In what seems like another life now, I joined a 12 step program to recover from alcoholism. This program was strong on uncovering your character defects through personal inventory. While nobody can deny that this meeting with the self must take place for recovery to occur, there are some potential pitfalls with this approach.

Self-analysis throught introspection will usually result in an "I am" statement about yourself. These judgements can easily become generalized character labels that tend to have a self-fulfilling quality to them.

For example, those who have been made feel fear can easily label themselves as fearful, even cowardly, because their behaviour has been directed by fear at some stage. Similarly, those with feelings of inferiority can fall into the same trap. The feelings of inferiority experienced in certain situations can become a generalized character trait. They are not inferior as such, but labelling yourself in this way can make it difficult to resist this conclusion.

Society will continually present us with the circumstances that will generate the emotions and encourage behaviour that confirms the label we have placed upon ourselves. But the fact that you have been made feel and act in a particular way does not mean that we are qualitatively the character we are labelling ourselves to be.

It means simply that you have been made feel a certain way. No more no less. What needs to change is your cognitive evaluation of the situation and what you feel in that situation. Because you have been made feel a certain way in a particular situation way does not mean that you are what you feel yourself to be all the time.

I would like to suggest that next time you decide to take a personal inventory you make it an emotional inventory, and as far as possible, avoid making qualitative character judgements about yourself based on those emotions.

In this way you will be able to identify those areas in which you need to grow and learn new skills without generalizing those feelings into self-fulfilling character generalizations about yourself.

Author's Bio: 

Rob.Jager has effected a long term recovery from alcoholism and is the author of the HungerMaster Weight Management Program.