Qs to ask your own self?
January 28, 2007 3:12 PM   Subscribe

What are some good questions to ask your self in the interests of fostering self-insight?

I once had what you would call "intrapersonal intelligence". I was very in touch with who/what I was, on any given day at any given moment.
Somewhere along the line, events, relationships and hardcore study have changed this. I feel distinctly out of touch with myself, something I have never felt before. It is different from depression, which I have felt before.

I have fallen out of the habit of keeping a journal, which I am guessing might be the main culprit here. I always knew that journals were important for the mind, but I still figured that I of all people would always have an ongoing internal dialogue so rich that I wouldn't need to write my thoughts and feelings down in ink. I was wrong.

What are some good questions to ask yourself?
Questions to think about, with a pen in hand and a blank page, early in the morning or late at night?

I can feel myself dropping into a slump of sorts, but I feel like that would change if I was "talking to myself" a bit more.
I just want to know what's going on with me, figure out who I have turned into, witness gradual changes in myself, navigate my thoughts and my feelings a bit more.
posted by mjao to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
I'll kick things off:

What makes you happy? Does your current life situation provide these things? What, if anything, should you change to make that happen?
posted by adrian_h at 3:27 PM on January 28, 2007

For me, it's less asking questions than just listening without trying to guide the discussion. Yoga or meditation or some way of turning off the To Do list and just checking in with your actual self and seeing what's going on.
posted by occhiblu at 3:28 PM on January 28, 2007

What do you want? As evidenced by your behavior, thoughts and actions today.

What do you want to want?

How, specifically, can you bring them closer?
posted by ibmcginty at 3:28 PM on January 28, 2007

The positive psychology folks recommend keeping a "gratitude journal" where you ask yourself what you were thankful for during the day. Writing about the things you were grateful for is supposed to increase your life satisfaction and train you to look for the good things in life.
posted by DarkForest at 3:28 PM on January 28, 2007

Occhiblu has it right.

I have the same tendency to be over fixated on a large variety of things and I start to get spastic and short attention span and (therefor) feel very mentally exhausted and manic by the end of the day.

On the days where I SLOW DOWN.. and just simply "be" who I am supposed to be.. I feel a lot healthier, happier and more successful.

If you arent comfortable with who you are.. then you need to find out why/what is making you uncomfortable. Bad habits?. .enviroment?.. bad friends?.. overworked?.. minimize these things and maximize the things that you are passionate about.
posted by jmnugent at 3:46 PM on January 28, 2007

I was just looking over a journal I sort of kept while on my last vacation. In my memory my vacation was nothing but spectacularly relaxing and awesome and good in every way, but in rereading the notebook I see that I was actually relieved (actual word used at the time) to be returning home to a real urban city with access to many great cultural things without need of a car.

So I'd say more important than asking yourself questions may be to just make certain you're being authentic in your journals. No one day or one activity contains only one emotion, remark on all of the feelings so that they provide legitimate perspective.

Editing out the crap is necessary when the audience isn't just yourself, but may not be useful journal keeping technique. Alternatively, only being motivated to write when you're miserable may be equally limiting.
posted by birdie birdington at 3:52 PM on January 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

You have lost the zen practice of mindfullness. If you are going to be so intellectual, then you have to let go. Sartre: "existence precedes essence" in other words life has no meaning. Start there. You do not want to go chasing meaning. Go out! drink a beer, talk to somebody, get out of your head. Sounds like it needs some housecleaning!
posted by cvoixjames at 3:53 PM on January 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Once, some of my friends were talking about "manifesting" things -- they'd envision things and somehow they would come about. So I started wondering, how did I manifest what I have now? What do I want to manifest in the future?

You might find some ideas in this old question I asked.
posted by salvia at 3:57 PM on January 28, 2007

A lot of the career change books will provide you with tons of questions that can help foster self insight. What Color is Your Parachute is a really good one to start with.

