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Pondering the universe

Being you

Self-awareness – taking back control

Self-awareness comes from focussing our consciousness upon the nature of our own thoughts, feeling and actions, rather than just reacting to life's experiences and challenges.

We each have a consciousness, which by our free will we can focus on parts of the world around us that interest us, but also upon ourselves, and how we operate in the world. Mostly, we respond to external events, usually in fairly well-established ways, unless something has changed, requiring us to modify our response.

Many response patterns we learned through observation of those around us as we grew up. Others we were formally taught by our parents and teachers. While most of these learned patterns are beneficial, in that they allow us to live in the world without incident, some may be inappropriate because we applied them in situations for which they were not intended. We pretty quickly learn what not to do if the consequences are immediate. If we think about it, there may have been similar instances in the past, and so we may refrain from doing the offending action in the future.

To summarise this process, we:

  1. 1.Experience in the present situation.
  2. 2.Ponder upon similar situations and their consequences in the past.
  3. 3.Choose to respond differently to those circumstances in the future.

Of course, this is an iterative process, as we will need to fine tune our future responses as we applied previously decided actions that ended up missing the mark. We also might notice subtleties in the differences between situations, requiring changes to some parts of the response. Basically, we have become aware of of the multiple facets of an experience pattern and how to handle it.

Early in our lives, we may not have noticed that many of our actions hurt others, being so wrapped up in ourselves that we don't become aware of that until told, or we remember those earlier reactions of others when we later experience them ourselves. This is reflective awareness because it occurs after the fact, so we can only react after the fact. Upon reflection, we tend to want to be prepared for the future, so we will think about the best way to respond. This is predictive awareness because we think we know how the situation will work out, and so pre-emptively decide the action.

Not all situations are predictable, so despite being aware of some of the variations that may occur, and having worked out the appropriate response, we still find ourselves caught out. Here we need to be aware of the situation as it plays out, and so respond in real time to what is actually happening, while deciding at each moment what we want to happen. However, it takes a lot of experience – read: mistakes – to be able to truly respond in the most appropriately way to everything around us. Until then, we need to choose when to challenge ourselves, and when to be more careful.

So to formalise all this, the types of awareness, their time relationships, and the types of appropriate actions are:
#TypeTimeActionComment
1ReflectivePastReactiveLearning from the results of previous actions
2SituationalPresentResponsiveMaking decisions that improve our lives
3PredictiveFuturePre-emptiveChanging the future by seeing what's possible

Mostly, we apply this process to how we react to external circumstances, but we can also apply it to what happens within us. By observing ourselves in various situations, and noticing what thoughts and feelings arise in each of them, we can approach them in the same way as external situations.

This taking of an objective view of our thoughts and feelings enables us to change them in meaningful ways, rather than just letting them overrun our consciousness. We do this by deciding what thoughts and feelings we want to occur, not only when responding to external events, but also on demand at times of our choosing. We can choose how we want to wake up, and what we want to feel during the day. We will still continue to be challenged, but practicing such control enables better outcomes in more situations.

Some aids to taking control of our thoughts and feelings are:

  1. a.Mindfulness
    The allowing part of ourselves to be an observer, in real time, of each situation and of our thoughts and feelings as they occur.
  2. b.Contemplation
    Taking time out to think about what we want to change or do, and what we can do to prepare ourselves and our environment for that.
  3. c.Meditation
    Time and space to connect to our inner, free from [most of] the distractions of the rest of our life.
  4. d.Conscious breathing
    Relaxed steady breathing, giving us a sense of space and control.
  5. e.Relaxation
    Time to allow our subconscious to feed our consciousness with answers to all the questions we keep bombarding ourselves with in the rest of our day.

We can make some of these a regular practice, but we can also do them on demand, as and when needed. Make them part of our life toolbox, accessible at all times.

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  • The power of pivoting
  • The scientific method
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