Saturday, December 3, 2011


hyperreflection means to think about our problems incessantly. what we need then is a flight from the difficult situation, or rather a respite from it. viktor frankl called it dereflection. there is no use in pounding our heads all the time about the troubles that befall us. an escape is needed, an airing out of the suffocating inner chambers.

i watched a music show on tv tonight, and all the while i did not once think about my current circumstances, which are challenging. as soon as the show was over, however, i bumped into all the difficulties again. it felt like bumping into a brick wall. so how come that dereflection didn't help me? because what i did was not dereflection.

what i did was a more or less empty escapism. while keeping attention away from my problems, i didn't do anything to prepare myself to get back to the real life. escapism has its merits, it lets us breathe easier for a while, but it has no intrinsic value. what would, then, be dereflection, as opposed to escapism?

when we engage in an activity that we might call dereflection, apart from being distracted, we spend time dealing with things that have an authentic value, that charge us with positive energy and make us stronger to face life's difficulties. that could be a powerful movie, or a quality book, or spending time with well-meaning people. or reading psychology. watching a beautiful landscape. making food for other people. washing the car. e-mailing distant friends. just any activity that has a deep practical, artistic or scientific value, which works on us subliminally. not soaps, not most of what we can watch on tv, not video games. they just narcotize us.


  1. I like this, Janko. It makes a lot of sense, and is something I want to strive harder for; I’m still a master of distraction. But I’m sorry to hear that that wall was there for you.

    So, is this effectively trying to counter Freud’s call for us to find everything within ourselves? Or more to the point, that the answer might still be there inside, but searching for it directly might not always be the method of coming to it? Or, simplifying it even perhaps excessively, almost like sleeping on a problem? I’d be very curious to know how this sits with pursuits such as counselling and psycho-analysis.

    Sorry to bombard you with questions, but it’s your fault, posting such interesting and provocative blog entries!

    As an aside, would it have been more meaningful if you had been listening to music, rather than watching it?

  2. great questions, paul. thanks for that. i'll try to answer one by one, within my limited scope.

    i do not think that dereflection excludes finding the living power within ourselves - i'd rather say that sometimes we are too preoccupied with worry, too broken to think or plunge deep within ourselves. when we are emotional wrecks, even our reason doesn't function properly. in such situations running away from the problem has a soothing effect. if we run away into something meaningful, we will effortlessly and spontaneously attune our inner selves with the values we are in contact with, and thus reaffirm our strength. so, the key is both within us and outside of us. there's a reiki prayer saying that 'when you are in the deep place in you, and i am in that place in me, we are one'.

    i also wouldn't call it 'sleeping on a problem', since sleeping denotes a rather passive activity. still, i am not underestimating the power of sleep.

    dereflection is one of the crucial methods in logotherapy (besides 'paradoxical intention'), but i am not sure whether other counselling or psychotherapeutic practices use it in this form. however, they certainly tell clients to 'go on a trip', engage in some fruitful activity, do some gardening, etc, which can be called dereflection.

    your last question is brilliant. my 'sobering up' would certainly have been different had i gone for a walked and listened to tschaikovsky or michael kiwanuka on my ipod, compared to me watching the local version of x-factor for over two hours :) but it would be cool to try it out and gauge the results ;)

    p.s. i'll try to engage a logotherapist from kansas in this discussion and see what he has to say.

  3. Hi Janko,

    I love your blog post and I think you make an important observation. Dereflection could be easily misunderstood as escapism. Many of my clients say that they feel better if they just "keep themselves busy." But, this only postpones dealing with the problem.

    Dereflection runs deeper than this. Dereflection is to turn away from the problem, yes, and also to turn toward something of meaning and purpose. That is, something of genuine meaning and purpose to the individual, not just "busy work" or "escapism."

    I can't comment on the psychoanalysis, but I know the positive psychology movement has found something similar. The positive psychologists are saying not to focus only on eliminating weaknesses, but to also focus on enhancing strengths. That is, do or experience that which is personally meaningful. In their explanation, which I like, traditional therapy like psychoanalysis seeks to move a person from -10 to 0. Dereflection, like positive psychology, seeks to move a person from 0 to +10.

    I can't wait to read more of your blog!

    the aforementioned logotherapist from Kansas :)

  4. thank you so much marshall, for finding the time to read and respond, and for giving such a great insight. i am sure my friend paul and other readers will appreciate your contribution - it has the professional touch that we are lacking.

    talk to you soon :)

  5. Ah, now I like this even more! Thank you both for your replies. They helped me understand this better. For me, it brings a balance to the constant deconstruction of actions by also adding construction to our lives.

    There is a popular self-help book called 'The Velvet Rage' by Alan Downs (quite motivational for an emotional novice like myself!), and in the final section he defines the need to heal traumas, and also to seek and nurture contentment. These two elements seem to be the two scales that Marshall mentions.

    I really appreciate your clarity (both of you).

  6. contentment is to be nurtured, because it is a fleeting sensation. cheers paul

  7. Thank you for the post and comments. My employment contract shall expire soon, i.e. I expect my employment to be terminated, and I'll then spend time dealing with things that have an authentic value, while searching for the new job... I'll watch again the movie 'The Road' for example, or read the novel (Cormac McCarthy)...

  8. job sometimes does get in our way of having a full take of life, so, if possible, it is best to combine what we have to do with what is deeply meaningful. a balance should be stricken there.