What is Naikan Therapy? Japanese Self-Reflection Technique

What is Naikan Therapy? Japanese Self-Reflection Technique

What is Naikan Therapy? Japanese Self-Reflection Technique

Naikan (内観) is a structured method of self-reflection that originated in Japan in the 1920s. It aims to help people better understand themselves, their relationships, and the fundamental interconnectedness of humanity.

The Purpose of Naikan

The purpose of Naikan is to shift our self-perspective. Often we get caught up in our own needs and wants. Naikan helps us consider how much effort others expend to support us.

This self-reflection technique guides us to contemplate three key questions:

  • What have I received from others?
  • What have I given to others?
  • What troubles and difficulties have I caused others?

The History of Naikan

Naikan was developed in the 1920s by Yoshimoto Ishin, a Japanese businessman who owned a chain of pharmacies. After a dispute with his brothers, Ishin spent three days meditating in a temple.

During this deep self-reflection, he realized how self-centered his perspective had been. He emerged with a desire to help others contemplate the support they had received from people in their lives.

How Naikan Therapy Works

In a formal Naikan session, participants spend several days contemplating their key relationships – often starting with their mothers or other caregivers from childhood.

Guided by a trained Naikan counselor, they reflect on:

  • What they received
  • What they gave back
  • The difficulties they caused

The counselor may also ask occasional clarifying questions if needed. This structured self-contemplation aims to reveal our interconnectedness and shift our perspective from self-centered to other-centered.

The Benefits of Naikan

Research on Naikan is still emerging, but existing studies suggest it can:

  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Improve self-awareness and life perspective
  • Deepen appreciation for others
  • Inspire compassionate action

By better understanding our own lives in the context of support from others, Naikan helps cultivate both wisdom and gratitude.

Naikan in Daily Life

While formal Naikan requires working with a trained counselor, anyone can apply its principles of self-reflection to daily life.

Set aside some quiet time each day or week to contemplate:

  • What you have received from others
  • What you have given back
  • What difficulties you may have caused

Consider all types of support – emotional, physical, financial, etc. See each person in your life compassionately. Notice areas for growth with non-judgment. This simple practice can foster profound shifts in perspective over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of Naikan?

The purpose of Naikan is to cultivate self-reflection, interconnectedness, wisdom, gratitude, and compassion.

What do you contemplate during Naikan?

During Naikan, you contemplate three key questions about your relationships – what you have received, what you have given, and what troubles you have caused.

How is Naikan done formally?

In formal Naikan practice, you work with a trained Naikan counselor, reflecting intensely on your key relationships over the course of several days.

What are the benefits of Naikan?

Benefits of Naikan include reduced anxiety and depression, improved perspective and self-awareness, deeper appreciation of others, and inspiration for compassionate action.

Can I practice Naikan at home?

Yes, you can practice Naikan principles of self-reflection on your own at home without a counselor. Set aside quiet time to contemplate what you have received, given, and the troubles you have caused in your relationships.