I can’t remember exactly how old I was the first time I encountered the immortal words “know thyself,” but I do remember the deep impact those words had. I was only a child then. The meaning held in those 3 syllables was too deep to fathom on an intellectual level, but they tattooed themselves on my mind. They wormed their way into my subconscious and followed me through the years like a whispering shadow, always reminding me to look within for the answers that matter most.
What is Introspection?
Introspection is the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes. It’s a turning inward of your curiosity and seeing what you find. Introspection was even alluded to by Plato when he asked:
“…why should we not calmly and patiently review our own thoughts, and thoroughly examine and see what these appearances in us really are?”
If you’ve tried introspection, then you probably already know it’s not always easy to face and accept what you find along the corridors of your mind. There are some pretty dark corners. But if you can assuage your fear and face that dark corner you’ll find it quite inexplicably illumined. Simple acceptance of what you find in that newly illumined space is all that’s needed to change that something about ourselves we may not like.
A Little Creativity Goes A Long Way
I say simple, but honestly sometimes it’s not so. Sometimes what we find is stubborn to relinquish its dark hiding place, but I’ve found a way to coax it out into the light of understanding. This technique takes some of the sting away.
When you encounter something unpleasant or something you’re unclear about during your inner journeying, try bringing it outside yourself. I’ve found the best way to do this is through creative expression. Even if you’re not normally a creative person, the results of this simple exercise may astound you. It doesn’t have to be perfect or ever shared with another soul if you don’t wish to. It’s just another way of exploring yourself and helping you make sense of what you find.
What Type of Creativity Suits You?
Here are some ideas for ways you can be creative. I’ll tell you what to do with your chosen form after you decide on which type of expression is best for you.
Writing – If you enjoy verbal or written expression, then this may be the best for you. This can be as intricate or as simple as you like. You can:
- Make a list of emotions and thoughts you are experiencing.
- Do stream-of-consciousness writing which is simply without rule, rhyme or reason letting your thoughts flow in continuous form without really guiding them.
- Write a poem.
- Create a short story where fictional characters play out all aspects of what your introspection has revealed to you.
Drawing/Sketching/Painting– If you’re a person who loves to sketch or paint, or just a doodler, this may suit you the best. Even if you only manage stick figures, it’ll be enough. Use anything from a pencil or pen to a whole pallet of paints or pencils/pens. Try to incorporate the use of color if possible, however. It adds an extra-enlightening dimension to your creation and may reveal more to you.
- Create a scene.
- Do a self portrait.
- Do a landscape that reflects the mood.
- Create an abstract of shapes and colors.
- Create a comic strip acting out the inner conflict.
Sculpting – Try creating a sculpture from clay or even play doh. It can be abstract, or a shape, or a personage.
Music – Nothing expresses moods and feelings better than music. It doesn’t matter if you’re a singer or play a music instrument.
- Hum a tune from the depths of your discomfort or joy and record it on a voice recorder, then listen to it. If you feel so inspired, write lyrics to accompany the tune. Most computers come with a voice recorder installed as do cell phones. If not, you can download Audicity for free.
- If you play a musical instrument, compose a piece of music and lyrics to express yourself.
- Find a favorite song that embodies the feeling and dance your way through it.
I’m sure there are other ways to be creative I haven’t mentioned here. Whatever is appealing to you do it. And please don’t hesitate if you feel you have no creative talents. You do. They’re just sleeping. No artist is understood by everyone. What may seem imperfect to you may be beautiful to another.
Open Yourself Up
Okay, now that you’ve selected the mode for your creative expression, let’s dig down and put those wheels into motion. Fully recollect now what the insight was that your introspection revealed. If it caused you discomfort or joy, be in that experience completely. Now, begin whatever creative expression you’ve chosen and let it flow. Don’t second-guess or question anything that’s coming out. Just keep going until you feel you’ve exhausted the issue completely.
Essentially what you’re doing is stepping away a bit from the emotions of the issue. You’ve now become a detached observer creating art from what has now transformed from an “issue” to an “inspiration.” It’s artwork with definite validity.
Take a Look
When your creation is finished, sit back and take a look at what you’ve made. Most importantly, put it away for awhile. After it’s had some time to cool, come back to it and examine it again. You will find what you’ve created is a road map into one of those dark corners, or even sunny places for that matter, that will give you a deeper insight into yourself. You’ve also created something utterly unique. This method doesn’t have to be employed for only uncomfortable issues. You can use it on anything you discover that want to gain more understanding of. Create a gallery and name it The Altar of You.
What type of creative expression works best for you?
Copyright Jean Mishra 2011