An excess of self reflection?

As a social worker I have been well trained in self reflection, self awareness, and critical thinking. For most of my career I have worked directly with clients, and have always endeavoured to remain self aware to understand why I sometimes respond in particular ways to different clients. For example, I know that I naturally trust and like men with beards. Probably because my dad has a beard, and he’s pretty swell and trustworthy. But I think it’s important to know that about myself, as not all men with beards are friendly guys, and it would be unprofessional and very unhealthy if I approached all bearded clients with that mindset.

But lately I’ve been wondering if there is such a thing as too much self reflection, or if it is necessary to be so with friends. When I talk with people (friends, colleagues, strangers, and clients) I find I can’t quite relax. I’m thinking all the time about my body language and my facial expressions. Rather than listening to what they say, I’m often thinking about what they’re saying. And while it seems odd, this means that I often miss important points. Actually, I think I often miss the whole point. I add meaning where there is none, and because I am trying to analyse how I respond to what someone is saying, I accidentally make it all about me. This is not deliberate. But I imagine it would be very annoying. I hate it when other people do it to me.

I’m curious if other social workers, psychologists, therapists etc… do the same thing. Is this a professional quirk, or just an oddity specific to me. I wonder how I can switch it off.

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1 comment
  1. Yael said:

    I do it too sometimes. Too much time analyzing rather than just listening to stuff and taking it on face value.
    In social work and mental health nursing you learn to look for the subtext in every interaction, but often in life there is no subtext, just a friend looking for someone to listen.

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