Despite the rapid growth of psychological awareness in the West, many people don’t really get what inner work is or why anyone would want to do it. If you’re one of them, this post is for you. If you’re not, but struggle with some of the issues below, or know someone who does, it’s for you too. We can all benefit from using our instinct for reflection in more intentional ways.
Inner work is anything that helps you reflect on who you really are beneath your conscious awareness and public persona. Examples are wounds you dismiss, grief and pain you deny, traits you disown, instincts and needs you ignore and thwart.
One effective form of inner work is to study depth psychology, for example, the writings of Carl Jung and Jungian analysts. This might lead to examining the meaningful themes and symbols of myths and your dreams to see how they relate to you. Other examples include psychotherapy, journaling, active imagination, mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga, body work, dance, and other forms of creative and artistic self-expression.
The goal of inner work is to help you see the unconscious forces that shape you, often in dysfunctional ways. Consciousness heals your wounded ego-self and creates an intimate connection with your true, spiritually-connected Self.
Here are some examples of how regular, long-term inner work can transform every aspect of your life. I hope you find them helpful.
Self-acceptance: Seeing our true strengths and weaknesses diminishes self-criticism and helps us like ourselves.
Self-esteem: We learn to accept our basic worth and rights, and we expect fair treatment and respect from others.
Love: Self-knowledge brings more understanding, compassion and forgiveness toward ourselves and others.
Courage: We dare to speak our own truths and live our own lives by our own lights.
Choice-making: We see alternative ways of responding, our choices grow less habitual, compulsive and obsessive, and making healthier choices gets easier.
Morality: Suffering the knowledge of our shadow and its potential for evil humbles our ego and births a new ethic of caring and love. It impels us to take responsibility for our actions, care about others’ welfare, act with integrity, and want to be of help.
Social action: We practice what we preach with less talk and more action.
Feeling: We spend less time in our heads and more in our hearts.
Authenticity: Less faking it and more honesty. We become real.
Emotional pain: Grieving our wounds frees us to accept reality instead of fighting it.
Stress: Awareness of our internal conflicts eases worry, indecision, fear, frustration, anxiety, and agitation.
Spontaneity: Accepting our inner realities diminishes our fear of criticism, failure, and what others think about us. We live in the present moment instead of being bound by concerns about the past or future.
Emotional intelligence: Taking responsibility for our debilitating emotions prevents us from blaming and hurting ourselves and others.
Work: Knowing our true interests and skills motivates us to gravitate away from work we hate and toward work that is personally meaningful and fulfilling.
Intuition: We see and know things of which others are unaware, and we trust our knowing.
Mental acuity: Our mental processes become sharper as we allow our instincts, feelings and bodies to inform our thoughts and guide our behavior.
Guidance: We rely more on our own authority and less on outer authorities.
Relationships: We grow more honest, authentic, open and forgiving. Relationships become more intimate, respectful, loving.
Living: We overcome obstacles with less effort and move through our days with more pleasure and wisdom.
Dying: Death feels less like the end of us and more like an exciting new beginning.
Trust: The benevolence of life becomes an experienced reality. We neither get derailed nor lose hope when problems arise because we know that apparent obstacles are opportunities in disguise.
Spirituality: Feelings of wonder, gratitude, reverence and love are commonplace and generate a truly “religious” attitude toward the miracle of our lives.
Meaning: Our lives have purpose. We no longer live by belief, but by synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) which regularly reassure us that we are known and loved by something beyond ourselves.
Peace: We strive less and enjoy more harmonious relationships with our inner selves, work, others, and nature.
Creativity: Self-knowledge awakens our originality and creativity. We become works of art.
Jungian Quotes: Google Images
Dervish: www.britannica.com. Bruno Morandi–Stone/Getty Images
The Wilbur Award is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.