“The first step toward change is awareness.” Nathaniel Brandon
“To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are.” Eric Hoffer
“Awareness is the first step in healing.” Dean Ornish
Here’s the truth. If we can’t see something, we can’t do anything about it. We’ll just keep doing the same things we’ve always done, possibly to our own detriment — NO MATTER HOW MUCH WE WANT TO CHANGE. There are a couple ways that this happens — the first involves procedural memory and habit formation. The second is more deliberate — we hide the things we don’t want to see — lock them away and deny ourselves entry.
We learn ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving from the first big people in our lives. We develop patterns of reacting to our environment that become so ingrained that we don’t even notice them anymore. We might be entirely unconscious of certain patterns that we’ve developed, some of them planted long before our brains were fully developed. Some of these patterns might be perfectly healthy and help us move in ways that open us up and move us forward. Others might be limiting, constricting, or disconnecting. They are often so embedded that we assume they are absolutely true, unchanging, and all-encompassing, and we become blind to the ways they might be impacting our lives.
Other patterns stem from painful events, or the patterns themselves cause us pain (often shame), and so we deliberately hide them away. We lock them away from our consciousness and refuse to see.
Imagine this… Once upon a time, there was a young girl. She was courted by a handsome older man. The man was an eligible bachelor with lots going for him — money, land, looks, riches. He was the whole package, and the girl was enamored. Ultimately, she married him, and he took her away to live in his amazing home. The man, let’s call him Dan, was away a lot. He traveled for business, and his young wife, (we’ll call her) Linda was left alone. Dan told Linda that his whole house was her house to do with as she pleased. Well…almost the whole house. There was a room in the upper floors that he forbade her from visiting. The room was locked — totally off limits.
Dan was hiding the decapitated heads and bodies of his 4 other wives in that room.
We often play the roles of both Dan and Linda. We lock the door, AND we allow ourselves to be denied entry. We let ourselves see the surface stuff of our Selves — the looks, the riches, the land, the pretty, unlocked rooms. We delude ourselves into thinking that the locked room doesn’t exist. But it does. And those decapitated heads will come back to bite us.
Until we become willing to seek out and become aware of the patterns in our lives, we cannot move forward. Transformation requires that we open the windows of awareness on our whole lives, the internal and the external. No locked doors.
But how? Here are some ideas:
- Therapy — not everybody needs it, but it can sure be helpful if I’m caught up in some really distressing patterns.
- Coaching — a good Coach can help me see patterns that I’m not aware of.
- Peer Support Groups (especially empowerment and consciousness raising groups) — like-minded folks dedicated to growth and change can help me open up to self-awareness.
- Awareness based activities like yoga, certain types of conscious dance, and tai chi — these are great for turning my attention inward.
- Journaling — start diving into how you think and feel about things.
- Mindfulness meditation — sitting down and getting quiet is an immediate invitation to SEE Self.
Maybe you have other ideas. Cool. Do it.
Transformation Step 1. Wake up. Get aware.
The original article, published on May 24, 2018 at Medium.com has been edited by the author, Tara Moorman, for publication on this website.
Dr. Allaire received his Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Houston, as Valedictorian of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and his Medical Doctorate from Baylor College of Medicine, where he served as Chief Resident. He is the medical monitor for the Physician Counseling Committee of the Harris County Medical Society and the Medical Director of Serenity House Detox. Dr. Allaire specializes in medically assisted detox cases, treating patients in recovery from addiction or other mental health disorders, the medical assessment and monitoring of patients with addictive disorders, medical care related to eating disorders and the medical treatment of patients with mental health conditions.