Critical Reflection isn't Mental Masturbation

I’m always advocating that people critically reflect about roles in their lives as a first step towards defining and creating healthier realities.  I don’t think, in any way, that it’s mental masturbation to do this exercise.  To me, understanding the roles we fill is almost as important as breathing or eating.  If we do not seek to understand the roles we fill, we run the risk of passing blindly through life.

Though I’ve given my opinion about the criteria through which that reflection should occur, I think I should provide a sample of how I believe critical reflection about roles can work.  To review, a person will develop psychological empowerment through a role he or she fills if that person is:

  1. Situated = People are situated within a role when they gain a sense of meaning from the role and believe themselves competent within the role they fill.
  2. Social = influential (impact)+ influence-able, and interdependent.
  3. Autonomous = self determining.  A person defines the role methods for him or her self, even though the context defines role behaviors.
  4. Flexible = People within roles must be flexible in order to adapt to contextual changes.

So then, the first thing to do is to find a role for critical reflection.  For me, after being a Father and Husband, the most important role I fill is “Educator.”  I’ll reflect this role through the four (4) criteria.

First, do I believe myself to be a competent educator and do I gain meaning from being and Educator?  I have little doubt of my capability as an educator.  The vehicle through which I educate is writing; I have formally trained as an educator and I practice this role, every day, through a variety of duties. But, I provide as much information as I can such that anyone who reads my work can gain a sense of literacy about the proverbial water in which he or she swims.  As for meaning, literally, “educate” derives from the latin word, “educere,” which means to lead forth.  As an educator, it is my mission to lead others in leading themselves.  I believe we are all capable of leading our own lives to the best of our abilities and it has become my life’s mission to carry out that belief through providing as much insight and information as I can.

Second, am I autonomous? Without any doubt, I have defined for myself the means through which I educate.  Really, I write, therefore I am.  I do find myself having to write about a wide variety of topics, but I do so through my own voice using my own wrords.

Third, I am definitely influenced by life itself and I carry hope, everyday, that I do positively impact others towards making healthy and positive choices.

Fourth, am I flexible within my “educator” role? Here again, because I often find myself within divergent domains (technological and clinical), I must remain flexible such that I can quickly respond to an environment that can switch at any moment.

Now that I’ve completed my reflection, I do feel a sense that I have been richly blessed to perform my life’s mission.  The whole process took around twenty minutes; I know these terms well (I coined them).  it may take you longer, but it’s a rewarding exercise.  If you do reflect about a role and the outcome is more negative, see the role as a limiting factor about which you can make changes.  Otherwise, have fun with it.  I promise that it isn’t mental masturbation, but a valid exercise.