Counseling others has been an interesting journey. It has been difficult at times, but well worth it as I have had the opportunity to meet and walk through life with many awesome people over the last thirteen years.
I have often pondered what I thought might be the most important things I’ve noticed happening in people’s lives when they are able to overcome those certain hurdles they have been struggling with. One of those pivotal actions is something I’ve noticed in my own life as coinciding with a host of positive outcomes, including personal growth/maturity, emotional healing, relational health, and the resolution of other life issues.
It sounds so commonsensical. Of course, if we are not aware of something that is causing us hardship, how could we possibly address it and overcome it? If we deny a bad habit as being our choice and responsibility to address, we will be stuck with it. If we altogether ignore the fact that we can be a jerk to our loved ones at times due to unresolved anger issues, then we will continue subjecting them to our hurtful behaviors. Only when we seek and accept awareness of our own personal choices, behaviors, and feelings can we hope to see ourselves change.
Although this simple word makes sense to me as vitally important in my life and the lives of others, it is not something we always actively engage in. Making personal awareness a priority is hard, and there are many “easy ways out” that tempt us to avoid it. The following is just a short list of things I’ve found to be helpful in the process of engaging awareness in a way that leads us to freedom to be who we were created to be, instead of living with blinders on that keep causing us to hurt ourselves and others as we continually bump into things in the dark.
We need to acknowledge our true feelings. This one can be tricky. A good example is people like me who like to hide behind anger when we are actually hurt. As long as I hold onto the anger, I don’t have to look at or acknowledge the true feeling that I’m struggling with. While the anger may be real, it is not the source of my pain. Healing will not be possible until I acknowledge I have been hurt.
We need to take notice what we are doing (and not doing). Our behaviors can tell us a lot about ourselves if we will pay attention to them. Several years ago when our home was broken into, I went on a months-long mission to secure our house. To say I went overboard in security measures is an understatement. Was this wrong? No, not really. My efforts did make my wife and I safer. But did it show something about me? Absolutely. I had been violated, and I was scared of it happening again. Without noticing my behaviors I could not become aware of the fear behind them. Without knowing fear was in the driver’s seat of my decision-making, it could have controlled me. Potentially it could have led me down an anxiety-ridden path of no end.
We need to examine our thoughts. Our thoughts are perhaps ultimately the most important thing to be aware of. Behind every behavior and feeling is a thought. We do not act or feel anything without some thought in our head causing us to do so. However, when we are unaware of our thoughts it seems as though what we do and feel are just random and uncontrollable events. While neither are truly random, it IS mostly impossible to control our actions and feelings without addressing our thinking patterns. Over the course of my own life, when I thought of myself as stupid or incompetent, I behaved in ways I thought might prove myself. Other times, I responded by giving up on trying. While vastly different behaviors, both were sourced from the same thoughts in my head. As for feelings, fear was prevalent as I suspected I did not have what it took to accomplish the tasks in front of me at the time. If not for learning the importance of capturing and becoming aware of my thoughts, I would still be enslaved to these types of behaviors and feelings with no hope of escape.
We need to be honest with ourselves. When it comes to our own thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, it is often easier to deny the truth and/or blame others. Again, the process of awareness is not easy. It is hard to look at the truth and accept it. However, it pays off BIG TIME when we do. Freedom is found no other way.
We need to listen to others who care about us. This one is super important to remember if we want to get the most out of our fight for awareness. Life is really hard at times, and this makes it very difficult for us to see ourselves clearly. Many times, we need a mirror in order to see what it is we are looking for. This “mirror” will often be in the form of others who love us. They can see things we cannot see. They can hug us, encourage us, and point out things about ourselves that have become hidden from our view for whatever reason. These interactions can be difficult. We will inevitably be tempted to deny, blame, or get angry. We must remind ourselves of our great need for the awareness that is often the first big step towards healing, joy, and freedom. Those outcomes are far greater than the comfort of avoiding the hard work of self-awareness.