These books are all about finding your true interests and purpose to find a satisfying career. I'm sure that you can answer the non-career related questions and get a good idea of who you really are inside.
posted by reenum at 4:22 PM on January 28, 2007

actually, your vanity astounds me!

"I don't get it anymore, I am a babe lost in the woods, I need self insight, "intrapersonal intelligence"

"I can't write in my diary" "what should I do?"

go to church
volounteer at your local hospital
visit those in need
give time to a charity
visit a facility for the mentally retarded, ask to help out
give clothing to goodwill
offer assistance to a friend or aquaintance in need
tell someone you love them
practice random acts of kindness and beauty
visit and spend time at retirement community. Make a friend.
believe in God. Believe in Good.
posted by cvoixjames at 4:51 PM on January 28, 2007

Listen to cvoixjames (is that Charlevoix?). Focus a little outside yourself and you will be astounded by the personal benefits you obtain in return.
posted by caddis at 5:15 PM on January 28, 2007

Believing in God isn't going to help you. You may as well have a personal relationship with Zeus for all the self knowledge that will bring you.

Challenge yourself. There is nothing better than a change of scenery, pace or lifestyle to put things in perspective. Asking yourself questions isn't as effective as acting to create the kind of answers you hope to find.
posted by 0bvious at 5:26 PM on January 28, 2007

2nd Obvious. Find meaning in yourself, not in fantasy.

What you are going through sounds pretty normal. You don't mention any trouble starting journaling again, so perhaps that is a good path out of the ditch in which you find yourself.

I find getting in touch with mortality sobering and useful. How many days have you lived? How many more do you expect to? Of the ones you have lived, which we most fulfilling? What made you happiest when you were happiest?

I'd hope that you wouldn't spend too much time worrying about your current doldrums, which could be just the turbulence associated with going though a phase change in life. (I am guessing here that some major events have recently occurred?) It's normal, in my experience, to have some serious self-doubt/reflective response to changes. "Is this the right thing I've done? " "Is this all there is?" Questions like that come up all the time as one ages.

The nature of the anwers you NEED also changes. It took me decades to accept that I might not get definitive answers to some of the questions I posed. Sometimes, I resolve them by deciding they are unanswerable to me at this time, and I defer trying until more data is available.

I do think that giving is a good way to disengage from getting stuck inside yourself. Considering the plight of beings worse off than you can make you appreciate your circumstances more, but actually HELPING them is much more intense.

It's also perfectly all right to have a period of down time. Maybe you are just consolidating and a new direction for your life will emerge.

Life is good in many ways. I hope you can enjoy it for what it is today.
posted by FauxScot at 5:56 PM on January 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sometimes I find that stream-of-consciousness writing seems to reveal more than posing specific questions of oneself. Try just writing about whatever comes to mind; whatever you are feeling emotional about. Don't censor yourself at all. Then go back and re-read, and write down what you're feeling about what you wrote, if neccesary.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 6:26 PM on January 28, 2007

Please go back to journaling. Even if it's a list of what you did and how it made you feel, what you liked about the day and what you didn't.

I subscribe to a lot of creativity-based blogs. Keri Smith is one of my faves. I like to read about other people's processes and make notes of the things that interest me. I like to read about decisions people make and try to think for myself if I would handle the situation in the same way.

If you want questions, I find that the Embodient group's Seven for Seven prompts are pretty good at getting me thinking. I normally think prompts are pretty lame but I like theirs for some reason.

If you do journal, don't just write. Read back every few days over what you have written and try to understand where you were in that moment.

Find a hobby that allows you some personal down time. I like to knit, and I think a lot when I knit. Something about the repetitive motions my hands make helps me to concentrate on working out problems in my mind. I dunno. I also get a lot of joy out of having a finished product that I created with my own two hands.

