Insight or Realization – What Does it Mean?

December 7, 2019
Sometimes, there's a sudden realization to find an explanation to something we did, that is, an insight.

Insight is a term psychology defines as the moment in which we come to realize something. For instance, we become aware of our problems (or of their solutions), our moods, our emotions, our thoughts, etc.

On many occasions, we experience a series of moods without even knowing it. We do realize we’re either feeling discomfort or we feel good but aren’t too clear on how we actually feel. It’s precisely at this moment when we’re able to understand those emotions. Or what’s making us feel like we do when we’re willing to continue moving forward.

In contrast, a person captures or understands a revealed “truth” via insight. This might happen suddenly or after much work or with the use of techniques.

Insight or realization throughout history

A brain exploding with colors.

Gestalt psychology

Gestalt psychology defined insight as an ability to capture how all parts of a problem fit together to meet the demands of the objective. This implies reorganizing the elements of a problematic situation and solving the problem as a consequence (R. Mayer, 1986).

Psychodynamic psychology

From a psychodynamic perspective, insight is the awareness of unconscious conflicts and their proper understanding of the basis of self-knowledge. This insight would name the process within an analytical treatment by which a person is able to penetrate the nature of the automatic conflict.

This connection produces a new vision, a new relationship with the mental contents that, until then, had been intelligible. Thus, it produces a significant change in one’s experience. We achieve a more sophisticated understanding of our reality in light of a new context through insight. In the words of Sigmund Freud, it would be the conscious recovery of repressed (unconscious) memories (E. Erikson, 1979).

Cognitive-behavioral psychology

Insight, as a cognitive phenomenon and within this current, either appears suddenly in people or in response to a given situation. It would be the coping styles or cognitive schemes that are different from those we already had. The ones that weren’t enough to solve our problems. Thanks to our ability to get insight, we can discover a new way to address our conflicts.

Types and characteristics of insight or realization

A woman thinking.

We can talk about three types of insight:

  • Intellectual insight. It occurs rationally and shows an intellectual understanding of something. However, it doesn’t show an emotional and operational knowledge of a situation.
  • Emotional or visceral insight. It brings a clear awareness, understanding, and feeling in the deepest part of being, regarding the meaning of personal behaviors. In addition, it allows positive personality changes.
  • Structural insight. The conscious or unconscious knowledge of the person who acquires, employs, and projects through the union of structures.

Regarding its characteristics:

  • First of all, a good part of the process happens unconsciously.
  • It usually occurs suddenly.
  • It provides the understanding of a situation, problem, or learning that was never solved so it’s nonexistent.
  • Through insight, a person feels like they raise their level of awareness and understanding regarding a situation.

Insight or realization is the eureka of psychology

Having the ability to get insight or to come to a realization is to discover that what happens to us has a name and that we can do something about it.

Thus, getting insight allows us to acquire a sense of control that directly affects our confidence. Thus, what this feeling of control gives us is an adequate explanation of our problem. Additionally, it provides relief and guides us to find a solution. Furthermore, it opens the door to hope so we can get out of the hole in which we find ourselves.