Awareness – the simplicities and complexities

In previous posts, we have written about Shame and we have written about Harmony. This week, we move on to nr. 3 of the SHAMAR wheel of mental health (Shameless, Harmonious, Aware/Attitude, Motivated, Accountable, Resourceful).

Awareness is one of the building stones to good mental health and in this context, awareness comes in 2 different packages:

  1. Self-awareness –  involves being mindful of your thoughts and feelings, your coping mechanisms, your strengths and vulnerabilities, and most importantly the values that motivate your goals and actions.
  2. Surroundings awareness – is the state or ability to perceive, feel, or be conscious of what is going on around you, the objects near you or the feelings, often referred to as ‘sensing’ you are experiencing.

1. Self Awareness

There are 2 sides to self-awareness

a) Thoughts & emotions

b) beliefs & attitudes

a) Thoughts & emotions

The best advice I ever received about self awareness was: give a name to your thoughts and emotions. If well-learnt, this identifying of thoughts and emotions allows you to observe thoughts and feelings as they occur. Which in turn means that you do not react to thoughts or emotions, you let them pass, you reflect afterwards, and then you react if you need to.  This was so good because as soon as I started, I had control over whatever it was that was affecting me. If I was angry, I could just say to the other person and to myself “I am angry at the moment, I need a minute to calm down.” This decreased the conflict inside me, and reduced the conflict with other people.

This is also a good way to meet other people’s definitions of your emotions. When somebody asks: “why are you so angry?

You are already aware that you are not angry, you are just sad. So you can reply calmly: “I am not angry. I am sad because xyz.”

To learn to understand and control your thoughts and emotions, train yourself to keep asking yourself

  • what you are thinking? and
  • what you are feeling?

If you wish to go further, you can ask yourself why 3 times.

  • Why am I thinking this? Why? Why?
  • Why am I feeling this? Why? why?

b) Beliefs & attitudes

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This is about knowing who you are as a person and what traits define your character.

Beliefs – are ideas that a person holds as being true. A potential belief sits with the person until they accept it as truth, and adopt it as part of their individual belief system. A belief can come from different sources, including:

  • a person’s own experiences or experiments
  • the acceptance of cultural and societal norms (e.g. religion)
  • what other people say (e.g. education, conditioning or mentoring).

Attitudes – are the mental dispositions people have towards others people and the current circumstances before making decisions that result in behaviour. People primarily form their attitudes from underlying values and beliefs. However, factors which may not have been internalised as beliefs and values can still influence a person’s attitudes at the point of decision-making. Typical influences include the desire to please, political correctness, convenience, peer pressure, and or psychological stressors

2. Surroundings awareness

You know how something happens to you and you later say “I sensed it!” meaning that you sensed it even before it happened. Or how you dream about something and it happens? This is part of Surroundings awareness. Your mind and inner eye caught something, and stored it, but you did not digest it and understand it. So the event is not surprising, you had expected it, although you do not know why. The best surroundings-awareness is the one where you:

  • are conscious of the things you see/feel/sense around you
  • you trust your feelings about things and people
  • you understand the things you see/feel/sense
  • you can act (make a decision) on the things you see/feel/sense

This is the true meaning of being woke. Or as we say in sheng kaa riitho. This helps you to almost predict things and therefore avoid the things you do not want to participate in.

For example you know that a certain friend is behaving strangely and it is hurting you. If you are aware of the things this person is doing that are hurting you, you can avoid situations where this person acts in certain ways. It saves you from anger, frustration, petty fights etc which are not good for you in the long run.

Any thoughts or emotions on this post?

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