While we don't like to admit it, many times we get stuck in the most basic levels of self-knowledge. Many of our thoughts and actions happen automatically, have a life of their own, and act below the radar of our consciousness. This is not a bad thing because habits, routines and reactions help us simplify everyday life. Stopping to think every moment would take too long and, above all, would represent a huge waste of mental and emotional energy.
The problem arises when we live on autopilot for so long that we forget that we are running on autopilot, so we are not even aware of our habits, routines, emotions, impulses and reactions. So we don't check them anymore; they control us.
A person who has developed a good level of self-knowledge may say to himself: "wait a second ... maybe I should change this habit that is hurting me", or, "maybe I'm overreacting?". A person who has not developed self-knowledge will continue to live with the autopilot engaged, a victim of their own negative habits, recurring thoughts and inappropriate reactions. As a result, it can sink into a self-destructive cycle.
How to know yourself? The 3 most important questions for self-knowledge
Level 1 - What are you doing?
Sometimes we avoid pain with distraction. We move our minds to another time or place where we feel safer and more isolated from the pain of everyday life. It's easier to focus on your mobile, on television, on social networks, or let your mind wander into a golden future by making plans we will never put into practice. Just to try to forget. There are many shelters where we can hide and dream that everything is perfect and that we don't need to change anything.
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with distracting ourselves. Distraction is important for happiness and health. But we need to be sure that the distraction isn't a smokescreen hiding other problems that will continue to grow as we look the other way.
We can't get drunk with distractions. We cannot spend much of our free time swimming in a sea of distractions that leads to a state of semi-unconsciousness or self-inflicted lobotomy.
In fact, when the hidden goal of distraction is to escape reality, we will end up getting tired. That distraction isn't healthy, it doesn't give real satisfaction, much less happiness. It is just a fleeting, almost additive remedy, which we will have to resort to every day because we are not solving the real problems.
Therefore, to overcome the first level of self-knowledge it is important to spend time with yourself, reflect on your daily habits and ask yourself if they really lead you to the place where you want to be or if, on the contrary, they are a subterfuge that feeds dissatisfaction. Ask yourself if what you do every day truly satisfies you and contributes to your well-being, or is it an acquired habit that does nothing for you.
Level 2 - What do you feel?
Have you ever been angry and when someone asks you why you are angry, do you reply that you are not angry? When we live on autopilot and use distractions to avoid thinking, it is normal for emotions to build up and end up exploding, even if we don't always recognize them.
In this second level of self-knowledge it is when we begin to discover who we really are. Connecting with our emotions is a very intense process that reveals aspects of us that we did not know or that we were hiding because they frightened us or caused cognitive dissonance. If we are not self-righteous and dare to recognize and explore absolutely everything we feel, we will discover new facets of our self.
Unfortunately, instead of looking within themselves, many people try to escape those emotions through experiences that dull them on an emotional level. They did not teach us to explore emotions, but, on the contrary, to repress and hide them, pretending that they do not exist.
Therefore, some of the most important questions for self-knowledge are: How do you feel? Why do you try it?
It is about assuming that emotions are like little compasses that indicate what we like or dislike. There is no need to make value judgments. We are not better or worse because we feel a certain way. What's really important is to be aware of those emotions and to manage them assertively. Anger and sadness, for example, can become powerful creative engines. It all depends on how we use these emotions.
Level 3 - What are your blind spots?
It is likely that the deeper you go inside yourself, the more you ask yourself how to get to know yourself, the further you get on this path, the more things you will discover that you do not like. Sometimes that path can be scary, especially if you think there is only one "right" way to feel and think.
You will also likely understand that your thoughts, arguments, and actions are mere reflections of the thoughts, arguments, and actions of those around you. It's normal. For many years you have been subjected to their influence without questioning it.
At this level of self-knowledge, the most important thing is to be aware of your blind spots. That is to say, of those things that you hid because they did not correspond to the idealized image you had of yourself. Or even those limiting beliefs about yourself that you have nurtured, the recurring negative thoughts you have cultivated. Recognizing blind spots will prevent you from becoming a slave to defense mechanisms.
It is a level of self-knowledge integration, where you start reflecting on your actions, thoughts and emotions to find maladaptive patterns that have no reason to be and harm you.
Some self-knowledge questions that can serve as an example are: When you get angry do you react with arrogance? When you are sad do you hide it with anger? Knowing your behavior patterns will allow you to find more assertive, healthful, and satisfying ways to cope with reality.
Self-knowledge must be followed by self-acceptance
Going through all levels of self-knowledge won't do much if they don't lead to self-control. In fact, self-knowledge by itself does not make us happier. In some cases it can even make us feel more miserable, especially when combined with ruthless criticism.
Therefore, it must be clear to you that this path of self-knowledge has the ultimate goal of self-acceptance. Only in this way will you have made the qualitative leap and will be able to find inner peace. Self-acceptance born of self-knowledge is an incredible force, a source of happiness and self-confidence to face any adversity.