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Human beings have always employed an enormous amount of
clever devices for running away from themselves...
we can keep ourselves busy, fill our lives with so many diversions,
stuff our heads with so much knowledge,
involve ourselves with so many people and cover so much ground
that we never have time to probe the fearful and wonderful world
middle life, most of us are accomplished
fugitives from ourselves.
-- John Gardner
Your vision will become clear only when you
look into your heart.
Who looks outside, dreams, Who looks inside, awakens
- Carl Jung
Go within or go without - Neal Walsch
This is one of a
seriesof articles and worksheets
in Lesson 1 - free your true Self and reduce any
psychological wounds. This brief YouTube video previews key points in this article.
The video mentions eight self-improvement lessons in this site - I've reduced that to
This article offers
perspective on personal awareness, and practical options for
improving it. It provides...
I write this because in my experience as a veteran therapist with over
1000 adults and kids, very few average Americans are aware
of (a) the amazing world within them or (b) the complex
dynamics between them and other people. Paradox -
effective communication and problem-solving is directly proportional
to how aware people are, yet
typical adults (like you?) aren't aware of their unawareness and
its toxic effects, so they don't seek to improve it.
This article assumes you're
familiar with the intro to this Web site, the premises underlying it, and self-improvement Lesson 1.
Status Check - How would you explain the concept of "awareness"
to an average pre-teen? Try saying your definition out loud. Then
reflect and rank yourself from one (I'm never aware of myself and
others) to ten (I'm always very aware): ___.
We'll check this again at the end of the article.
To prepare for what follows,
now, and notice how it feels.
"Higher" animals are unique among Earthly life forms because we have
a multi-function brain, nervous and hormonal systems, and
specialized organs allowing us to see, smell, feel, hear, taste, and
"sense." things around us. We may start the instinctive process of
converting signals from these organs into "meaning" in the
womb. We automatically refine that process for decades until our
senses and brains decay and die.
What is Awareness?
Premise - many students of human nature accept that we have
at least three "minds"...
your conscious mind holds
information you're aware of, including some
memories. Consciousness is like the sphere of vision
created by a light in a dark cave. With practice and a good
vocabulary, we can choose word-symbols (language) to describe
our conscious awarenesses.
your semiconscious mind holds
information you may become aware of (like some
other memories and perceptions, repressions, spiritual signals, hunches, and
which holds information that you can't normally be aware of.
Instincts and some reflexes may reside here. By
definition, we cannot articulate unconscious data. Some
mind-altering chemicals and hypnotic experiences can reveal some
unconscious information to our conscious minds. Unconscious
content affects our moods, bodily functions, and behaviors.
refers to what you're conscious of now and over time.
Your current awareness includes mental (cognition / thinking) + bodily (emotions
+ spiritual elements.
Mental awareness can include current and remembered knowledge and
subjective perceptions and conclusions about
other people + relationships + events + environments.
awareness may include current sights, sounds, touches, tastes, and
smells. Some people propose that we have a "sixth sense" which allows conscious awareness of hunches, intuitions, premonitions, and
"senses" ("I sense you're upset with me").
awareness is consciousness of non-observable entities / forces / energies that affect life on Earth ("I felt the
presence of God as we crashed"). Some suggest that the "still
small voice within us" brings spiritual guidance.
Spiritualgrowth may be defined as "increasing your spiritual
awareness and understanding of these entities as you age."
Note the difference between "being aware" and of "making
(intellectual) sense" of
(decoding or interpreting) your awareness - i.e. "figuring out" what
it means. These are two related but separate learned
Premises - see how you feel about these ideas: A = "I agree,"
D = " I disagree," and ? = "I'm not sure," or
depends on (what?)"
Adults, kids, and
infants have three levels of awareness; conscious,
semiconscious, and unconscious. All three combine to
(discomforts), thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. (A D
Anyone (like you) can
intentionally benefit by expanding their conscious
awareness (increase the "light") by
regularly. (A D ?)
