How to Build Your Self-Care and Self-Awareness Muscles
The Subconscious Mind
You as The Child
It’s in the middle of the week. It’s cold outside and mum is driving. We are on our way to the hospital. We drive through a roundabout and she looks extremely worried. I try to calm her down and say “Mum, you don’t need to worry”. I feel my mother’s concern and it frightens me. I don’t want her to be worried.
I try to cheer her up and make her feel less worried by telling her something funny. She answers kindly, briefly and superficially. The feeling persists. I do not have the power to change her feelings and therefore not mine either. I feel what she feels without understanding why – I feel it in my chest, it burns, I am very worried. And I don’t understand what is happening. My sister, who was a year older than me, died that night at the hospital. It happened quickly. I knew she wasn’t well but didn’t realise she was going to die. She died and disappeared. We never really talked about it again. I was powerless in the face of the anxiety and grief my parents felt. It became overwhelming for me. My survival strategy was to shut down emotions. It worked and it made me indifferent.
You as The Grown up – Years & years later
I compare myself. I see how others in my surroundings make the most of life and develop their careers and move upwards and forwards, while it feels like I’m just left stomping on the same spot. Can’t get anywhere, can’t find my will, my purpose, my passion. I have had to come up with different strategies or projects so that no one sees how lost or unmotivated I really am. This has also resulted in me often finding it incredibly difficult to meet new people, because then there will always be the intro; – what do you do? That is my worst question, because I can rarely stand up for what I do, it’s not interesting enough.
I’m making up that other people think that I am uninteresting, unimportant and meaningless. I have therefore created an evasive trait, whereby if I feel too empty, I will totally avoid any situation where I know the question will appear. If I still find myself in such a situation, I feel completely defenceless, I just can’t fake it and talk my way out of it, but instead give in to feelings of shame and self-criticism. I don’t ask questions of other people, because I am afraid of being asked questions back. I’m pretending to live in a life that I have no connection to. It creates a distance between me and people in my life, which makes me feel lonely.
Don’t throw your hand, oh no Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone
No, no, no, you are not alone If you’re on your own in this life The days and nights are long
The Conscious Mind
You as me
So my survival strategy here has been to turn off emotions. As emotions such as fear, worry, grief, shame and powerlessness became too great at an early age. It is very common for a child to naturally take over our parents’ feelings and make them ours. This creates a powerlessness and can feel unbearable. To regain power (false power) over the emotions, we can either unknowingly take on the blame, (self reduction) or ignore the emotion. The crux of this matter is that we cannot turn off emotions, we feel them all the more, but without being aware or “contact” with them. They own us in an unconscious way. If we have been guided and validated in our emotions as children, then we probably have good contact / connection with our emotions. But again, how could our parents have guided us, who would have taught them that? We should remember that EQ is a relatively new concept.
Exercise – How to build your Self-Care & Self-Awareness Muscles.
How do we get in touch with our emotions again? And how can we see them, understand them and exist within them without fleeing them.
How do you feel? Set an alarm 5 times during one day. When the alarm goes off, sit quietly for 1-2 minutes. Reflect on how you feel.
According to cognitive psychology, our emotions arise from thought processes. So you’ve been thinking something that has created your feelings. What is it that you have been thinking? See how much awareness you can create about what kind of feelings your thoughts give rise to?
Feeling Stress? Stress = resistance. What resistance do you have right now? See if you can create awareness of what you have just pushed away, denied, ignored. There is a fear here that you are not in contact with.
Feeling Frustrated? Frustration = anger. All forms of anger is a cover up for fear. What do you think you are afraid of right now?
Blaming, shaming, explaining, defending, dramatizing, lying, criticising – behaviours that are signs that we are not in contact with the root cause of our fear.
Indifference = switched off. Indifference and neutrality can be difficult to distinguish but are each other’s complete opposites. Indifference comes from suspended grief. Neutrality comes from acceptance. You feel the difference. And to feel, you need to stop and reflect. This will make all the difference for your EQ.
Help us make this a dialogue more than a monologue. Make EQ GYM your digital coach. What are you feeling right now? Use your self care muscle by using the comment box below as a place of reflection. No? Why not? In that case, what do you think you are afraid of? Being criticised? Don’t have time? In that case, Why not? Thinking out loud is a way to get to know your thoughts and create awareness.
This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.