‘Introspection is enhanced by repetition, probing and reflection.’

People on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv are reflected in a glass window. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
People on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv are reflected in a glass window.
These past few months have given new meaning to that mythical essay, How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Still feeling the impact of our recent war, perhaps this year we are entering the holiest of days filled with more trepidation than usual. As we look forward to turning the page and beginning anew, making promises and resolutions with respect to our own personal change and growth, perhaps we owe it to ourselves during this time to honestly examine and learn from our past behavior. In doing so, we gain a greater understanding of ourselves: who we are, who we hope to become, what we would like to achieve during our lifetime, and what we would like to leave behind as a legacy for our loved ones.
How do you want to be seen by others, and does it match how you see yourself? What do you now personally need to do to bring peace into your life? Perhaps the Day of Atonement is really “meant” as an opportunity for you to become “at one” with yourself, and that is your goal for this day and over the ensuing year.
As you begin this period, making it a time for your own introspection and change, I share with you just some of the many questions I hope to think about as I prepare to talk with myself and the Almighty. Feel free to take any of my questions, personalize them as you would like, and make them yours. While some of the questions may appear to be redundant, the process of introspection is enhanced by repetition, probing and reflection, allowing for greater depth each time you examine and reexamine a question.
Did I personally take responsibility for my actions even if I may not have been proud of them, or did I look to blame others for my mistakes?
How can I improve?
Did I examine the consequences of my behavior – for both myself and others? Have I asked myself what I could do differently next time? Did I assess each difficult situation and see myself as part of the solution or as part of the problem?
Did I lapse into feeling helpless and hopeless and think that things happen to me and are beyond my control, or did I attempt to respond with intent to solve a problem? Did I keep an open mind and an open heart? Did I ask what I could have done or can do now to change things? What would make things better?
Have I learned from my mistakes? Was I lazy, jealous or spiteful? In what ways? What could I do differently next time? Was I attentive, interested, caring and kind towards others?
Was I patient? Did I go out of my way to be helpful? Did I appreciate the kindness of others? Did I tell them so? Was I compassionate and sensitive to the pain or plight of others?
How did I behave with friends, family, strangers? Was I respectful to my elders, those who are physically and mentally challenged and those less fortunate than me? How did I treat my neighbors?
Can I stand tall with pride? Did I reach out or go out of my way to assist others or did I just do the minimum? What could I do better next time? Did I give to others? Was I charitable in both deeds and financially? Did I do so with an open heart and an open wallet? Was I there for others? For my family and friends?
For strangers? My clients? My readers? Was I honest and did I act with integrity? Did I work to improve my behavior and fix mistakes? Were my standards acceptable? Were my expectations realistic?
Did I put myself out there or did I wait for others to “go first?” Was I a good listener, was I “in the moment” for all of those people who needed me? How can I improve? Did I welcome guests into my home? Did I extend myself and offer rides, help prepare meals and do other acts of kindness? Did I make a shiva visit even though it would have been easier to stay home? Was I appreciative for all that I have been given? Have I shown gratitude and found ways to be positive?
How can I improve? Have I acted in a way that honors who I would like to be? In what ways did I work on myself to become a better person? What can I work on now? Did I set realistic goals in the past?
For the future? Do I dismiss things that are wrong? Do my actions reflect my thoughts and words? Do I think before I speak? Do I acknowledge and say I am sorry when I have done something wrong? Does my speech reflect how I want to be perceived by others? Do I speak to others in a way that reflects how I would like to be spoken to?
Have I gossiped or spoken badly about and to someone? Do I look for ways to praise others and notice the positive? Is my telephone, cell phone and email etiquette appropriate?
Does my outside behavior and demeanor reflect who I want to be on the inside? Do I act and dress appropriately? Have I been respectful to others? Have I been a good wife, daughter, mother, sister, friend, psychologist?
Do I follow through on my promises? Did I look after myself physically, emotionally and spiritually so that I can be there for others? Have I looked after others I love appropriately as well?
Tonight, as our family sits down together at dinner before heading off to synagogue, I will as we do every year, ask each family member for their forgiveness. I will then bless each of our children and their spouses.
No one is perfect. I know too many of the mistakes that I made last year I will inadvertently repeat. Yet, each of us can work on ourselves to become a better person. I also know that as a therapist, this introspection can help me become more “at one” with myself and my world.
I wish for each of you an opportunity for meaningful reflection and all the best in the coming year.
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra’anana, and author of the book, Life’s Journey: Exploring Relationships – Resolving Conflicts. She has written about psychology in The Jerusalem Post since 2000. Send correspondence to