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Reflection Deficit Disorder

I’d like to propose a new disorder for your consideration. I call it R.D.D. – “Reflection Deficit Disorder.” My bet is that most of us suffer from it. I know I do. Over 40 years ago, Alvin Toffler, in his book Future Shock, posited that the rate of technological and social change leaves people d…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I’d like to propose a new disorder for your consideration. I call it R.D.D. – “Reflection Deficit Disorder.” My bet is that most of us suffer from it. I know I do.

Over 40 years ago, Alvin Toffler, in his book Future Shock, posited that the rate of technological and social change leaves people disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation.” He called this syndrome future shock.

The problem is that we need time to assimilate change and its consequences. We need time to reflect on what the change may mean – what have we lost and what should we grieve?

God built us to live according to rhythms and seasons. He gives us Sundays and commands us to take one day out of seven off to recuperate, reflect and pray.

He gives us sleep as a way of calling a halt to the day’s madness and forcing us to shut down the machine. Scientists have just discovered that when we sleep, our bodies activate a kind of garbage disposal service that cleans out toxic proteins – waste products – “like a biological dishwasher.”

It’s normal to change and mature as you grow older, that happens as we think about the mistakes we’ve made and the pain we’ve experienced. We reflect and then we adapt our behavior. To grow, we must reflect. Take away the time you need to reflect, and you may be an RDD sufferer too.

We need to ask the questions that there wasn’t time to ask earlier and we need to spend time answering them. Consider just one sample interaction at work and the kinds of questions we could reflect on as a consequence:


I felt hurt when my coworker sarcastically implied that I’m typically late to meetings. Was I right to feel hurt? Am I in fact guilty of being late? What is my reputation? Should I make any changes?


What are the implications of my coworker’s sarcasm on our relationship? Are there other coworkers who have the same issue with me but don’t speak up? Is this connected to the loneliness I’ve been feeling?


Am I late because I procrastinate? Do I do that because my father was such a stickler for timeliness? Is this who I want to be? Do I care too much about the opinions of others?


How much of my lateness is a function of culture? And how much of my behavior in general is a product of influences that I take for granted? What does God say about this?

The problem is that society’s buttons are all stuck on fast forward. We get stuck in daily patterns that don’t have margins built into them. No margins, no reflection.

Psychologists call these margins liminal space. Reduce the liminal space between thought and action and you begin to live your life reflexively rather than thoughtfully. And as Socrates said, The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Too many of us struggle with RDD. We carom around like pinballs from one unprocessed experience to the next. And if we’re sleep-deprived, we’re reflection-deprived as well.

I wonder if the current obsession with zombies isn’t related to this broken cultural artifact. We look fine in our suits and ties and dresses and heels, but inside, we feel more like a zombie than a person who is alive to possibility. We respond to future shock by numbing ourselves with amusement (a-muse meaning “no thinking”) instead of seeking meaning.

Change is Possible

The good news is that RDD is not in fact a psychological condition and that change is possible. It begins with deciding to take care of yourself. Deciding to prioritize the space that you need to make sense of all that is happening.

Take an inventory of the activities in your life that represent amusement and begin to cut them back. TV-watching, video game-playing, Facebook. All suspend thinking and keep us from reflecting.

Instead, find a journal to write in or a reflective friend to talk to. Carve out regular time for them.

Make a list of the things that have happened in your day or in your week and begin looking at them with fresh eyes. What happened? What does it mean? How did you respond? What were your options?

God gave us minds to use. Our lives will improve as we do so.

Comments (9)

  • This is exactly where I have been at since India and I am just now realizing how much I’ve needed more of this. It really has helped me feel more alive since I’ve been recently processing everything. I’ve also realized that instead of responding out of put-together thoughts I’ve been responding from emotions.

  • I love this Seth! I have seen huge advances in my work and personal life as I make room for more reflection–all avenues benefit. This was a perfect reminder to continue down this road as my life experiences some great changes in the weeks to come. Thanks for putting it out there so clearly!

  • Thanks Katie. I pray for a safe delivery as you engage in that incredible task of partnering with God to bring a new life into the world.

  • Been thinking on this for two weeks. Liminal space. Have discovered how restorative it can be. Thanks so much, Seth.

  • Hi Seth,

    Thanks for the article. I have called this Liminal Space, “downtime”, and I enjoyed this post of yours that talks about it. I too, have learned of its value more than I have done in the past as I started my own journey. I have only stumbled across your blog recently and love how much reflection is written here by you and others!

    With Gratitude,

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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