Frankl noticed a habit people have of hyperreflection. They’re preoccupied with how they look from an outside perspective as they are speaking or performing anything they are intent on “getting right,” rendering the task they’re engaged in impossible to perform.
The self-observation and self-preoccupation habit appears most acutely in the case of public speaking. With all eyes upon you, the tendency is to see yourself through their eyes as well. And then you won’t be there for the audience because you’ve removed the focus from them and put it onto yourself.
Frankl’s antidote to hyperreflection is dereflection. Take the focus off of yourself and reflect instead on the task at hand. Lose yourself. Be present in the experience itself. Focus on the music, on your love for the other person or on whatever you are doing and then, through losing your self you find yourself. You actualize yourself only when the goal is not self-actualization and you’re not thinking about yourself at all but only about the value and meaning in the task at hand.
I’ve developed over the years the ability to sense, in the course of an extended-over-time experience, an inner process consisting of a subtle shift taking place within myself from presence to self-observation and back to presence again. A friend once advised me that if I’m feeling shy and reticent in a social encounter I should use that as a cue to focus on the other person. This seems to me to be very logotherapeutic advice and it has served me well.
For me, prayer is a superb measure of my “hyperreflection and self-observation” quotient. If I’m not focused on my feelings and intent of the words, the default is either other distracting thoughts or self-observation.
This leads me to conclude that while prayer is the best measure of hyperreflection, prayer is at the same time ultimately the ideal opportunity for dereflection. We dereflect to something of value outside the self, and what is G-d if not ultimate absolute “otherness?”
But this is not what I sat down to write. My preface has become an idea all by itself.
I wanted to write about a Hebrew concept called livui (accompaniment).
Accompaniment means simply being accompanied by G-d wherever we go. The “contra” to accompaniment is to walk alone in the world, as if one has no Creator and no one to answer to. Esau who abandoned his birthright, Balaam who went to curse these people in tents who dwelled alone and the maidens of Pharoah’s daughter who argued against her intention to save Moses all walked alone. They didn’t consult G-d and were answerable to no one.
In contrast, the concept of accompaniment is to walk with G-d. “Hanoch walked with G-d,” With G-d Noah walked,” “Walk before me and be innocent,” “After the L-rd your G-d you shall walk…”
We usually think to call upon G-d to care for us when we’re in trouble. It conjures up the image of being carried. The idea of accompaniment is to take G-d with us wherever we go, that is to walk, breathe and live life with G-d beside us, walking hand in hand.
Prayer is not prayer unless it resounds with a desire for closeness. One can walk alone in prayer or even in the study of G-d’s word. One can mouth the words as if speaking to G-d while being only preoccupied with one’s self.
Walking with G-d engender a sense of independence and despite this independence we agree to have a chaperone. It bespeaks the truth about being human – master over his world yet lacking the independent existence he thinks he has.
It would be easier to lose one’s sense of self entirely but no. We are to have a sense of self and a sense of responsibility along with it in knowing we have to answer for our life. We never walk alone.
So when I pray or when I engage in a sacred encounter with another human being and I am focused on myself, I am walking alone. But when I forget about myself and focus instead on walking hand in hand with G-d in the world then I can truly be myself.
This morning I did a practice of walking with G-d in preparation to my prayer. I did the following:
1) I wrote down everything I wanted to say to G-d, everything I need help in
2) I read a chapter in Psalm and picked a verse that resonated.
3) I thought about its meaning and about how it is speaking to the issues written on my page
4) I said the verse repeatedly in a heartfelt way
In this process, where I dereflected away from my self-absorption and walked with G-d by my side, speaking heart-to-heart, I was able to express myself and to feel heard. I was able to be myself and express myself and cry in a way that I had been unable to do when I thought that I was only talking to myself and only observed and heard the echo of my words coming back to me.
Dereflection… – walking with G-d