Take Time For an Honest Review
Should I leave my partner? Should I change jobs? Do I belong in this town? Am I fulfilling my life’s purpose?
We should resist the urge to make these type of important decisions on the fly—in response to something that pleased or upset us in the moment. Big questions deserve well thought out answers.
At other times we may feel overwhelmed and avoid making decisions at all, continuing to take the path of least resistance.
Often we spend a lot of time avoiding things we should have looked at much sooner.
Taking time to review all of the information available honestly is the first step to choosing the best path possible. Taking time to reflect on our past performance, opens a pathway to using our brain well.
The Inner Connections process begins with a review that includes being completely honest with yourself and clear about where it is you are right now.
You may wish to do a total life review upfront, or look at a few significant areas where you feel you’ve been off track. Categories might include relationship, family, financial, spiritual, work/career/business, personal development, health/fitness, social connection, social contribution, interests/leisure, right up to life mission/purpose. (There are parallels here in the Gap Finder process as part of The Love Safety Net Workbook for anyone who wants to look for gaps in their personal development.)
Taking time to reflect on our past performance honestly, opens a pathway to using our brain well.”
Let’s get started…
Spend a moment to choose where you will do the work of reflecting on your past. Finding a quiet corner and curling up in an armchair might be ideal for some. At a work-desk might be right for others. On a long walk, in a warm bath, sitting in a car looking out over the landscape—there are many potential settings. Block your calls and turn off your messages while you do this. If you have family commitments or small children, arrange to get a bit of time away. Important decisions are worth investing time into—and even some funds if needed.
Record what comes up or keep things you recall in mind. Just make sure that you give this step adequate time and attention.
- Can you remember doing something similar in the past to what you are facing right now?
- Can you assess your performance and how others responded and appraised you?
The trick here is to look at this as calmly as you can and see what you might learn. Even if you did poorly, or someone judged you unfairly, I wonder what you can learn by being honest with yourself about why that happened?
Was what you were expecting from the situation reasonable?
If you were treated unfairly, I wonder what made that person feel they were able to take their problem out on you?
If doing what you thought was right upset someone, did things still turn out for the better?
If you cannot remember details you may have blocked from memory, find the courage to ask your friends and family about their recollection of the situations you will be recalling. A full review may even involve asking everyone that was involved.
The first rule of this part of the process is that it leaves out looking for solutions. Notice where you are and how you got there, without trying to solve anything for now.
What is most important is that you are honest with yourself and don’t assess things as any better or worse than they are.
Along the way, you may notice some positive things developing, e.g.:
- I delight in my relationship with my daughter.
- I enjoy how well I’m eating these days.
Appreciation is always a great base for any process of reflection.
Other areas may need action and decisions; a person might notice, for instance:
- My business profits are too low to meet my needs, or
- My partner seems detached or uninterested in me.
Tempting as it may be to add to these, it’s important not to cast judgement at this stage (e.g. “I’m not good at running a business”) or jump to a solution, (e.g. “I need to close my business and get a job”). There is a world of possible responses, and you are not in a position to open yourself to these yet.
Data collection must come before rational analysis.
Once you’ve set the scene for yourself, choose just one thing to follow through on with the whole Inner Connections decision-making process.
Once you have done the whole process a few times, you will find it easier next time to apply the process to any decision.
Reflection [ri-flek-shuhn] Noun: the act of reflecting or the state of being reflected
We often hear; “Don’t worry about what other people think,” or we discredit others judgement of us by saying things like, “They are just jealous.” These kinds of comments might be well-meaning, but in truth, people’s opinions of us usually do affect our quality of life.
So before we go any further into the process of remembering, let’s look at one of the critical skills we will need to do this well.
“I was looking at you to see if you were looking at me looking at you.”
Reading a face means being able to correctly identify the emotions of the person we are conversing with—while also assessing how they feel about us and what we are saying.
If we are in a relationship that has become bitter or unhappy, reading hurt and disappointment in our partner’s face may be painful.
Worse, if our partner has the bad habit of blaming their failures and shortcomings on us, reading the situation can become confusing and—if we let it—may even damage our self-esteem.
Noticing others response honestly, however, is crucial, alongside gaining awareness that they may be responding in ways that defend their areas of weakness. This awareness may include noticing the type of emotional rackets we discussed in Unit One.
What kind of reality can you assess when it comes to their current attitude towards you and your relationship? Try not to judge or become emotional while you evaluate this.
Has your partner become rude because they are not attracted to you any longer? I wonder if you can look at their negative reactions honestly and accept the way things are for now?
While not always an easy thing to do, time in reflection will give you insight. If you can accept things—rather than continue using unsuccessful means to try and force things to go according to your will—it will offer a starting point to choosing a healthier response to the situation.
