In Emerson's "Self-Reliance" essay, he is describing his belief that each individual should set their own standards of right and wrong determined by there personality, without the influence of society. In this particular passage, he is suggesting there are two categories or "confessionals," in which one individual can base there daily decisions on. "You may fulfill your round of duties by clearing yourself in the direct or, in the reflex way." The direct way, is by upholding law and duties because of your conscience and taking personal responsibility and accountancy for your actions. Emerson gives the example of "Consider whether you have satisfied your relations to father, mother, cousin, neighbor, town, cat, dog; whether any of these can upbraid you." The reflex way is by following laws of society, and the relationship of other influences determines your actions. He is basically arguing personal laws versus the laws of society. The direct approach, Emerson believes, is much more challenging then reflex because there are written consequences and punishments for breaking a law which the government or society has made.

Directly, or personally, it is easy to break a rule you " ve made for yourself without punishment. It takes self discipline and honesty to be able to punish yourself, as opposed to someone else punishing you. When one establishes his /her own personal morals or set of personal laws for themselves, it is their "duty" to abide by those. Emerson says, "By the law of consciousness abides." Actual "laws" are those set my government and society and that have enforced consequences when broken.

Emerson's belief is that a human needs a strong set of personal values and internal laws for themselves that they follow because the laws of society are not suitable or can not benefit everyone individually.