A while back I attended a lovely gathering with friends. Later that evening I realized that instead of feeling good, I felt oddly uncomfortable. When I asked myself why, I knew it was because much my conversation had come from my ego. Instead of just enjoying their company, I had been comparing what they said to what I think, then unconsciously wanting to impress them with my thoughts! Ouch!
Deepak Chopra has written: “It is much more beneficial to your health if you feel your way through life than think your way through life. Self-awareness monitors how you feel.” What does this have to do with how I interacted with my friends? Simply this. When I was with them I was not self-aware. I was trying to impress them with my thinking, not monitoring how I was feeling. As a result, my behavior that day was not beneficial to me or them.
In my last post I wrote about a crucial moment in my development when I was overcome with self-consciousness. I’ve also written about how a dream in which the Lone Ranger shot me was a wake-up call into a new way of seeing myself and life. At my fiftieth birthday party roast a friend joked about my tendency to take myself seriously. In March of this year I published a post titled “Is Self-Discovery Selfish?” All these “self” issues touch on self-awareness. How we use this inherent ability has more to do with our well-being than anything else in our lives!
Nobody explains these concepts more clearly than Dr. Chopra, so instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, I’ll use his words: “When you have any experience, your mind is in one of three states: unconscious, aware, and self-aware. The first state leaves health — and well-being generally — to chance. If you light up your fifth cigarette of the day without thinking, you are doing something unconsciously, as is the nature of habits. If you see yourself lighting up the cigarette, you are aware of what you’re doing. But self-awareness goes further; it says, “What am I doing to myself?” Posing questions, reflecting on your behavior, looking at the larger picture, taking your life seriously — these are all self-aware behaviors.”
Asking ourselves, “What am I doing to myself? or “What did I just do and why?” is how we feel our way through life instead of thinking our way through life. This does not require great wisdom, intelligence, or logical thinking. It simply requires us to take ourselves seriously.
In this sense, the word “feeling” is not about emotions, but about what we value. It’s about noticing what we’re doing and how important it is to us. About what feels meaningful. What makes us feel better about ourselves. Lighting up our fifth cigarette may bring an emotional release from stress, but does it really make us feel better about ourselves? If it doesn’t, and if we ignore that fact and keep smoking anyway, we’re not taking ourselves seriously enough.
Taking oneself seriously has positive and negative aspects. In my conversation with my friends I was aware, but I was not self-aware. I was taking myself too seriously. But when I reflected on my discomfort later that evening I was feeling my way through my life. I was being self-aware, noticing what I value. I value my friends and want them to enjoy being with me. Knowing I can take myself so seriously that I can diminish our mutual pleasure makes me squirm. But knowing I can be self-aware gives me hope for a more beneficial outcome the next time I’m with them.
Ego and God-Image: Part VI
[T]he most important relationship of childhood, the relation to the mother, will be compensated by the mother archetype as soon as detachment from the childhood
Terrific to wake up to this post this morning. How do I laugh at my awkward ego dance and be self-aware at the same time? I run into this struggle each day as I build a new social persona after my husband Vic’s death. As I find my new place in the world, I feel untested and raw or that I’ve exposed too much or said too little. I am experimenting with who I am now, trying on different social personas to see what fits. I take it all seriously, often too seriously, forgetting to listen to my inner voice that stands back, watches, and says, “Come on, Elaine. Don’t be afraid. Take this lightly. Can’t you remember what you learned from Death?” So, on I go, seeking a new balance, and as I grow, I’ll think in terms of unconsciousness, awareness, and self-awareness and try not to let the limiting voice of self-criticism take the upper hand.
Thank you for making this dance more conscious, Elaine
Thanks, Elaine. This is beautifully said. Becoming more self-aware truly is an awkward ego dance, isn’t it? And poor persona, always having to suffer re-adjustments with each new lesson learned, and re-learned. And re-learned. I love it that you’re consciously experimenting with yours. So much of the journey involves creating a persona flexible enough to allow the real self to shine through instead of hitting a rigid wall of dark shadow and unconscious habit.
Last night after working on this post, I dreamed about a rather serious and intense older woman I didn’t much like. When my response to something she said let her know her manner toward me made me uncomfortable, she said, “Oh, you should come by my office. It’s really so very warm and welcoming there. I have these lovely sayings posted all around…” I can’t remember how else she had decorated her office/persona but it seemed important to her for me to see it. Knowing she was some sort of doctor, I asked her what she did. Her reply was, “Oh, I’m a heavy surgeon.” She digs deeply into heavy matters! Nothing surface and shallow for this lady. But she took herself a little too seriously for my liking. Ouch.
Obvously, being aware of one’s shadow, as I am now more aware of this shadow of mine, isn’t enough. Time to take her more seriously!!!
With much love and admiration for you,
Love it Jeanie!
All of it!
I had to chuckle about the cartoon! (:-)
I’ve had the experience you describe of looking back on my “party self” and feeling uncomfortable. You’ve probably been rewarded throughout your life for your ability to impress people with your thoughts. Our school systems certainly work that way, and we want our children to do well at school. It’s hard to break out of that reward system.
Great dream about the “heavy surgeon”. Ha, ha. My dreams lately have been of slippery slopes, probably because we’re contemplating a move, with all its financial implications. My own abilities to create spreadsheets and hold alternatives and complications in my mind frequently obscure my feelings and intuitions.
Yes, I am most definitely a product of my education and conditioning! How hard it is to see the real me beneath that persona!
I love your slippery slopes! A great metaphor for the uncomfortable feelings brought on by exterior circumstances. As you already know, it prompts questions like, “In what part of my life am I on slippery ground?” “What will it take for me to gain a firmer foothold and regain my balance?” Thanks for a beautiful example of the struggle to be more self-aware in your life!
Wishing you greater well-being in this situation,