Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Examine Your Life, but Not Too Much

It is easy to slip into self-absorption and it is equally fatal.
-Eleanor Roosevelt (1960)

Unrelenting inner turmoil about one's needs and/or negative feelings often means one is stuck in a depressive mental pattern. The way to get mentally "unstuck" is to force an outward focus. Empathizing with and meeting the needs of someone else may be the ticket to thwart negative self-absorption. Engaging in an activity that demands extreme focus and a merging of action with awareness of that action, also helps. They key, really, is to become absorbed with the outer world.
But to be able to achieve this focus in a way that is meaningful in the long-run, one must take the time to quietly examine one's life. For, as Plato wrote

The unexamined life is not worth living.

A sort of balance between outward focus and inner examination towards intent is fodder for a meaning-filled life.
The popular life coach, Cheryl Richarson trumpets what she calls Extreme Self-Care. The name she has given her philosophy of thoughtful living is misleading and reactionary. She calls on people whom have spent entire decades catering to the needs of others, in family and even work life, to begin caring for themselves first so as to live a meaningful life. Richarson's repackaging of the age-old call towards life-examination invites a resolution based on victim hood and seems a bit whiny to me. Life is about choices and the first step towards productive self-reflection is a curt decision to make choices for oneself and evaluate those as one lives them.
My favorite books on the topic of a choice-based life, and notably not in any way espousing "extreme self-care", are both autobiographies intended as guides towards an examined life. They are the two following:

I have read them and will read them again, and hope to pass what they teach on to my children.

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