As someone who has been very introverted and socially isolated for a lot of my life, I have a bit of an understanding of what “self-referential processing” is, what it does and why it’s dysfunctional.
Put simply, “self-referential processing” is where you ascribe personality traits to yourself and they become your fixed physical, emotional and mental identity. When you’ve got no one to give you feedback or communicate with, you give feedback to yourself and you literally create a view of the world based around your identity regardless of whether it’s accurate or not.
This process can lead to very deep levels of depression, anxiety and social isolation if it becomes pathological and if it does it takes a lot of work to get out of in order to become or regain the ability to be a normal functioning person.
The main way recovery occurs is through reconnecting to something larger than oneself. Usually your community or maybe some sort of self actualised project that makes a difference. It’s often found that people who self referentially process tend to find a lot of benefit in helping and being of service to others. From personal experience, I know this is true. At times you feel like you can’t do it, but once you begin, things get progressively better and you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Meditation and handwriting also help a lot on a personal level but that’s another subject for another day.
From what I observe, I see a lot of pathological self-referential processing occurring on a much larger scale in both of the major political parties. In the ALP and their supporters it tends to be views in regards to their opponents and the media’s ability to influence public opinion. In the Coalition parties and their supporters, it tends to show up in the siege mentality and their fear that the world is on the verge of collapse unless they’re in control of the government.
I think these views (“core beliefs” might be a more realistic term) are inhibiting a functional conversation and contest of ideas because both views are full of internal contradictions and emotional baggage.
Getting over it is not something that can be done at the click of one’s fingers because when things become systems they become awfully difficult to break out of.
The clip below is of Bob Hawke when he was the leader of the opposition at the National Press Club during the 1983 election campaign. What it shows is someone who is charismatic, engaged, optimistic and relatable on multiple levels e.g interpersonally and in terms of the larger issues confronting the nation.
I think the cure to this self-referentially processed malaise that has infected Canberra, the major political parties and the national conversation is a confident articulation of the big picture, how things are getting better and the feeling that people can do something wherever they are to in order to make a difference. Otherwise all we get is the self-referential bickering for the sake of bickering that so often occupies social media, newspapers and television in relation to anything political rather than anything constructive and purposeful which is what people really need and want.