This Mental Health Awareness Week therapist Nadine Moore explores the benefits of being self-aware, what it really means and what to do with it…
Is it really that helpful or necessary to be self-aware?
In my job as a psychotherapist I can help clients to work out and name out loud whatever they might be feeling - whether this is anger, sadness or despair.
By doing this, emotions that are lurking in the unconscious can be brought up into someone’s conscious awareness.
Many therapists believe that dreams are a helpful route to understanding someone’s unconscious mind.
But I don’t presume to think that I know more than the client themselves. They are the expert here, not me.
What is self-awareness?
To be self-aware is to recognise what you might be feeling, what you might be thinking, what might motivate you to act a certain way.
In other words, a client might realise what might actually be going on for them and why they might feel drawn to run away from a party, shout at their partner, skip class or sleep through the day.
Having trained as a ‘psychodynamic’ therapist I believe that some feelings get repressed from conscious awareness but they show up as physical symptoms like pain or insomnia.
Is self-awareness necessary?
Becoming self-aware can be a painful process. You might not like what you see. I certainly didn’t when I had to go through years of personal psychotherapy during my training.
Self-awareness can also be tricky, you might feel that you are very self-aware but something that is critical to your make up may elude you without you even knowing.
But do you have to be aware of everything? Being unaware in some scenarios might be exactly what you need to cope in that present moment, maintain your stability and move forwards.
Say you do realise something about yourself – maybe that you’re drawn to hiding from social gatherings because you end up comparing yourself to everyone there and feeling inferior. Similar to the way you used to feel in comparison to your sibling when you were little.
You’ve worked that out – so now what?
You could start to notice when you’re tempted to not go to parties, or flee the pub early. And if you wanted to, you could do the opposite – you could go to that hen do or stag do instead of staying at home - and see what happens.
Being self-aware might lead you to feel that more things are under your own control than you thought. Decisions might feel easier to make. You might find it easier to tell someone why something is important to you. You might feel more hopeful.
Personally I also find self-awareness a way of monitoring and reducing anxiety. I think to myself – what’s going on? Why am I feeling this so intensely? What am I really upset about?
When I do manage to work out what that uncomfortable feeling in my stomach is related to, I feel a bit calmer, less overwhelmed and more powerful.