This is the second in a six-part series overviewing How to Become an Emotional Detective.
Local Cuban artist Elsa Mora suggests approaching introspection with a curious, loving heart which I think is a great approach. Her beautiful drawing visually conveys her imaginings.
Judgments and preconceptions can interfere with our seeing the truth about ourselves.
A stance of humility also befits an Emotional Detective. Remember the demeanor of fictional detectives like Columbo or Inspector Clouseau? These comical characters often appeared clueless, yet a large measure of their strength came from their awareness of their own ignorance. When it comes to your inner emotional world, the same is true for you: it really helps to be humble.
No matter how hard you try to be objective, you will always have biases about your emotional life. There are inevitably going to be certain emotions that you overlook or distort. This may only happen at certain times or with certain people, but it is sure to happen on occasion. For example, you may not be aware of when you are sad, even though everyone else can hear it in your voice and see it in your face. Or you may react with anger, without recognizing it in yourself. Or you may come across as angry, when you are really sad or frightened.
No matter how hard you try to learn the truth about your own reactions, there will always be plenty of your own emotional reactions that you miss. Some of your blind spots come from biases that you have learned as a child. Think of these biases as stemming from your personal myths about emotions that you learned when you were young. These biases may sometimes make it hard to see certain emotions in yourself and others.
How can you look inside yourself and see clearly?
The best antidote to confusion about yourself is to:
- Become familiar with your emotional biases (for example, if you always notice your anger, but fail to notice your fear)
- Know that you can always be wrong about how you really feel (we all cover up certain emotions without awareness)
- Keep an open mind (consider what others say about you even if it feels bad)
- Look inside with as much rigor and courage as you can muster (some of your insights may hurt your self-image, momentarily, but they will strengthen you in the long run)
- Be patient with yourself
- Stay committed to an inquisitive stance (introspection is most constructive when it is an ongoing process)
This is the most productive attitude for an Emotional Detective. Keep in mind that it can be hard to bear so much uncertainty, especially when it is about yourself.
The other five posts in this series are: Becoming an Emotional Detective, Could David Brooks be An Emotional Detective? Special Challenges for An Emotional Detective, Collecting Clues, What is a Private Eye?