Slow down. Turn off the tv, put on some music and have some time to yourself. All of these things work for me, but YMMV. Lastly, consider the fact that people change over a lifetime, and maybe you have changed from the person you once thought you were. You just need to get to know yourself again.
posted by Brittanie at 6:27 PM on January 28, 2007

I always like writing as many sentences as possible that start with "I want," "I don't want," "I'm afraid of," "I need," etc. After I get the obvious ones out of the way I end up realizing I'm afraid of things I hadn't put into words, or I'm wanting things I hadn't admitted to myself. Re: cvoixjames's comments, I think everybody has different needs for self-awareness and if it's something you are missing, you should by all means pursue it.
posted by nevers at 7:08 PM on January 28, 2007

what did i think of today that i didn't tell anyone about?
posted by amethysts at 8:11 PM on January 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

What are you most afraid of?
posted by SPrintF at 8:49 PM on January 28, 2007

I think writing out lists can help you when you're out of the prose habit. It helps me to list things like "goals accomplished" and "future goals". I also list traits I admire (and sometimes rate myself 1-10 on how well I measure up).

I also make notes of moments of clarity or inspiration that happen during the day, and try to discover the underlying theme. Such as, maybe I was driving somewhere and got lost and happened upon an unexpected lake, and suddenly felt vulnerable and exhilarated. I'll write that down and then try to figure out why I felt that way. Was it about discovery? Unspoiled nature? The sudden realization that no one knew where I was? I think this process can help you tap into the ways that you think and feel that are unique to you.
posted by xo at 9:44 PM on January 28, 2007

"What are you most afraid of?"
posted by SPrintF at 11:49 PM EST on January 28

SPrintF has it about 1/2 right. What are you, really, deep down, and on top, most afraid of?

Second half of the undivided, undividable problem:
Why are you afraid of that? For they are not, in the underlying realm of the human soul, divisable questions. You've got to go down, girl, deep down, to death, and being forgotten and unloved and ugly and misunderstood, and more, to understand this. To where you finish, and hell starts.

Or not.

You could, after all, marry well, and forget all youthful angst. Others have. If you can't, too bad. In the end, it's not about courage, or resolve, or intellect, or will. It's about compulsion and the need, finally, to know, for oneself, even if that means sharing with no other.

You may be put here to write the great 21st century novel, that explains to so many others of us, what it means to be human, and afraid, and capable of courage and wisdom, nevertheless.

Get out your Bible, or other faith book, be it even so pitiful a thing as a blank journal, and face your mortal fears. Or, forget such struggle, and cleave, willfully, face up, arms flung wide, to sunshine, ever.
posted by paulsc at 3:12 AM on January 29, 2007 [5 favorites]

Here's one question that's constantly on my mind: Am I making a difference in this world.

It's a question to which I hope I have the answer to some day.
posted by hadjiboy at 8:21 AM on January 29, 2007

Sorry, no specific 'question' advice, but rather 3 suggestions:

- begin journaling again, but don't 'steer' it. Put down whatever comes to mind. Be almost absent-minded about it. Meaning often comes in re-reading these things, looking back on experiences. Don't be so concerned with figuring it all out in the moment. It often isn't possible.

- make sure you're getting enough time with at least one close friend to bounce ideas off of. Some things are better kept for the journal, but sometimes you need some human feedback from someone who understands you... who isn't you

- exercise. You didn't mention anything about your physical state. Depending on your relationship with exercise, go anywhere from light but regular exercise to full-exhaustion workouts. Until you feel comfortable in your own skin and dispel those muscles itching to work, you'll never free yourself from those distractions enough to know what's really rolling around in your head.
posted by dreamsign at 8:55 AM on January 29, 2007

"What's my part in this?" is a question I try to ask myself, especially if there's something that's troubling me.
posted by essexjan at 10:41 AM on January 29, 2007

Here's my suggestion for a starter:

What makes for a "good question"? How will I know it when I see it? What do I hope to get out of asking and attempting to answer it? I'd imagine that a line of questioning along these lines could start producing other questions.
posted by treepour at 2:24 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

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