Conscious and semiconscious
awareness is limited by (a)
(beliefs about life on Earth),
and (b) vocabulary
available to describe personal knowledge, beliefs, and
perceptions. Both factors can be intentionally improved over time. (A
Human conflict occurs because of
(a) differences in people's perceptions and awarenesses, and (b)
their inability to communicate objectively and cooperatively
about this difference. (A D ?)
general awareness is
perceiving and interpreting the dynamics inside us and
between us and other living things. Once people are aware
of these and some basic knowledge, they can intentionally improve their
effectiveness. (A D ?)
Teaching kids to be aware of
their awareness, and to want to intentionally expand
and use it, is a priceless life-long gift. (A D ?) Do you do
this? Did your childhood caregivers? Not doing it is
usually a sign of
false-self dominance + unawareness + ignorance
(lack of knowledge).
What did you just learn?
Be Aware of What?
All living things strive to survive and to
avoid and reduce discomforts. Evolution promotes survival by providing us with
organs, nerves, and a brain to decode "meaning" from our sensory
signals. So we're designed to
be aware of sights, sounds,
touches, temperatures, tastes, hungers, thirst, weariness, aches,
pains, and smells that signal danger or
discomfort. Awareness of sensory inputs is largely
instinctual and learned early ("Don't touch skunks or fire").
Because we humans are social animals, our "dangers" also include a
wide variety of relationship discomforts and pain that - say -
buffalo, seagulls, and gerbils are probably free of.
So the awareness we're
concerned with here is...
thoughts + emotions +
"senses," + sensations;
social dynamics, and...
Awareness of Thoughts and Emotions
Do you know people who answer "What are you thinking?" with "Uh...I
don't know." or "Nothing"? That may be true (they are unaware), or it may be a
way to avoid revealing their thoughts and expected pain (e.g.
"That's a stupid idea!"). Such people may have trouble
conversing because they "don't know what to say."
Several factors may explain this: the person...
many personality subselves expressing themselves at once, and the person can't sort,
identify or express their chaotic thoughts and feelings
(is overwhelmed); and/or she...
(wounded), and feels unsafe to "have (certain) thoughts
or express them; and/or she...
is aware of current
thoughts, but lacks the vocabulary and
social; skillsto express them clearly and feels inept; and/or...
If any of these factors hinder your ability to be aware of or
express your thoughts, you may
assess yourself for psychological wounds and commit to
reducing any you find - i.e. commit to
free your talented
true Self, quieting your inner babble, and intentionally healing old fears of
expressiveness. (i.e. work at Lesson 1). Another option is to
intentionally expand your vocabulary over time.
Can you define "an emotion" without using the word "feeling"?
We grow an array of several dozen emotions early in life. They're
automatic neurochemical reactions to sensations and perceptions, amplified or triggered by our amazing ability to think.
Note the difference between
feeling an emotion and expressing it.
All animal behavior (like yours) is an endless quest to avoid pain
and death, and to reduce discomforts (needs). Premise
-every"negative" (uncomfortable) emotion like rage,
fear, shame, frustration guilt, and jealousyis a useful
pointer to some unfilled
This suggests that all emotions are helpful if we're
aware of them. Do you agree?
Do you know adults or kids who seem overcontrolled, "flat," or
unexpressive? Contrast them with others who are lively, animated,
and spontaneous. Where do you fit on a line between these two
traits? The former group may have learned very early that expressing
and/or acting on their feelings brought pain, so they learned to
or control expression of their emotions. Often people like this unconsciously breathe very shallowly, because oxygen tends to
Many people observe that typical females are more emotionally
volatile and expressive than average males. That suggests that some
males may be genetically hindered from being aware of their
emotions. An interesting
proposal by neurobiologist Anne Moir is that brains can be
classed as male or female because they're "wired" and operate
differently. Her research suggests that depending on hormonal (and genetic?) factors in the pregnant mother, male babies can develop a
female brain. That helps explain why some males are very sensitive
and emotional and others aren't.
