. I want to explore the person who is in her power.      

Romy Mörsner, a seasoned professional with over a decade of experience, exudes a deep passion for fostering personal growth, healing and spiritual advancement. With a compassionate heart and a wealth of expertise, Romy offers a diverse array of services aimed at guiding individuals on transformative journeys. Romy’s commitment is to cultivate a safe and nurturing environment where individuals can unravel their inner complexities, attain profound insights and embolden themselves for spiritual alchemy. Romy Mörsner creates an atmosphere where people can connect, heal and explore their inner landscapes. As an educator, Romy’s workshops are based on the notion of spiritual alchemy and self-awareness.