Tools for Self-Archeology

The process of self-archeology might be slow, hard, and sometimes exhausting and emotionally unpleasant. However, the results are invaluable!

In the same way that going on an archeological expedition requires special tools and equipment, going on a self-archeological expedition requires special tools.

Here I'll present several simple, but effective methods that might help you more effectively know yourself better, build a closer relationship with yourself, heal, and grow. [NOTE: I've decided to present these tools briefly here, and describe them in more detail in future posts, or in a book.]

So, what are these self-archeology tools, and why are they important?

Journaling. Journaling is probably the most effective tool of self-knowledge, self-monitoring, and self-analysis; and it often relates closely to other self-archeology tools. We can write about everything – including our emotions, states, needs, experiences, thoughts, theories, plans, dreams, fears, inner conflicts, irrational behavior, childhood, adolescence, daily life, family history, past relationships, traumas, interactions with people, memories, and anything else that’s inside of us and a part of us.

Identifying our's personal core virtues and values, and living in accordance to them. We can take a clear inventory of our virtues and values to use as a compass when we're lost.

Having an objective methodology for evaluating what's true and what’s false (in all areas of life). We ask fundamental questions, including: "What is truth?" "Is this true?" "How do we know whether something's true or false?" "What is good, and why?" and "What is evil, and why?" The disciplines that might help us find answers to these and similar questions are logic and (empirical) science – or, in combination, philosophy.

Developing awareness. We can understand and monitor what’s going on and why, how we are feeling and why, and how we are behaving and why. Awareness helps us to live a more conscious life.

Taking responsibility for our life. We understand that only we ourselves are responsible for our life and well-being – nobody else – and that our actions have consequences, and we are responsible for those, too. This helps us to realize that our actions are meaningful and impactful, and allows us to live healthier and more effective lives.

Learning conflict resolution and effective communication. Sadly, many people (for various reasons) don't know how to handle or avoid conflicts, or how to communicate effectively. It is a good investment to learn how to listen attentively, how to express ourselves soundly and clearly, how to avoid or resolve conflicts, how to have rational discussion, how to have healthy interpersonal boundaries, how to negotiate, and so on.

Consulting with a good specialist (therapist, consultant, etc.). An empathetic, competent, and wise specialist can help us to make our self-archeological expedition much easier. Sometimes our life might be a very hard, lonely, confusing, or frightening; therefore, a safe and growth-provoking space, provided by a competent specialist, can help us significantly.

Pursuing self-education. Reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts, writing, learning from wise people – all of this is very important because it helps us heal, grow, and improve both intellectually and emotionally.

Analyzing dreams. Dreams are the treasury of our psyche. We can learn A LOT about ourselves if we take time to analyze and understand our dreams.

Analyzing art. This process is somewhat similar to dream analysis, since art often uses indirect, metaphorical, symbolic communication. This process, like dream analysis, can be very useful and help us to understand ourselves better.

Exercising and eating a healthy diet. Our body is the place where our mind lives. If we want a healthy mind, it's wise and biologically required to remember to take good care of the whole body.

Pursuing meaningful and enjoyable activity. Boredom and emptiness are dangerous and tiring. It's very important to perform pleasant and meaningful activity (or various activities). This means that we learn and understand what's important and enjoyable to us in life – what career to have, what job to take, how to spend our leisure time, etc.

Breaking addictions and bad habits. Addiction occurs when we ignore, don't understand, or can't meet our true, deeper needs, and we soothe ourselves with various substances or activities to relieve our anxiety. We seek to acknowledge our addictions, understand them and the true needs behind them, and then let go of them (if possible). Addiction takes a lot of forms, involving excessive dependency on things like drugs, various substances, sex, relationships, power, gambling, sports, work, internet, shopping, music, masturbation, TV, video games, food, etc.

Noticing basic needs and having a healthy routine. We should remember to eat, drink, and get enough sleep, and acknowledge our tiredness and physical pain, and create small, daily goals and healthy habits. Those things help us to feel more in control and have more structure in life.

Relaxing or meditating. It's important to find time and a quiet place where you can be with yourself in serenity for a while, and relax emotionally and physically.

Achieving financial safety and responsibility. For obvious reasons, it's wise and useful to take care of ourselves financially, to be financially safe and knowledgeable, and to handle money responsibly.