My research suggests that adults who were encouraged and rewarded
for expressing their emotions by their (expressive) adults are more
aware of their feelings than kids from
families. What do you think?
If this is true, then if you
want to be more aware of your emotions,
whether you may be a
Grown Wounded Child (GWC).
Do you ever have hunches, intuitions, "feelings," or premonitions? Are
you aware of your day and night dreams and fantasies? Do
you feel they "mean something" and merit some action? People who
lack awareness of these are often compulsively busy, and rarely slow
down to breathe and notice these common experiences. People who
value some form of meditation like
breathing techniques are often more aware of these "senses."
Many people believe such awareness is part of "being spiritual."
Awareness of Social Dynamics
Three zones that anyone can increase their awareness of are...
apparent interactions among other
people's subselves - e.g. "Looks like Luke has an internal
conflict now", and...
the multi-factor dynamics between
you and other people (e.g. "I notice that Janna and I are
arguing now, not problem-solving.")
On a scale of
one (totally unaware) to
ten (totally aware), how would you rank your normal awareness of each zone?
Have your awarenesses of these grown or
shrunk during your adult years?
A growing number of observers believe that normal personalities are
made up ofsemi-autonomous subselves or parts,
which are probably discrete brain regions. These interact all the
time, causing our thoughts, emotions, and some body sensations.
To gain awareness of the busy social worlds within you and other
people, study this, and then
identify your subselves.
Learning to affirm and harmonize your subselves is the focus of
Lesson 1 here. If you're curious or
skeptical about subselves, read this letter and try this safe, interesting exercise after you finish this article.
Two of seven powerful relationship
skills anyone can learn to use are
process awareness and metatalk. Professional communicators like therapists and life
coaches can learn to be aware of up to 50 social dynamics! Most people need to know
fewer than ten
of these in normal situations.
in this Web site provides guidance and
resources for learning these dynamics.
Some scholars liken awareness to an onion - peeling each layer
revealing a deeper layer, leading to "perfect peace," "Oneness with
the universe," or "Nirvana." Seeking to attain this state is a life-long pursuit for
some inspired and "enlightened" people.
Why are Many People Unaware?
our warp-speed, hyperactive culture
doesn't value or promote personal stillness, meditation, and awareness
few parents and schools teach kids
the value of being quiet and aware, meditating, journaling,
the ceaseless barrage of media
stimulation most of us endure;
some people are extraverts, who
are uncomfortable focusing "inside";
many adults and all kids are unaware of
wounded and their subselves protectively
their emotions and awarenesses. They may also suffer from "mind racing" or
"churning" when many subselves "talk" at once, drowning out
wounded people fear "looking within"
will reveal or free something awful or "evil," so they avoid
inner awareness; and...
Do you agree that average people in
"developed societies" are relatively unaware of their thoughts,
emotions, and social dynamics? Can you think of other personal or
social reasons for epidemic unawareness?
Paradox: we won't seek the benefits of greater awareness unless we're
aware of the costs of unawareness - i.e.
we're unaware of our
unawareness, unless we choose to reduce it on faith. Reducing
psychological wounds (Lesson 1) usually increases inner awareness and empathy
Implication - if you want to intentionally
increase your awarenesses, you must admit and overcome
your version of the blocks above. To do that, you'll
need your true Self to steadily
guide your other subselves.
Do you know
who's really running your life?
Improve Your Awareness?
Benefits vary by personality, age, culture, and situations. Gaining
wide-angle inner and outer awareness is like changing visual
blindness to clear color vision. This is immortalized in a line from
the hymn Amazing Grace - "(I) Was blind, but now I see." Do
you feel more aware (vs. knowledgeable) as an adult than you were as
a child? If so, pause and reflect - what benefits has that brought you?
The overarching benefit to
increasing your awareness is longer periods of personal serenity and
peace - freedom from personal and social discomfort.
Do you feel that reducing chronic personal
probably promotes a healthier lifestyle and longer life?
Intentionally improving your awareness of what
are feeling, thinking, needing, and doing promotes more empathic,
effective communication and more satisfying relationships.
