This is something I am most passionate about, I believe self reflection is a way of living really to cultivate greater self awareness, which I believe enhances every area in our personal lives and our individual influence on the collective as we are truly all connected.
Without self reflection (whether you call it that or not) a person is left like a floating reactive sponge, programmed with a set of beliefs/ideals/opinions that have mostly come from external sources but feel like internal 'truths'. Without any internal filtering through the body to understand what is true for each individual they end up absorbing these beliefs/ideals/opinions as their own and then in turn reacting to anything that does not align with these 'truths'.
This can be initially broken into a dualism of reacting vs responding. Reacting is seeing, hearing or reading something, and having a physical/mental/emotional experience, NOT taking time to neutralise the experience before 'throwing' something, whether that be verbal, written or physical at the other person, group of people, animal, object, situation.
Responding is seeing, hearing or reading something and having a physical/mental/emotional experience, RECOGNISING there is a lot of energy in the body and taking a moment to PAUSE, to notice and maybe ask 'where is this coming from?'. When there is a lot of thought-form or stories coming up which are trying to prove what is right and/or wrong, this is a sure sign to work with the physical body. Again PAUSE, drop into breath awareness, notice physical tension and use this awareness (or tools) to find a neutral place within the self. Then come back to said situation and respond with what feels true from the heart and mind together, sharing your view or action with said person, group of people, animal, object, situation etc.
Side note: A neutral place is always one founded on love and deeper connection for our human condition.
One of the most tricky and sneaky aspects of self reflection - which can really blind-side us - is guilt and shame.
The way through guilt and shame (in a simplified manner) is to understand that - it is ok to be wrong and it's ok to be right. It is also ok to disagree with someone and it's ok to agree with them, it's ok that you do not understand and want to ask more questions and it's ok when you do understand. This may sound logical, yet when in a reactive state of being (which we have been trained to do through our current frameworks in life, especially through the media and our entertainment) it is VERY challenging to stay in a critical space of self reflection.
The physical/mental/emotional experiences that happen when we are faced with a situation of intensity (no matter how big or small) will do anythingto prove you are right - it will even feel as if you are right and further thoughts will feed this aggressively. This is a natural and beautiful process for survival, yet when not in a survival situation this very same process can cut you off from truly hearing/seeing/respecting/learning/understanding. It can even compromise your ability to access your compassion and empathy.
Now, I am going to use a controversial example to illustrate how guilt and shame play a huge role in distorting our ability to stay open around information and healthy discussion from both sides of an 'argument'. Self reflection is the tool that allows us to regain our personal power and filter information to make grounded decisions in what feels true for each individual (which is unlikely to be exactly the same for everyone.. ever).
Currently, I see an extreme polarity between so called PRO-Vax 'people' and ANTI-Vax 'people' with little consideration for individual difference - aka -pack mentality. Essentially PRO-Vax and ANTI-Vax people have the same idealistic end goal - health and vitality equally for everyone. Unfortunately, the potential for unity is experienced as a painful divide, where you must fight for your side by often slandering the other. I believe this happens because of a serious lack of self reflection from the majority, which commonly starts an external disagreement, often with the introduction of many red herrings.
Red herring : a kind of fallacy that is an irrelevant topic introduced in an argument to divert the attention of listeners or readers from the original issue. This fallacy is often used to induce the other towards false conclusions.
Where guilt and shame comes in here is: many of us (myself included) have been vaccinated, or have vaccinated our children. Now herein lies a potential guilt/shame issue - it could prove difficult for someone to choose to do serious research into vaccines if there was a chance they would find out they were not what they believe them to be. Firstly, that would mean having to admit they were wrong; and secondly, finding out they could potentially put their children, or themselves at risk. This is no easy feat, it would take great self reflection (including self love and forgiveness for themselves and others). Most people who have done extra research are those who have been negatively affected in some way and decided to ask bigger questions, but it is hard to do this, it takes great courage and again self reflection.
I personally don't identify myself with either side, I identify with wanting to ask more questions and be pro-choice (which is still an opinion for sure - commonly grouped in with the 'anti-vax' side). I have been asking questions on this topic for about 8 or so years and I had no idea what kind of a 'battle' I was walking into... What happened when I began sharing my feelings/opinions/questions around vaccinations was an experience of a lot of reaction from others. Initially, I too reacted back, as I was quite shocked at the divide and aggression that came at me.
What I realised through this process was that I have always been like this, always asking bigger questions and trying to understand life through my own experience and filter.
Because vaccination reactions were so aggressive, I started to notice something: Society tells us we are free, we are unique individuals who have a right to question and have our own opinions... yet what I have experienced makes me assure you this is only true when you follow the said 'community narrative' otherwise you will be outcast in the strangest of ways. These ways are subtle, so it's not so easy for others to see (gaslighting).
I am a person who will always question, who struggles to buy into anything until those questions are answered, so I have had to learn another way to find the answers.
Enter Self Reflection.
This process gave me my personal power back, it allows to me to share my voice and not be terrified of others reactions, it allows me to hear and support others, I believe it allows me to experience internal freedom.
Because through true discipline, (and self reflection takes a lot of discipline) comes abundant Freedom!