The meaning of the term ‘navel gazing’ is usually taken in its literal sense if not for an explanation accompanying it. We will explain the varied meanings of this very interesting concept.
Did You Know?
The term omphaloskepsis is a combination of two Greek words omphalos (meaning navel) and skepsis (the act of looking or examination). It literally translates to contemplation of one’s navel as an act of meditation.
Although one would be tempted to conclude that the term navel gazing does in fact refer to gazing at one’s or someone’s navel, that is not what it is. Then what does navel gazing mean? A person is said to be ‘navel gazing’ when he/she is too preoccupied, self-absorbed, or completely taken up by a certain issue, to the point of ignoring everything around him/her. Though the connotation of using the term navel gazing is usually made in a degrading/joking manner, there are certain other instances in which this term is used in a neutral, and sometimes, even a positive light.
In the following sections of this PsycholoGenie article, we will delve deeper into this very intriguing topic and help you understand what it means, along with providing examples of the same.
The Different Meanings of Navel Gazing
There are several meanings associated with this term that range over emotions, cultures, and state of minds. Let us understand what these are in the following sections.
Me, Me, and Me!
In its most negative/degrading reference, the term is used almost synonymous with being a narcissist―one who is too self-absorbed, self-involved, and preoccupied with oneself, to an extent that he/she cannot process anything beyond or around him. This behavior is basically looked down upon.
Jamie is annoying me with his navel gazing again! If I have to listen to him talk about his win one more time, I’m going to scream.
As a Medium of Introspection
Navel gazing is also used in terms of describing an act of intense introspection; an act where one is taken over by intense feelings and thoughts about one’s life. The thoughts and emotions are usually deep and leave the person contemplating about his life, the decisions that he has taken, and where he has gone wrong (it could include several other types of thoughts as well). Even though the person is rather preoccupied with his own thoughts, this form of navel gazing is not tinged with a degrading connotation. It is, on the other hand, taken as a positive sign where a person involved in the act reaches an important decision after much introspection.
Ever since Janice failed her math test, she has been navel gazing a lot.
As a Medium of Meditation
Hinduism believes that navel gazing, as a part of yoga, is a very fruitful form of meditation. Staring at one’s navel blocks out all distractions, thus allowing one to focus on his breathing without the clamoring of unnecessary thoughts, and thereby reaching a state of calm. The navel is also considered a powerful chakra of energy in yoga teachings.
As the Center of Life and Energy
Many cultures of the world associate the navel with something that is tremendously powerful. In fact, it is usually given the position of being the center of energy, the very starting of life. The umbilical cord that connects an unborn child with its mother finds its way through the navel. And therefore, the very start of life has the navel at its center. The importance, significance, and symbolism placed with the navel thereof is undeniable.
Examples in Popular Culture
The concept of navel gazing is explored in several arts and media forms like books, plays, and films.
In Visual Media
Navel gazing is used as a tool in visual media for mainly two purposes―one, to show the character’s internal conflict of mind as he struggles to find answers to deep, philosophical questions that may be focused on his life, the universe, and the life of others, or two, as a buffer to show recaps of old incidents. The practice of using this tool as a buffer, if not done well, may annoy the audience because the clippings are usually recycled from previous happenings and nothing new is provided.
Many times, a novel has several pages dedicated to a character indulging in navel gazing. These are associated with a characters’ internal monologues and allow the reader to understand the angst and struggle that the character is going through.
If used in the right way, navel gazing can be a powerful medium that allows the audience/reader to peep inside the mind of the character and understand him better. However, it needs to be used tastefully and with a lot of discretion. If overused, it can lose its purpose and become just another (annoying) tool.
Navel gazing is a very interesting concept; one that is full of potential, especially in popular media. And though there is a negative connotation attached to it, it is most definitely a positive tool, if used in the right manner.