Becoming more aware of the dynamics between you and other people
also promotes more effective communication and more social harmony
and satisfactions among all participants.
Increased awareness +
knowledge of the grieving process (Lesson 3) can sharply lower
your odds of getting
in mourning significant losses (broken bonds).
Seeking more spiritual awareness can improve your
communication and relationship with your
- specially in troubled times.
Add any benefits that are unique to your personal and family
Have you ever seen these awareness-benefits in one place before? All
these benefits together can significantly improve your marital and
family satisfaction and parenting effectiveness over time. This is
specially true if you encourage the young people in your life to be
more aware in all three zones (in me, in you, and between us), and
model it for them. are your family adults doing that yet?
are you motivated to increase your personal and social
awarenesses now? If so, consider these...
for Improving Your Awareness
A major block to personal
awareness is being often dominated by distrustful subselves - a
false self. So a
first step is to
yourself honestly for psychological wounds, and decide if you
need to commit to
- i.e. to
your true Self to guide your personality. If you ignore this, lower
your expectations of
the other options below. See self-improvement Lesson 1.
Decide something like "My life will be longer and more enjoyable if
I patiently grow my awareness." Then repeat that and
exercise at random times during the day and night. Option - be open to
learn some patterns of your awarenesses over time - e.g. "I'm most
aware in the morning," or "in Nature."
There are many age-old practices for increasing inner and outer
awareness. Most suggest (a) setting aside undistracted periods of
the day and night to be physically and mentally quiet,
and (b) learning how to breathe naturally from your belly. To
do the first, you may need to meet with
Critic subselves, who insist that you constantly be doing something
"productive." Recovery expert John Bradshaw observed "We
are human doings, not human beings."
Tell your Pusher/Drier/Achiever subself that doing nothing is productive, and to
trust you (your Self) to benefit from quiet periods. Don't try to
convince this energetic subself that "more awareness" is beneficial
- s/he won't understand or agree. You may also have to explain this
idea to some other people who chide you for "being lazy"or "wasting time."
Many people find that doing
some form of regular journaling helps grow awareness of their inner and outer worlds. A
useful reference is the series of books based on "The
Artists Way," by Julia Cameron. Reluctance to do this often
stems from the Scared Child ("But what if someone reads it?"),
Cynic/ Doubter ("This
is a stupid waste of time!"), and/or
("This won't do any good.") subselves.
traditional way to improve awareness is any of the many forms of
meditation. Search the Web with this term and see what you get. This can
include aroma and/or massage therapy.
Become curious about how other people manifest and practice awareness, and
be open to new ideas.
you accept that some people are more adept at awareness than others, seek
people in your community who are respected veteran coaches or guides
at expanding your consciousness. This includes pastoral counselors and
spiritual guides - e.g. Zen Buddhist masters and Native American shamans.
Try experiencing several retreats in Natural settings to get away from your
daily distractions. Some geographic locations like
Sedona Arizona are renowned for
enhancing personal and spiritual awareness.
To enhance your social
(interpersonal) awareness, study these communication basics, and this
article for perspective and options.
These are a few of the many options available to you toward enjoying a
greater personal, social, and spiritual awareness. They all require you to
(a) free your Self to lead your personality, and (b) decide to improve your
awareness without knowing what the specific benefits will be - a leap of
Status Check - Now how would you explain the
concept of "awareness"
to an average pre-teen? Try saying your definition out loud. Then
reflect and rank yourself from one (I'm never aware of myself and
others) to ten (I'm always very aware): ___. How
does this compare with your rank at the top of the article?. What have you
article defines "awareness," focuses on why and how to
intentionally improve your personal and social
awareness.The article exists because of
the premise that most American adults (like you?) and all kids are unaware
of their unawareness. This significantly hinders their serenity, health,
relationships, and accomplishments.
The article proposes that you can achieve significant personal
and social benefits from patiently raising your awareness (a) within
you, (b) of other people (empathy), (c) between you and other
people, and (d) of spiritual things.