Learning to Observe Yourself: The Key to Developing Self-Awareness and Stop Failing in Relationships
You probably are not used to observe yourself: contemplate your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, reactions and behaviors about partners and relationships. You date others; you start a relationship; you go through its’ motions; you confront difficulties and problems. And when one relationship fails you find ways to explain and justify its failure and look for a new partner. Probably, seldom you look inwards, trying to understand whether there was anything you did which caused you to fail (once again).
However, when you acknowledge the importance of Self-Awareness to your ability to develop a successful relationship and are motivated to embark on the process, observation is the primary tool to use. The more you observe, the more you learn about factors that unconsciously control you and about the ways in which you harm your relationships.
Observing yourself is vital to becoming aware of how you sabotage your relationships
“The Art of Observing Yourself” is something to be learned. It is a skill no one has ever taught you. Yet, it is a vital skill to manage in order to get hold on how you handle yourself in relationships and, most important of all, how you harm them without even knowing that you do.
Observing yourself means:
1) Looking at yourself as if from aside; as if you are someone else looking at yourself; as if you are about to write you autobiography and you’re trying to be as objective and accurate as possible and recall as much as possible regarding the “history” of your partners and relationships (or lack of).
2) Looking inwards and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, belief-system, reactions and behaviors – all of which take part in your interactions with your partners (or dates), all of which play a part in your being single (if you still are), all of which play part in sabotaging yourself and your relationships.
“The Art of Observation” requires that you are mature enough to carefully observe and sincere enough to honestly report to yourself what you see.
Acknowledging and accepting what you see enables you to use what you have found out in making the necessary changes to develop a successful relationship.
In which situations you can observe yourself?
There are 3 basic situations in which you can observe yourself.
1. You can observe yourself in a specific situation with your partner (if you currently have one).
2. You can observe yourself in retrospect – re-thinking past interactions with past partners. You then re-construct in your head the specifics about such interactions – your conversation, your attitudes, your feelings, your thoughts, your reactions and behaviors.
Whether you observe either specific situation with your current partner or re-construct past situations, it is important that you pay attention to “your side of the story” (your attitudes, feelings, thoughts, reactions and behaviors) and not to your partner’s.
3. If you are still single, you can observe yourself both in retrospect, and also while going on dates.
It is customary to think that you go on blind-dates to get to know others. It is, however, also possible, at the same time, to observe yourself.
Blind-dates offer you a great opportunity to learn a lot about yourself. Observing yourself and your interactions can teach you a lot about:
a) The ways in which you present yourself;
b) The thoughts, feelings, attitudes, reactions and behaviors which take part throughout all your dating attempts;
c) What in your date’s reactions and behaviors trigger your automatic patterns.
Begin your observation by asking yourself questions
The best way to begin observing yourself is by asking yourself questions and finding out the answers. Ask whichever spontaneous questions come to your mind, without censoring them. These will be the ones which will give you the best insights about yourself. For example:
* “Am I genuine with my partners?”
* “Do I always agree to whatever my partners want?”
* “Am I being driven by insecurity and low self-esteem?”
* “Can I be without a relationship?”
* And many other questions from your own experiences.
As you ask yourself these questions and seek answers, the more specific and concrete you are, the more clearly you will be able to:
* Become aware of yourself;
* Recognize your patterns;
* Identify what drives you to think, feel, react and behave in ways which sabotage your relationships (or drive you to stay single).
Questions you can ask yourself while on blind-date
To facilitate your observation while on blind-date, ask questions such as:
* “Am I falling in love (already?)”
* “Do I feel sexually attracted (so quickly)?”
* “Will I be willing to go with my date to bed tonight?”
* “Am I afraid my date wouldn’t want to see me again if I won’t?”
* “Would I want to extend this date to an intimate relationship” and if so:”Do I always want this on a first date?”
And so on. These will enable you to see your “usual” ways of thinking, feeling, expecting and reacting.
Honestly reporting to yourself what you find out is a huge step towards developing your Self-Awareness and realizing how you shoot yourself in the foot.
What do you need to observe and become aware of?
Throughout all your observations, you need to pay attention and become aware of the thoughts, feelings, attitudes, reactions and behaviors which repeat themselves throughout all your interactions.
