4 Ways to Gain Insight

I’ve been a clinical therapist for eight years and have worked with many people from varying ages, gender, and ethnicities. Most of my clients have been mandated to attend treatment by court, probation/parole, or DCF (Department of Children and Families). But I had a select few who made the decision to seek out therapy because they wanted to make changes and/or receive support in their lives. Mandated or voluntary, what remains the same with each client is their motivation for change. Now don’t get me wrong, some clients may not be seeking a drastic change, they may need assistance with learning how to better communicate, or changing an unhealthy habit, or tapping into their strengths. No matter the motivation-insight will move your life forward.

Insight or as Oprah calls it, the “a-ha moment” or your intuition. We’ve all experienced it but may not have realized it. Webster defines insight as:

1: the power or act of seeing into a situation or 2: the act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively

Also known as perception or discernment, the ability to have insight is the ability to understand what is motivating a thought, feeling, or behavior. When a person lacks insight, it’s like they have blinders on and can only see certain things but not the whole picture. I have found a big reason why we may have difficulty with changing has to do with how much insight we have. Here are four ways you can improve insight:

  1. Self awareness involves reflecting on what is going on in your life, the themes or patterns of thinking and behaviors in your life. By using self-reflection, you gain insight as to who you are today, accepting that person and identifying if that person is in line with who you envision yourself to be. Journaling and getting feedback from loved ones are helping tools.
  2. Challenging defense mechanisms and identifying barriers. You may have heard of defense mechanisms such as projection, all or nothing thinking, sublimation, and my favorite, denial. Defense mechanisms are ways of thinking based on our perceptions. They are our mind’s way of protecting us from things we may not be ready to deal with. When we challenge defense mechanisms, we are calling them out and looking for evidence to support that way of thinking. Often times we will find the evidence is false and this realization moves us in the right direction of becoming more aware of our perception, thoughts, and intentions.

  3. Identify Your Motivation. We tell a lot about what is valuable to us by what we choose to put our effort into. The say goes, “you make time for the things you care about”. This is true with gaining insight. An important part of making changes or goal-setting is identifying what is the motivation behind it. By looking at what motivates you, you’ll have a better idea of your likelihood to be committed to that change or reaching that goal. If the motivation is rooted in superficiality (like most New Year’s resolutions) then it’s most likely your commitment will quickly wane. However, if the motivation is valuable to your personal growth, you will most likely see more reason why you should continue making the effort on the daily.

  4. Be accountable. Taking responsibility is the grown up and mature thing to do. There are a lot of children walking around in grown folks’ bodies because they are not taking responsibility for their actions, thoughts, beliefs. When we take responsibility, we are taking ownership- good or bad. We aren’t feeding the ego, releasing negativity, and placing us on the path to accept personal characteristics that may no longer serve us. Being accountable empowers us to decide if what we are doing and who we are is working for us. If it is, great, if not, then it’s time to accept that, discontinue allowing that behavior (person, thought, situation) in our life and move forward.

Here are some helpful articles on gaining insight:

How to Have More Insights 

3 Ways to Connect to Your Intuition

12 Qualities of An Enlightened Person

Insight Therapy

How to Develop Insight into Your Own Life