Focus Your Attention on Connection

Use Naikan Therapy to increase your awareness of connections with others.



A man helps children with homework.

Focus Your Attention on Connection

Do you remember that kid who copied your homework in third grade? What about that person who pushed ahead of you at the coffee shop last week? For some people, these slights stick around and add up. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a practice that could help shed those perceived wrongdoings?

Naikan therapy was originally developed by Yoshimoto Ishin in Japan, and calls on us to examine ourselves in a way that can reveal our interdependence with other beings and objects (Krech, 2002). A colleague of mine calls the Naikan approach “worldfulness in the place of mindfulness.”

There are three central questions in Naikan therapy:

  1. “What have I received today?”
  2. “What have I given today?”
  3. “What troubles or difficulties have I caused today?”

The answers to these questions can involve beings and inanimate objects alike, and interactions large and small. For example, for the question of what you received today, how about “I received the warmth of a nice sweater my partner gave me last year,” or “I received the benefits of my white male privilege today when I was served first at the store.” For the question of what you’ve given, it can be as simple as “I gave my fish some food,” or “I provided some career counseling to someone looking for a job.” And for troubles or difficulties, how about “I yelled at someone who angered me,” or “I forgot to mow the lawn today even though I told my partner I would.”

Note the absence of any question about how others may have wronged you; that type of reflection is more likely to engender feelings of separation, alienation, and resentment.

The Naikan reflection approach can help foster awareness of the connections and support that we receive from the world, which we’re often quite unaware of. Try practicing this Naikan therapy today. If you like how that goes, try it one weekday per week and one weekend day per week. If that works for you, then try it every day.

Naikan therapy is one of the approaches I use in my own counseling with clients. If you’re interested in making an appointment to talk more about how this could be helpful in your own life, click here to schedule an appointment. For a handy guide and worksheet PDF for daily Naikan reflection that I put together, click here.

Krech, G. (2002). Naikan: Gratitude, grace, and the Japanese art of self-reflection. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press.

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