Simplifying our life. Sometimes it's useful to minimize our legal and financial responsibilities, our debts and expenses, perhaps move into a cheaper apartment, sell stuff, etc. – at the cost of a more comfortable lifestyle. This can reduce stress and provide more safety in more important areas of our life.

Finding allies and supporters. Having like-minded people in our life might make our self-archeological journey A LOT easier, not so lonely, and more interesting.

Socializing. Of course, it's very useful and interesting to socialize with people who share the same virtues and values as we do. But sometimes it can be helpful to socialize in general (even on a superficial level) and try to build a network of acquaintances, and to meet new people. This is also a good way to find new allies and supporters.

Withdrawing from interacting with aggressive and toxic people. It's useful to socialize; however, it's unhealthy and harmful to socialize with people who are abusive in any way, who try to undermine you, manipulate you, guilt trip you, blame you for everything, exploit you, and so on – be it your partner, your family member, or your friend "friend."

Having no children for a while (if you don't have any yet). A child, let alone more than one, requires A LOT of responsibility, time, money, emotional strength and maturity, knowledge, patience, and other resources. Not many people have all of these. Also, if we haven’t consciously processed our own childhood traumas, history, and past relationships, and we don’t have a strong bond with ourselves, we will project and act out our unresolved inner conflicts and traumas on our child – consciously or (most likely) unconsciously. This will inevitably traumatize him or her, in the same way that we were traumatized in the past. It's wiser to get our own life intact first, and only then to think about having children.

Changing ourselves rather than others. Compulsively trying to change and control others is not very healthy – and essentially, it's a form of Sisyphus work. If we are unhappy, it's wiser and more effective to concentrate on ourselves, not on others. Most of today's problems – and our true, authentic happiness – come from the inside, not from the outside. It's wiser to concentrate on ourselves and try to change our own life, instead of trying to change others’.

Cultivating a wider perspective. Overall, life is a very complex phenomenon, and sometimes it's useful to look at it from a larger perspective – so that today's problems might seem not so tough, and perhaps on some level even fun.

Having fun. It's important to remember to thank ourselves regularly, to look at all the good things in our present life, to regularly have something to wait for, and to do something fun – read a book, listen to music, sing, laugh, go for a nice walk, travel, daydream, play, and feel the beauty of life.

Addendum. Keep in mind the following possible effects of these tools, if applied:

1) They might produce some (or a lot of) unpleasant emotions – after all, emotional and intellectual growth and healing are (in a way) painful.

2) They might have exceptions – everyone's life is unique.

3) They might comprehensively facilitate the processes of healing, growing, self-nurturing, and maturing – i.e., the processes of self-archeology.

Support my work by becoming a Patreon subscriber for $5/mo or more and get access to bonus articles. And check out my book Human Development and Trauma: How Childhood Shapes Us into Who We Are as Adults. Thanks!


  1. It's all very interesting and - in many ways - wise, but there are 2 points I have some doubts about (or, to put it better, I have doubts about the real possibility of fulfilling them):
    1. "only we ourselves are responsible for our life and well-being – nobody else" - it's mostly true but there are exceptions (accidents, various tragedies etc.). If someone shoots you in the street or a drunk driver hits you and leaves you bleeding in the street it's not you fault, is it?
    2. "Financial safety and responsibility" - not everyone can earn a lot of money. Moreover - not everyone can earn enough to reasonably support themselves. Imagine a world without janitors, garbage people, factory workers and many other people performing so called menial jobs. Just businessmen, specialists of all sorts and - as I call them - corporobots. Not really possible, isn't it?

  2. Hi, I'll try to clarify those two points at least somewhat...

    "only we ourselves are responsible for our life and well-being – nobody else" What I mean by that is that nobody else has the obligation to save us and take care of us. Only I (assuming I'm an adult) am responsible for fulfilling my own needs. However I see a lot of people who put their happiness into somebody else's hands or passively wait for something to happen. I talk more about personal responsibility in this blog post.

    "Financial safety and responsibility" Sure, not everyone can earn a lot of money. I'm saying that financial safety and financial responsibility HELPS when you are healing from early trauma and growing. I know that there are a lot of people (especially labeled with severe mental disorders like schizophrenia / psychosis) who have great difficulties healing because they don't have a job or enough money to get by in life. Healing is hard enough in itself - it's way harder if you have to worry whether you'll have enough money for food and rent next month.