You may wonder: observing thoughts and feelings? How can I observe something that’s happening inside me?
While thoughts and feelings are an internal process, you can nonetheless focus on what you are thinking and feeling at any given moment.
Paying attention to your thoughts and feelings is an essential part of developing your Self-Awareness. It enables you to:
1) Focus on what you think and feel;
2) See the connection between your thoughts and feelings and your reactions and behaviors.
Example a: the connection between your feelings and your reactions
Thinking that “my partner doesn’t like the way I am dressed” might have an impact on your feelings (such as: “I feel criticized all the time”), as well as on the ways in which you react and behave towards your partner.
Example b: the connection between your feelings and your behaviors
Feeling that “my partner doesn’t love me enough” might drive you to behave (once again!) in self-sacrificing ways (out of fear of abandonment and the need to be loved and accepted).
Observing what controls your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, reactions and behaviors
As you pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, reactions and behaviors you become able to see that they might be controlled by:
* Your needs (such as: the need to be protected; the need to be loved and accepted; the need for control and power; the need for security; the need for independence; the need to always be “right”).
* Your fears (such as: the fear of losing your independence; the fear of commitment; the fear of abandonment; the fear of being hurt; the fear of intimacy).
* Messages you internalized (such as: “always compromise”; “never insist on your will”; “better control than be controlled”; “having a partner is better than being single”).
* Expectations you have about partners and relationships (such as: “my partner needs to always be there for me”; “I expect my partner to always be sexually attracted to me”; “my partner should call me at least five times during the day”; “my partner will share everything with me”).
* Your fantasies (such as: “my partner must supply all my needs”; “upon meeting my soul-mate I’ll finally have a wonderful relationship”; “our love and sex will continue for ever”; “we will never have any fights”).
* Your belief-system, opinions and values (such as: “men are always superior to women”; “women are always too emotional”; “work is more important than any relationship”; “talking about issues never helps”).
Observing and becoming aware of what exerts power over your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, reactions and behaviors enables you to realize how these drove you to harm your relationships (or to stay single).
You then become able to de-activate the power they exerted over you and make the necessary changes to develop a successful intimacy.
Look for patterns of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, reactions and behaviors
The more situations you observe, the more you become able to see patterns of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, reactions and behaviors. For example, do you always:
* Think your partner is trying to control you;
* Feel inferior to your partner;
* Believe that your partner doesn’t love you enough;
* React to your partner’s suggestions with contempt;
* Behave in an aggressive (or always submissive) manner; and so on.
The patterns which repeat themselves throughout all your interactions are probably the ones responsible for your failed relationships.
How to summarize and keep note of what you have observed
A constructive and helpful way of summarizing what you have observed and noticed and pin-pointing the ways in which you might have harmed your relationships until now is by writing it all down: your observations, the questions and the answers you came up with.
Think about it as writing down your “Relationship Autobiography”: this is a perfect way to re-construct your relationships and see trends and patterns. Writing these all down enables you to be as specific as possible and include as many examples which you may recall. This is also an efficient way to add more and more information as you go on with the Self-Awareness process. You can then re-read what you have written down and get a clear notion of your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, reactions and behaviors which repeat themselves throughout all your interactions.
Honestly writing down what your observations is vital to focus on what you have noticed and to understand the necessary changes you need to make in order to develop a successful relationship.
Summary: The Importance of Observation
Observing yourself enables you to see what’s happening inside you and become aware of what drives your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, reactions and behaviors about partners and relationships.
When you observe and become aware, you can understand how you’ve hurt yourself in your relationships. The more you observe and learn what drives you, the better you can see how you sabotage yourself and your relationships, and understand what you need to do in order to change and become able to develop a successful intimacy.
Doron Gil, Ph.D., is an expert on Self-Awareness and Relationships with a 30 year experience as a university teacher, workshop leader, counsellor and consultant. He is the author of more than 100 articles on the subject and of: “The Self-Awareness Guide to a Successful Intimate Relationship”. Available as eBook and paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Self-Awareness-Guide-Successful-Intimate-Relationship/dp/143925141X/
More on Dr. Gil, his book and articles: http://self-awareness-and-relationships.blogspot.com
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