Countervailing

Nature’s natures are phenomenal which when understood makes one feel awe about it. Countervailing is one of such blissful natures that Mother Nature has engraved on man. Countervailing is the reverse-balancing to ensure that you are corrected, if needed, mid-course in your journey toward your set destination so that your actions will be in harmony with the non-negotiable fundamentals of nature. Nature itself countervails! Summer is countervailed by winter, autumn by spring, centrifugal by centripetal, and examples of the nature’s countervailing are aplenty. Nature thrives by countervailing! Do you countervail yourself? Do you allow others to countervail you? Why should one do countervailing? Man has no power to defy cosmic laws that  govern his life, hence, needs to check if he is in harmony with the laws of life.

To easily understand the concept of countervailing, let me explain it with a simple example. Why do we slip when we step on banana peel? We slip because of the absence of friction. Conversely, we do not slip while on move, thanks to the presence of countervailing force called friction. Sir Isaac Newton explained friction in the First Law of Motion: “In an internal frame of reference, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity unless acted upon by a force.” To put it much easier to connect with this blog, the law can be paraphrased that a body in motion continues to do so until it is stopped by a force. In our life, this countervailing by friction is a default action that we fail to notice.

Countervailing happens at intrapersonal and interpersonal level. Introspection is the amphitheater of intrapersonal countervailing.  Behavioral scientists advocate that one should spend time alone and reflect upon oneself. Self-reflection is an attempt to check and recheck whether the path followed by one is in harmony with the nature’s rules. As you self-reflect, incidents and events of the past, particularly of the immediate past, unravel before you, with an open-ended freedom to look at them critically. None other than oneself has the open-ended freedom to make unsolicited critical observation on oneself because when others do it, it is likely to hurt ego. In his best-seller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Steven Covey cites ‘Sharpen the saw’ as one of the 7 Habits. He says that pausing and self-reflecting rekindle a person, adding impetus to fine-tuning the thoughts leading to better outputs. 


Introspection is the inner inspection. In other words, it is the internal audit of oneself for oneself by oneself. Introspection adds immense incremental value to your life provided that you do the auditing sincerely. It carriers out rewinding of the past doings through the inner eyes of an independent observer and curator that you are,  in order to balance and rebalance your life. Acting on the outcome of introspection is as much important as the introspection itself. In the fast-paced life, we may not have time to pause and reflect though the fact is that such reflections make us faster and sharper like the improved effectiveness of a saw as said by Covoy. It can even lead to resetting of your targets. 

There is an anteroom before introspection, and many people get stuck there,  thereby preventing themselves from entering the room of introspection. There are two players in this anteroom: self-doubting and self-questioning. Doubts are answered by asking questions. However, doubting and questioning have mutually exclusive relation in between them. This is best demonstrated when we hyphenate these two variables with self. Self-doubting and self-questioning are two elements in our thought process, juxtaposing each other with a natural competition set in between them to better the other. They work in the same sphere of our mind, and each one of them competes for the maximum space of that sphere. Unless confronted and addressed, self-doubting is capable of eating up self-questioning, 

Self-questioning is the working of one’s abilities to critically look at one’s own thoughts as well as actions while self-doubting is the lack of confidence in one’s own abilities. Self-doubting is a dead-beginner, meaning it disables and immobilizes you from thinking by you about you. On the other hand, self-questioning critically evaluates your abilities vis-à-vis a task and arrives at a conclusion if you can or cannot do it.  In our everyday life, we go through tussles between self-doubting and self-questioning, with us being unaware of it most of the time. Triumph of self-questioning over self-doubting is a prerequisite to enter the room of introspection.

How are self-questioning and introspection related? Self-questioning is the precursor to introspection. The fundamental difference between them is that in introspection one has open-ended and absolute freedom to self-evaluate while self-questioning gives relative freedom limited to a task. Introspection  is more learning than reasoning unlike in self-questioning. Self-questioning is a reaction when confronted with a task while introspection is a process by itself. Self-questioning gives answers to the questions asked while introspection reveals answers holistically, covering both asked  and unasked questions,  In introspection, mistakes are valued as they give new answers without having any questions raised. Introspection impartially countervails you against and for you.

Interpersonal countervailing can be in the form of advice, suggestion, instruction, order, request, etc. Nobody is the final authority on anything, for barring truth nothing is absolute. It means that whatever someone says on anything is debatable. This factual proposition opens up the room for interpersonal countervailing. An advice from a friend can make you realize the shortfalls or shortcomings; a suggestion from an acquaintance may help you to redo what you did and get a better result; a request from a stranger can force you to rethink and make necessary changes in your approach; and so on.

Countervailing is as important as the momentum of your progression in life, for without countervailing, you can be either dead-in-motion or poised to hit against an unknown wall. When to pause or change the direction is as much important as the move itself. Do not self-doubt but self-question. Do cultivate a habit of self-questioning as a way of training yourself on the road to introspection because the habit of introspection does not happen overnight.

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