Insight: Reflecting together can help overcome emotional barriers

Reflecting Together

In the sensitizing phase of contextmapping, participants observe and reflect on a part of their own lives. What can methods used in the sensitizing phase learn from psychological and neurological brain research concerning provoking reflection?

For some people, this self-reflection is difficult. Research literature supports this finding. Neurological brain research found that reflection and emotion are physically connected: one brain area (vMPFC), is active in both emotion regulation and self-reflection (L. van der Meer et al., 2009). The brain area plays an important role in the regulation of emotions. Also psychological research supports that emotions are constantly part of the cognitive process, and concluded that such emotional elements can be a barrier for a person to gain self-understanding from reflection (Staudinger, 2001). To increase self-understanding emotional elements, have to be separated from thoughts. This suggests some directions for improving the effect of contextmapping. For example, in sensitizing, let pairs of participants reflecting together instead of alone. One can help the other in discovering his or her blind spots, and see emotion and cognition separate from each other.

In this series, we highlight inspiring insights in the process from MyFutures, obtained through the cases or educational programs. This insight is obtained by Hannah van der Ploeg within the TU Delft MSc course ‘Context and Conceptualisation’. In this course, the student conducted literature research to get insights on the topic of reflecting.

Van Der Meer, L., Costafreda, S., Aleman, A., David, A.S. (2012). Self-reflection and the brain: A theoretical review and meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies with implications for schizophrenia. Groningen: University Medical Centre Groningen, Department of Neuroscience.

Staudinger, U.M. (2001). The Need to Distinguish Personal from General Wisdom: A Short History and Empirical Evidence. Columbia: Aging Center, Columbia University.