The more time that you have spent learning to read emotional signals (in yourself and others) in the previous units, the higher quality ‘data’ you will have for this review. That doesn’t mean you can’t get started yet if you have not done those exercises. Work with what information you have and soon you will start appreciating the value of honest and accurate ’emotional data’. This will lead you naturally back to the exercises in unit one and two.
After you do this review, relax and let go.
As you stop trying to control the situation, you will be in the perfect state to enter the next step, which is Release.
Most importantly if you are experiencing abuse in your relationship, first work through our Steps to a Peaceful Home in Back From the Looking Glass.
Learn from the experience of others
Is the situation you are facing something beyond your current experience? If so, you may want to do some research and gain from the experience of others. Doing so will significantly assist you to mature emotionally.
In many careers such as farming, this is essential.
How many crop failures—learning from trial and error—can a person experience in their working life and still manage to hold on?
Before the invention of pain killers and birth control, humans faced many difficult moral issues. Some of these are outlined quite starkly in the novel Cider House Blues. (The movie—by necessity—toned these down somewhat). I recommend this novel highly if you wish to face the reality that moral dilemmas change over time and can be brutally challenging to resolve.
A moral code should never be static.
That is why an inner connection to our conscience—which we are on our way to exploring here—is so necessary.
A story about my grandmother gives a simple example of this. My mother once explained to me that because she kept two house cats, in those times, this required her—from time to time—to drown their kittens.
There was nothing unusual about my grandmother being a ‘kitten killer’ in those times before animals could safely and inexpensively be de-sexed.
Rats or mice in your home may pose a similar need for emotional maturity born from experience.
They may look cute in movies, but once you have lived through a plague of rats—as Steve and I once did when a new sewerage line was installed along our road—you may need to reassess your feelings about killing animals.
At one stage, we were catching more than five rats a day in a live trap left in our ceiling. When brought down the whole cage was put in water so that rats would quickly drown.
We stopped counting after reaching a hundred.
Any other way of killing them would have been unmanageable.
Many houses in our street became uninhabitable after using rat poison. The carcasses remained in their ceilings, and soon the stench became unbearable.
People who used the normal traps didn’t keep up with their numbers.
We fared much better.
Rats destroyed the homes of people who did nothing.
As challenging to face as these moral horror stories can be—doing so may leave you with an improved opinion of humans role of importance on this planet.
Have you ever encountered a female feral cat? Seeing the fear in her wild eyes may help you see just how much we have improved the lives of animals in our care.
“What is likely to happen if I do nothing?” is just about always a helpful question to ask someone with experience.
What is likely to happen may not be evident unless we seek answers
While we may feel sure that drowning kittens or killing that cute little mouse is wrong, finding out what might happen if we don’t—from someone with experience—will add decades of experience and maturity to our lives.
Grisly as it may be, considering potential outcomes—from people with experience—will help us feel steadier about decisions such as killing pests when necessary or de-sexing or euthanising a pet in our care.
Just as doing nothing may cause tragedy, at other times it may save us from taking a dangerous road—through panic—where the solution is worse than the original problem.
I always ask this question—along with enquiring about the potential side effects—if a doctor recommends a drug to me.
“What will happen if we do nothing”, used to be a standard question asked at our local teaching hospital. The question was used systematically as an intended pause to make sure that staff were not rushing through too many steps without fully appraising all of the information at hand.
I noticed when my mother died in that same hospital a few years back that unfortunately, that check is no longer in place now. Even once they knew they couldn’t save her, they continued treatment that robbed her of her liberty and quality of life in her final months.
“What will happen if we discontinue what we are already doing?”, is another question along these same lines.
This question saved my daughter from potentially dangerous investigative procedures when she was a newborn.
She had been placed in a light tank for jaundice without hospital staff noticing the temperature in the tank was too hot.
When her breathing remained too fast for several days, some staff were ready to take their interventions further.
Discontinuing treatment—by monitoring her breathing out of the tank—quickly solved the problem.
If what you are doing to solve your problems isn’t working, maybe part of the review will require taking a similar step back.
Before the advent of pain killers and birth control, people often pondered moral issues by turning to novels and literature to gain experience of life without having to rely on our ‘faulty simulator’ brains.
The famous novel, Crime and Punishment is an excellent example of leading readers down the path of another man’s experience—to not have to find out for themselves the likely consequences of murdering someone for money.
Who do you know who has lived through a similar experience as what you are facing? Who might recommend a good book on the subject?
Once you have gathered as much data as possible, congratulate yourself on your courage and get ready for the next step which is Release.