Step One: Self-Awareness
by AEA Professionals, Jaye Andres and Linda Frazee
Have you ever heard the expression, “Wherever you go, there you are”? It means that our biggest obstacle in changing or growing our lives is ourselves. You can change all of the circumstances around you but if you have not changed yourself there will be no movement. In other words, what gets in the way of creating what you want is you! The key to change and growth is self-awareness.
This is because everyone has a filter, through which s/he processes information and experience, based on genetic predisposition and early childhood environment. By the time we are adults, this filter is so ingrained in us that we don’t even know it is there. It accounts for blind spots – those things about us that others see but we don’t; blocks – those things that keep us from being our best selves; and triggers – those things that set us off into negative reaction instead of being able to stay present and in conscious choice about our actions. Blind spots, blocks and triggers are the secret saboteurs in our life. They keep us from being what we want to be and getting what we desire.
The first step in personal growth, to getting unstuck, is to honestly self-evaluate and find out where you are stuck and, most importantly, WHY. The first step in this process is to develop the ability to self-observe. So often our energy is “up and out”, i.e. focused on people and circumstances outside ourselves. Oftentimes the focus is judgment and blame. It takes a shift of focus to breathe deeply and come inside yourself to sense what is going on inside of you rather than “out there”. The goal is to observe your reactions without judgment and do some honest inquiry as to what is underneath those reactions. To “own your own stuff” is an expression we hear a lot these days. First of all you have to know what your own stuff is!
Through a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors (especially family of origin) we each have come to see the world a certain way and we reinforce this over and over through our own self-talk. This began at such a young age and has gone on for so long that we may not even realize anymore that the way we are seeing things is very likely not the same way others do. It’s like being born with purple lenses over your eyes and not realizing the world is really not purple until someone tells you that, the way they see it, the world is red. You can think of it as a filter through which you process and react to information and it accounts for the “why” behind the “what” that we do.
It is the motivation underlying behavior that is the heart of the matter. By understanding why you do what you do, the power of habitual, non-conscious behavior is diminished. You cannot create change in your life by slapping a new behavior over an old one – you need to let go of the old – but you cannot do that unless you truly understand – and accept – the old. The more you resist what is, what you are and what you do, the more power it has over you. The more you understand the why of behavior, the more compassion you will have both for yourself and for others. For example, if you understand that the bully down the street is simply trying to prevent feeling vulnerable, you are more likely to feel some compassion toward his behavior and, hopefully, take his actions less seriously.
The Enneagram of Personality Types is arguably one of the best tools for assisting in the development of self-awareness. Some people resist typing systems because they don’t like being “put in a box”. Well, if you have a personality, you are in a box. So you are best served by learning about that box – not to use it as an excuse, not to call in an interior designer to fix it up so you can settle in more comfortably, but rather to cut some doors and windows in your box so you can move out of it from time to time. Your personality is never going to go away, nor would you want it to. The purpose of studying this system is to learn about your habitual, kneejerk reactions to life that don’t serve you. Chances are you have a blind spot when it comes to these “automatic” behaviors and don’t even know you do them, let alone why. The goal is to help you improve your self-observational skills and give you some tools to assist you in moving through your life in a receptive way, consciously reacting to events around you instead of coming from a place of non-conscious reaction. If you feel some resistance to being “categorized”, just note it, don’t resist it – just note it and let go. It may be a clue to your Type.