“Tautology” Tuesday – “Know Thyself …”

Those of us with chronic illness often tend to be incredibly introspective – I think this is in and of itself a sort of “tautology” insofar as when we are very ill, we cannot really “do” much but think. I know this is particularly true when I am experiencing a severe flare – I cannot read because I cannot see well, I cannot listen to audiobooks or videos or movies because the sound makes my head throb; I cannot write for the aforementioned reasons; I cannot walk because I am too weak and exhausted … the list could go on and on. What do we do, then, when we are that ill besides “think?” We often tend to “think” about ourselves when we are in this state just because we are so hyper-aware of every physical aspect of ourselves and then, of course, we start to become anxious about the effects the illness(es) has or have on every other aspect of our lives – sometimes we get depressed (“thinking” about our mental state), sometimes we get caught up in thinking about what we are missing out on (“thinking” about ourselves in a developmental sense), &c. At any rate, I have met very few people who “know themselves” inside and out as well as those of us who suffer from some form of severe chronic illness or disability.

My question today is one that brings just about everything I do and believe into a state of contention – that is, “what good does it really do to ‘know yourself’ well?” This question is riddled with implications so I will stick just to the basic structure underlying it. When I stop and think about how the world works, how trivial we are in the “scheme” of things, and how action always trumps inaction (that is, one can simply act without thinking and get “further” in his or her life than someone who reflects on his or her being without acting), there is always an uncomfortable “truth” that lingers just behind that question mark; does it actually “accomplish” anything to know yourself inside and out … or is this simply an act of self-soothing, a way of appeasing our minds when we encounter others who seem not to know themselves at all? What is the actual argument FOR taking the time to “know oneself?”

I suppose there are the “obvious” answers – things like knowing what one enjoys and likes and being able to follow those affinities into careers knowing what one’s core beliefs are so that he or she can find a “true love” partner, being able to find peace in chaotic situations. However, if we look at many of the most “successful” people of the here and now, how many of them are sitting around introspecting? I would argue very few. It all goes back to that same “action” “thing;” that the default state of being is “failure,” “inaction,” and that if we don’t DO in some way but just THINK about doing something, we will never accomplish much of anything. It is an interesting paradox if nothing else – that thinking allows one to know what it is he or she wants and needs but the only way to satisfy those wants and needs is through overt action. Perhaps the only “purpose” that comes from “knowing oneself” is the ability to learn to RESPOND to situations rather than REACT to them. Those of us who do take a lot of time just to “think” about ourselves do learn how to calm ourselves in times of absolute craziness – situations most people would never be able to deal with if they had not taken the time to think about these things before they happened.

However, despite the potential “good” that might arise from thinking about oneself and knowing who the “I” or “me” is, it all comes back to the fact that people can also learn all of these things simply through experience. If one goes through enough “stuff” in life, he or she is bound to learn how to deal with said “stuff;” he or she is bound to learn how to RESPOND rather than to REACT as time progresses; he or she is bound to learn what he or she likes and who he or she gets along with just by the process of “trial and error.”

What do you think of this sort of introspection? Are there instances in which “knowing yourself” well has benefited you in ways that could not come about through action alone? Perhaps all of the introspection us “spoonies” engage in is merely a type of “coping mechanism;” we get to know OURSELVES well so that we can both keep up with others in some way (or be ahead of others in some way!) and so that we can maintain some semblance of sanity when everything else including our own bodies and often minds seems to be falling apart. It is a tough one to think about; it certainly calls MY very identity into question – something which is difficult for anyone to “deal with.” I would really love to hear what others have to say about this one!

At any rate, I hope you are all having a happy and healthy day wherever you are in the world! I have to get MORE DENTAL WORK DONE TODAY (GOD help me!) – please wish me luck! Thanks much for taking the time to read this and please remember, my heart is ALWAYS with YOU!

❤ Always, Beth

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