Know yourself. What a powerful statement! Socrates may not have lived in a period where knowledge of the subconscious was just one Google click away, but he was sufficiently self-aware to understand the supreme importance of self-awareness and to share that with the world.
Know yourself. There are several assumptions inherent in this statement:
1. First, there is such a thing as a self, an identity.
2. Second, it is possible to drill down into this self, to get to know it, and to recognize the automatic patterns that manage our behavior.
3. Third, this self is definable – we can choose the words and symbols that define our identity.
Self-awareness is a deep and complex topic. It goes beyond simply being aware of having something stuck between your teeth after you eat, sipping your coffee too fast, or yawning with your mouth wide open.
How many times were you attracted to people who you knew were wrong for you? Have you ever asked yourself why you prefer to work alone (for example as a bookkeeper or lab worker)?
Have you ever explored why you avoid conflicts? Why you fear commitment?
Have you ever asked yourself why certain behaviors that are supposed to bother you don’t affect you at all, and why you can continue interacting with people who behave such ways as if nothing happened?
You may think all the choices you’ve made throughout your life were logical, but that’s just an illusion. Your subconscious dictates your choices. We are all slaves to our patterns.
We all have unmet (childhood) needs
What are these imprinted patterns about? Mostly, they reflect unmet childhood needs.
These are natural needs that you had when you were a child, needs you still have as an adult, needs you will always have in the future.
These needs are ever present: when you interact with others, when you make choices, when you feel things, and at the root of all your behaviors.
One of my clients, Jack, grew up in a home where his mother was only available to him part of the time.
The rest of the time Jack felt completely abandoned. His mother would send him and his brother to bed early, about an hour before his father would get home from work, so that she could devote herself fully to her alcoholic, controlling husband.
She did that to protect her children from the angry outbursts of their father.
As a child, Jack did not understand his mother’s motivation. All he knew was that he needed her and she wasn’t there. He needed her affection, her love, a listening ear.
He was jealous of his father, who stole all of his mother’s love. As the years went by, his needs were never properly met, so he suppressed them.
Jack grew up to be a closed-off, secluded person, one who does not express his feelings. A person who is not connected to his needs and feelings at all.
This does not mean that his needs have vanished, they have merely been suppressed. Jack’s needs were always there and will always be there – they will always emerge in his interactions with other people.
Jack’s subconscious has always led him to super-needy women who needed constant attention, because that was his own hidden need. He met Michelle and together they had two children.
When Jack’s children demanded attention at night, or with daily homework, he could not understand their need. He thought their need was exaggerated. He wasn’t there for them.
When Michelle didn’t get enough attention from Jack, she turned her neediness towards the children – which made Jack jealous.
Look, as someone who went through, and is still going through, the process of increasing self-awareness, I will be the first to admit that doing this is not simple.
It takes a lot of focus, time, self-exploration, and a real desire to break the destructive cycle of childhood pain. This process becomes even more complex when you deliberately and rationally go against your automatic feelings.
What does this mean? Well, let’s take a look at Jack from the example above. Jack felt trapped by his kids’ demands.
His immediate emotional and behavioral reaction to this feeling was to withdraw and to isolate himself so as to avoid the difficulties he had responding to the needs of his children – the same needs that went unfulfilled when he was a child.
However, if Jack were to undertake a process of self-search and self-awareness, he might have said to himself: “Oh, I prefer to withdraw because I never got what I needed from my mother, never mind from my father. It is hard for me to handle my emotions.
As a child, I learned that having needs is a bad thing. Now, instead of leaving the house and going to a secluded spot in nature, or repressing my emotional difficulties with a bottle of Whiskey, I will listen to my children, I will be available to them, and I will try to understand them.”
This is just one example out of an infinity of possible cases of unmet childhood needs.
You should undertake a process of self-study. Think of yourself as a detective, investigating your Self.
Add the puzzle pieces one by one until you have a whole picture (or, at least, a large percentage of it).
Don’t rush this process. Take all the time you need. If needed, get help from a professional.
Your subconscious will always bring up symbols that reflect your unmet needs
Remember that your subconscious will always look for people and situations through which to continue the struggle to fulfill those unmet needs.
These people and situations are symbols that represent a never-ending hunger to fix your childhood experiences.
But this is a struggle you cannot win.
And when these people do not fulfill your emotional needs, it is important to remember that the pain you are experiencing is not the pain of the present.
You essentially go back to being a child. It is your childhood pain, felt all over again.
In my opinion, the people we are attracted to and fall in love with are the clearest symbols of our desire to fulfill our childhood needs. Notice all the things these people have in common.
I am not talking about the way they look (although that too, since we are often attracted to, or are repelled from people who remind us of our parents according to studies).
But every time you find yourself attracted to people who are emotionally unavailable; or those who are too needy or harsh; people who have clear limits or are inflexible; controlling, angry, or cold people; materialistic people; uber-proactive people; jealous people; distant people, and so on.
Be aware they are symbols. Don’t feel guilty over your hidden hunger and your attraction to such people. Simply pay attention to the common threads of your emotional reaction to such people and situations.
Pay attention to your emotional reactions when you are in a relationship – do you tend to react dramatically, with force, anger, and emotional manipulation and outbursts? Or do you withdraw from people and situations, prefer to avoid communicating, find that you need space?
To sum it up
This attention to the subconscious processes that control you – that is what self-awareness is all about.
Self-awareness is the ability to analyze your actions, your emotional triggers, and the thoughts that guide you.
It is entering into the pain, difficulty and sadness your feel, and examining them in an utterly rational manner.
Here’s a special meditation that is designed to help you become more self-aware by exposing your automatic emotional and mental responses.
You might also want to check out this recording – expose your deepest limiting beliefs.
Self-awareness is your ability to get to know yourself. And getting to know yourself is the beginning of your journey to change the subconscious templates and cycle of suffering that surrounds your life.
Are you ready to take to remove the negative paradigms and finally experience joy, ease & abundance? Find out how I did it.