This blog emanated from a counseling course I attended. The crux of the course was to spend time in self-reflection to uncover issues of unconscious motivations, insight, intrapsychic processes, and self-examination. Once these issues are uncovered and brought into light, they can be examined and resolved (if necessary).
The counselor who knows their “self” is better able to assist others. This knowledge prevents circumstances of counter-transference, which is the unconscious transferring of thoughts, feelings, and attitudes onto the client by the therapist. In other words, if a client presents a problem closely resembling something in the counselor’s background, the counselor who has not properly dealt with the issue will risk working on their own issue through the client, rather than assisting the client.
The exercises in self-awareness reminded me that I, too, am part of humanity. I share the same feelings of hope, fear, frustration, anxiety, and the myriad of other issues and concerns my potential clients bring to the sessions. I cannot separate myself and be solely objective when working with others. I must be subjective and be fully aware of my own strengths, weaknesses, preferences and prejudices in order to be genuine with those I seek to assist.
Self-awareness is a journey I have knowingly been taking for several years. I state knowingly because I feel one cannot help but develop self-awareness through interactions with other people. Most often, it is an unknowing self-awareness. To explain the difference, I offer an example of being subtly changed by the values held by those around me. While I may not realize my own values are changing to either reflect those around me or be pushed in a more opposite direction, the truth is that this happens. By stating I am knowingly working on self-awareness, I simply mean insight into my own motivations, behaviors, thoughts, and actions are being voluntarily scrutinized consciously by me. I am aware of how I feel and why I think in certain ways.
Turning 40 was the beginning of my journey of self-awareness. There was something about turning 40, which at least for me, caused me to re-evaluate my life; to look at where I was, where I was heading, where I wanted to go, and how I could get there that just “switched on,” for lack of a better term. The exercise in the course of becoming more self-aware only re-emphasized my current self-exploration.
An obstacle to self-exploration is falling into the mindset of “this will be bad” or “this will be good” without examining why I feel this way. I have to remind myself to stop, take a moment to review my thoughts, and find the cause for these thought patterns.
I am a fan of science fiction novels (and “B-Flicks”) so I tend to approach self-awareness in the way an artificial life form might. I scrutinize my thoughts and reactions to a situation and try to determine where the origin of the reactions lay.
To put this exercise in another form, I try to utilize the Zen “beginner’s mind” technique to see scenarios as fresh and new, not clouded by my own perceptions based on preconceived notions, past experiences, or past feedback from others. The challenge is to do so while remaining subjective rather than taking an objective stance of myself. Being able to do so has allowed me to have an openness about my own strengths and weaknesses, in other words, allowing myself to be pulled from my comfort zone.
What this self-examination has lead to is a deeper listening to the inner voice inside that offers suggestions and advice. Some call this voice “conscience” but I prefer to call it a “divine guide.” Being a very spiritual person (albeit not religious), I have found that spirituality has allowed me to be cognizant of The Divine Guide Within.