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What Is Reflection?
Reflection, also known as self-reflection or processing information, is a process of analyzing, reconsidering, and questioning learned knowledge, gained insights, and new experiences. Reflection includes processing or reflecting upon emotions, feelings, and thoughts. It is about learning to understand, make sense of, and cope with emotions in healthy productive ways. Learning to reflect on learned information in treatment is a process that takes time. When working with a therapist in treatment, a patient will be encouraged to take time to reflect upon newly gained insights after each therapy session to further understand how these new insights have influenced them.
Using Reflection in Addiction Treatment
Reflection includes any inner awareness we gain as we spend time alone with the intent to understand ourselves. Personal reflection helps us unveil stressors, addictions, motivations, joys, and pains when we ask ourselves questions on how they impact us. Most importantly, self-reflection helps us identify our emotions, beliefs, values, and feelings, as well as how they impact us.
When we take time to reflect, we are growing in new ways. We can connect to ourself or a higher power to re-create an authentic life. Reflection can include mindfulness of our behaviors, thoughts, and actions via meditation, personal honesty, or talking to trusted friends and professionals. Reflection also can be practiced by journaling, art, prayer, and through the practice of mindful activities, such as running and yoga. Taking a walk outside in nature or sitting in a quiet place are soothing ways to gain perspective during self-reflection. Taking personal reflection breaks weekly also reveals commitment to putting yourself first and re-engaging with life after treatment.
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Steps to Begin the Process of Reflection
Step 1: Identification and Awareness of Emotions and Feelings.
This can be done through various activities, such as journaling, meditation, therapy, talking with a friend, free-writing, expressing oneself through art, running, yoga, prayer, and et cetera.
It can further be done by asking oneself questions that encourage one to connect themselves to their emotions, feelings, and physical sensations (all of which are interconnected). Such questions include:
- What feelings or sensations am I experiencing, and where in my body do I feel them?
- What thoughts am I having that indicate what I might be feeling?
- Am I experiencing any thoughts or feelings which may contradict what I’m feeling?
- Do I have any judgements on the thoughts or feelings I am having?
- Am I experiencing any urges to suppress or ignore these feelings or emotions? Why?
Step 2: The Ability to Stay with and Accept These Emotions or Feelings to Process Them
Emotions provide information about one’s core goals and needs. They can be either positive or negative. When we experience different emotions or find ourselves in a difficult emotional state, practice slow breathing. Count to four as you breathe in, and then count to four as you breathe out (called 4 X 4). As you inhale, breathe into the feeling.
Bring openness and curiosity to the feeling and ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this feel tolerable or intolerable, and why does it feel that way?
- Do I feel something bad is going to happen because of this feeling?
- How difficult is this feeling, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most severe?
- What can I do to tolerate this state? (breathe/relax/stay still?)
Step 3: Processing the Emotion/Feeling in Order to Act on It Appropriately
Gain an understanding of why you are having the feeling in order to move on from it.
Take time to answer the following questions, preferably in writing, such as in a journal:
- Do I have any needs that are currently unmet? (for example: Do I feel misunderstood, hungry, lonely, tired, disrespected, unheard, angry?)
- Have one of my boundaries been violated or crossed? If so, by whom and in what way?
- Have one of my values been compromised? In what way?
- Have I done anything to contribute to the distress I am feeling?
- Am I falling into an old behavior pattern? What is it?
- Is this emotion or distress a result of distorted thinking? How is my thinking process?
- Is my emotion or feeling triggering a childhood memory?
- Am I feeling distress because I am not accepting my feeling or judging it as wrong? What is blocking my ability to accept this feeling or emotion?
- Is this distress or emotion(s) from a build-up of different events that I have not processed? What are they? How am I feeling?
Step 4: Addressing the Emotion or Feeling
Talking to someone we trust who is unbiased is one of the best ways to process our emotions or feelings because they can help us gain perspective on what might be happening.
It is further beneficial to reflect and find release through the following activities:
- Creative writing
- Art (painting, drawling, molding clay, etc.)