    Beyond that, even for a relatively healthy person life is easier and happier if they know how to handle money and to take care of themselves.

    I hope it helps,

  3. Ok, thanks a lot, it does clarify things for me.

    But let me dig a little more (I'm on my neverending journey of self-discovery too so please forgive me for being a pain in the arse here ;-))...

    1. I posted a really long comment uder the post you've provided the link to. I'm very eager to read your answer for that because it's a thing that's been bugging me for ages. To put it short - should we, as mature humans, take responsibility for everything that happens to us regardless of the environment (it's an attitude that lead a person who's very dear to me to the psychiatrist) or is it actually more healthy to accept that we are NOT - and will never be - perfect and as such we are bound to fail now and then and it doesn't neccessarily have to be our fault?

    2. Financial security does help indeed - and as a person who was verging on homelessness due to extremely low income (even though I worked as much as I do now) I agree with that. However, I don't think that low income automatically equals being irresponsible. That would be a sweeping generalisation - please, correct me if I'm wrong.

    I'm not here to reject your theses - they are very valuable, very interesting and definitely worth learning - I simply need to understand them better. Because, as an imperfect human being, I'm bound to misunderstand sometimes ;-)

    Best regards,

  4. 1. I'm talking about adequate, reasonable, rational responsibility for one's own actions and one's own life. I'm not saying that we are responsible for EVERYTHING that happens to us. Of course there are a lot of things that are not in our control (for example, weather, other people's actions, accidents, etc.). However, a lot of people feel way more helpless and irresponsible (i. e. don't take responsibility for their own life to the extent that it's in their control).

    You've mentioned perfectionism, and I didn't say that healthy people should be perfect, nor I believe that people can be perfect. Actually, perfection is a very unhealthy standard, because it's impossible to achieve. And mistakes are an inevitable, healthy, and very useful part of life. I think I'll be talking more about making mistakes and perfectionism in my future posts...

    To put it shortly, I'm not responsible if I get mugged in the middle of the in the park. But I'm responsible for being fat if I'm sitting at home watching TV, eating ice cream.

    I know that sometimes personal responsibility might be in the grey area, but that doesn't mean that we are always responsible for EVERYTHING that happens to us - or that we have NO responsibility at all (i. e. fatalism).

    2. "However, I don't think that low income automatically equals being irresponsible." I agree. And I never said such statement. What I mean is that if one is on their path of healing and self-knowledge, it really helps to be responsible with your money. I don't think that there's something inherently wrong with having a low income - and there's nothing inherently wrong with having a high income. I'm saying that it would be helpful to track your income/expenses, to avoid overspending, to take care of your real needs instead of buying a new flat screen TV, etc. That's what I mean when I say "financial responsibility".

    I hope it helps,

  5. Thank you so much for your reply. That clarifies pretty much everything!

    "You've mentioned perfectionism, and I didn't say that healthy people should be perfect, nor I believe that people can be perfect. Actually, perfection is a very unhealthy standard, because it's impossible to achieve" - these are the words of a wise man! We should learn to forgive ourselves our own shortcomings. Of course we should continue the quest of becoming better human beings but what we can't do, well... we simply can't do. We should accept that and move on.

    " I don't think that there's something inherently wrong with having a low income - and there's nothing inherently wrong with having a high income. I'm saying that it would be helpful to track your income/expenses, to avoid overspending, to take care of your real needs instead of buying a new flat screen TV, etc. That's what I mean when I say "financial responsibility"." - I couldn't agree more! I'd say it's always worth it to try to pursue a satysfying carreer, and if you make a lot of money doing what you're great at (and doing it with integrity, maintaining good ethical standards), you have my deepest respect! I'm simply against stigmatizing people who don't do very well in the job market and now I can see you hold a similar opinion.

    Thank you once again!

  6. I'm glad it was useful to you :)

    Yes, it requires a lot of insight and vulnerability to recognize and accept that we are not perfect, that we are not invincible, and that mistakes are a normal part of life.

    Best of luck on your path of self-archeology, Jarek :)

  7. This is an amazing outline- quick and useful. These were the life values that should be taught to every child. We all need these tools and thank you for getting those tools out there to so many. I really respect you. Please keep up your wonderful work! ^_^

  8. Cheers Cyi Taiga, and thank you for your feedback :)

  9. Thank u great article and comments responses I love reading information that I can relate and feel safe reading too really helps my process ability of understanding thank u


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