How to Increase Self-Awareness, The Journey, pt.1

I’ve been percolating about writing about the journey for some time now. In fact, I think I’ve actually written out what I want to say in my head several times over the past years (steps, importance, usefulness etc. – mostly right before falling asleep), and yet… when I sit down to write about the journey today I notice a sense of resistance, a sense of “I don’t feel like talking, I don’t feel like writing a single fucking thing because who cares about anything and also I’m tired.”

So as I am choosing to write about the journey, the above paragraph feels like a pretty good starting point. This is the journey – to experience something (often emotions), to notice that you experience something, and to acknowledge that you are experiencing said something.

Is there more to it than that? Well yes, of course. There are additional steps you can take after acknowledgement, but you can’t get very far at all if you don’t first engage with those first three steps – so let me say them again:

  • Experience Something
  • Notice What You’re Experiencing
  • Acknowledge the Experience

That’s what I’m doing right now. It’s what I did in my first paragraph when I acknowledged that I noticed that I am feeling resistant and having distracting thoughts (my experience). 

It’s not a hard thing to do, and yet, it often feels very difficult – especially when you’ve never considered that it’s possible, don’t know what it means, and especially don’t understand how it could be helpful.

  1. Experience Something

    This is already happening. You are feeling things (which I’m labelling as an experience), which are connected to body sensations, and often connected to thoughts and impulses, and maybe memories and images too. When you feel sad, mad, happy, afraid, or some other thing, you are having an experience. You don’t have much choice over it – it happens, it’s here, you’re feeling and experiencing, whether you like it or not – especially if you’re not liking it.

    So step 1-- done. Not too bad so far. Give yourself a pat on the back.

  2. Notice What You’re Experiencing

    Now that you know you are experiencing something, how often are you actually aware that you are having an experience, or a feeling? How often do you know that something is happening inside at the moment it’s happening?

    How often do you have the thought – “oh shit, I’m angry right now”, or “oh man, I am so sad all of a sudden.” You will know that you’ve gotten really good at noticing when you start being surprised by what you notice – when you feel the thing, but have absolutely no idea why you’re feeling the thing. Because so often we are feeling the thing, we don’t know we’re feeling the thing, we definitely don’t know why we’re feeling, and it just runs rampant leaving messes behind us. We come out of the stupor thinking “what the hell was that?”.

    Are you tired of hearing about mindfulness? Because this is where mindfulness comes in. Are you breathing? What’s your heartbeat doing? Are there any aches, pains, tingles? Are there parts of your body that feel warm, or cold, or nothing? Feeling nothing is still an experience. How does your butt feel in that chair?

    Get into the habit of asking yourself, in whatever way feels right, “WTF is happening in and to my body right now?”.

    This process asks us to be curious, and asks us to trust in the process. Because noticing can be anxiety producing, but it doesn’t have to be. Try not to assign judgement to what you’re noticing. And when you do have judgment, practice these three steps again – even more simply, notice and name them. The experience is not inherently good or bad, it is the act of being alive.

  3. Acknowledge the Experience

    Now this one can feel tricky, but I like it because it adds this extra layer of intentionality. Whenever I get to this part of the journey (it’s only pt. 1 (don’t forget)), I think “didn’t I just acknowledge it when I was noticing it?! What else am I supposed to do?!” – and it’s true, to some extent, you’ve kind of already acknowledged it, but I want you (us) to acknowledge it some more.

  • Intentionally think the thought: “My butt is tingly, and I am feeling very fucking sad right now.”

  • Or write down: “I am so angry all of a sudden. I don’t know why but it feels like there is a giant egg in my chest and I’m afraid it’s going to burst” (ooh noticing two feelings, three experiences in that one 😉).

  • Or say it out loud (alone or in company): “Right now, I feel really afraid that I’m never going to become the person I want to be.”

Tada. You did it. You’ve begun the journey. The journey of discovering yourself, your voice, your wants and needs, of becoming more aware, and feeling more like yourself. Most of all, you’re on the path to feeling empowered in making different decisions, and seeing your life through a new, less terrifying and/or overwhelming lens. 

Experiencing and feeling is hard stuff, and I can’t say it enough - none of us know what we’re doing. Maybe we’ve figured some things out, hence the above, but this is a game of trial and error. Nothing in our toolbox will work all of the time – but isn’t it worth it to still have a toolbox? Even if just for the knowledge that you’ll have something that will work some (or most) of the time?

We are each on a journey that is living life. The first part of my journey and of many in my life and who I’ve counseled has been in the practice of being intentional, becoming aware, and being curious. What’s the destination? I’ll let you decide.

This might not do anything for you. You might find the above three things frustrating and burdensome, you might find them confusing and “dumb,” you may also believe you’ve already mastered it and are ready for pt. 2. That’s fine, because you might also find yourself doing these steps without realizing, or coming across something similar 5, 10, 20 years down the road when you’re ready.

I only have one more tip for today, provided to me by my wonderful therapist (because therapists need therapists, and so on – like a less scammy pyramid scheme)...

...take what works, and leave the rest.



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