- Talking to a friend or professional
Based on what you conclude upon completion of processing or reflecting on your emotions/feelings, you may need to:
- Meet your needs
- Address any distorted thoughts
- Set healthy boundaries or re-establish a boundary with someone
- Be assertive with someone
- Let the feelings pass
- Express your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust
- Express thoughts and feelings through journaling, art, and et cetera
- Re-align yourself with your values and take corrective action
- Do not cave in to your urges, do the opposite! (for example: if your body wants to hide from your emotions, call a friend and talk to them)
- Apologize and make amends
The process of learning to manage your emotions can take time. Be gentle with yourself as you practice these steps; it is a learning process. Once you begin to understand your emotions, and can process them effectively, you can transform your life.
Reflective writing is a form of self-awareness that can both be used in treatment and continued post-treatment. Reflective writing is about learning to understand, make sense of and deal with emotions in healthy productive ways. The use of journaling is beneficial in processing our emotions, as well as any important thoughts. To gain insight on how we are or why we do the things we do, we can begin with asking ourselves some questions of self-discovery and growth. Examples of personal questions we can ask ourselves include:
- What are my strengths?
- What makes me unique?
- What aspects of myself should I improve?
- Am I hurting myself or others? (If so, how?)
- What makes me happy or unhappy?
- Am I pleasing myself or others?
- What are my goals?
- Where do I see myself in 5 years?
Reflective writing also opens the floodgates for descriptive writing, such as emotional expression, plans for success, and goal setting. Reflecting on ourselves creates an inspiring self-awareness and illuminates our true natures.
Self-Awareness and Reflection
Understanding our strengths and weaknesses can assist us as we take time for self-reflection. Reflection creates self-honesty, giving us an opportunity to embrace both what we are most proud of and what we may hide. The side of ourselves that we hide is known as the shadow side and may reveal truths about our personalities that answer concerns about how we react.
By embracing our positive and negative truths, we are understanding how we function on a core level. Our shadow side can include negative emotions such as anger, regret, shame, jealousy, guilt, or insecurity, any of which may be part of one’s past with addiction. Seeing this part of ourselves with compassion and accepting we have grown into a healthier space is healing. Self-awareness is a pathway to transformation. Exploring our shadows along with our strengths helps us understand ourselves in a balanced perspective, better managing our being.
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Understanding Our Reactions Through Reflection
Other areas of self-awareness we can learn from include understanding our values, habits, needs, and emotional expressions. When we understand our pain and areas of trauma, we can control how we react to situations. We can practice reducing sources of stress in our lives, for instance, and feel motivated to make a change to better suit our lifestyles. This also allows us to better connect with people around us as we relate the way we are to how others behave.
Lack of Self-Reflection
A lack of self-reflection can result in both inner and external conflict. If we don’t know ourselves and are unable to accept ourselves, we may not have the ability to achieve core change. How will we know where to start? How will we understand which areas needs healing the most? When we spend too much time living an inauthentic life, trying to fit in versus embracing our uniqueness, giving too much credit to others, or not motivating ourselves to make needed changes, we remain stuck. Our relationships can suffer, and our self-esteem becomes compromised.
When we fail to self-reflect, we lose our self-awareness, which is essential to understanding ourselves on a deeper level. Self-reflection increases one’s perspective, and when one does not reflect, he or she lacks the ability to see and understand things from a different viewpoint. This can create friction, misunderstanding, confusion and dissonance.
Without self-reflection, one will lose their ability to gain perspective of situations and of others, hindering relationships at home or in the workplace. Self-reflection teaches us how to respond, rather than react. When we do not reflect, we are more likely to engage in impulsive behaviors or make poor choices we are likely to later regret.
Self-reflection facilitates a deeper level of learning and understanding. When we do not self-reflect, we lose the ability to learn a deeper level. We further lose the capacity to understand at a deeper level, which can possibly hinder our relationships with not only others, but ourselves.
When you reflect, it allows you to make better decisions and change your actions. The more often you change your actions into positive ones, the more increased your confidence will become. When we lack reflection, our confidence tends to lack too.
Self-reflection further allows you to challenge beliefs and assumptions that are getting in your way. Without self-reflection, one will struggle with challenging beliefs or negative assumptions, which can be overall limiting in one’s life, resulting in emotional distress.
Self-Reflection and Getting Treated for Addiction
Do you know someone who battles with addiction and is in need of help? Do you find yourself reflecting on ways you can transform your own life into sobriety? If so, contact a treatment provider who can discuss with you available rehab options.
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