In FlameKeeping, the goal of improvement makes it essential that time be taken to gaze within ourselves…without falling into a trap.
It is hard to look within in an objective way – thoughts crop up, criticisms emerge, and we seem to find ourselves falling short of whatever imaginary goal has been set for us. The problem is, for introspection (that searching deeply within ourselves) to work we must be honest. We must recognize our strengths and weaknesses equally, for it is in this honesty that we can truly grow and flourish.
This is something that will not come easily to most of us. The path is rife with pitfalls. We can fall into the self-soothing act of navel gazing, reveling in our own accomplishments to the point of not being able to see beyond them. We can also plummet into an abyss of self-criticism where nothing is ever good enough and all we see is failure. Neither of these is introspection – they are traps, pure and simple, and it takes a hell of a ladder to climb out of them…if you can.
I find it easiest to do introspection as a free-form writing exercise – I sit, pen and notebook in hand, and write everything I see when I look within myself. I write emotions, parts of sentences, thoughts, ideas, and worries. I jot down everything I can hear my inner voice say and everything I tell myself, no matter how harsh. I write until I cannot write anymore, until I feel empty and spent.
I put the notebook away for at least a day, and then go back to it to read over what was written. I start by crossing out things that are either (1) overly critical or (2) overly accepting. Statements like “I’m not smart enough to understand ‘X'” and “I do ‘Y’ so much better than so-and-so” are the first to go. Next to go under the pen are the statements that root within my depression; these are tricky to weed out, but must be pulled in order for Flames to flourish.
Finally, I take what is left and identify each thing as a strength or weakness. I choose one strength to be shared, shoring up my Bright Flame, and one weakness to be improved upon, shoring up my Dark Flame. Through this exercise I grow overall and my Flames grow with me.