In this series of blogs titled, “I am sick of it”(anxiety), I am going to explore the positive responses we can have to things about our anxiety that we are “sick of”. In this post I am going to explore the idea of awareness.
So lets start with a definition, what do I mean by “awareness”? This definition comes from wikipedia:
Awareness is the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. More broadly, it is the state or quality of being aware of something. In biological psychology, awareness is defined as a human’s or an animal’s perception and cognitive reaction to a condition or event.
I often focus on developing my clients’ capacity for awareness, as awareness is a critical part of the change process. At the risk of stating the obvious, if we are not aware of something how can we focus and work on it!
Awareness is like a muscle, we have to flex it, develop its strength, and capacity so we can become more and more aware of what is happening inside us. I often think clients must get sick of me saying things like, “what’s happening”, “what are you noticing”, or “what are you aware of right now”.
However about two years ago I went to a workshop conducted by Dr. Bessel van der kolk, one of the most respected psychiatrists currently, due to his ground breaking work with developmental trauma. One of the things he said in this workshop was the two most important questions in psychotherapy are, “what are you noticing” and “what are you noticing now”! So I figure if it is good enough for him, it is good enough for me.
WHY DO YOU THINK THESE QUESTIONS (AND AWARENESS) ARE SO IMPORTANT?
Basically one of the main ways the brain evolves is by becoming aware of new information, integrating the new information then applying it in life. This process happens with the use of afferent nerve fibers (nerves that bring information back to the brain), actually there are far more afferent fibers than efferent fibers (taking information away from the brain). Building awareness is part of the process that makes this happen. This tells me we are actually wired to evolve, we just need to remove the obstacles and allow our mind and body to do what it is designed to do, evolve, grow and transform!
How is this useful when you are struggling with something you are “sick of”? I would argue that when ever you feel this frustration and anger around something you are “sick of”, it would help to notice this, slow things down, and become more aware of what is happening inside you right in that moment. You can also start practicing this skill, next time you are going about your day, just stop check in for a moment and ask yourself, “what am I noticing right now”. Mindfulness is another way to practice building awareness. These things will help to build your capacity for awareness right now.