Research Paper By Donna Jackman Wilson
(Life Coach for Women, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO)
A wise person once said, “self-awareness is a mindfulness skill”. This means paying attention to your thoughts, actions, reactions and emotions.
Today as I went on my usual early morning brisk walk, I decided to pay attention to myself – what I was thinking, feeling and sensing. So armed with this aim of mindfulness, I made myself a study in self -awareness.
It is said that self-focused awareness is objective self-awareness which creates feelings of agitation and anxiety. I can assure readers that I felt neither of these emotions but rather a sense of wonder and self-discovery.
I noticed that as I walked, my right foot met the road on the right extreme of my sole whilst my left foot made complete heel to toe contact with the road. I also noticed how quickly I got into a nice steady pace but my breathing was short paced, so I corrected that and immediately felt the impact on my diaphragm.
During my walk, I decided to make a quick detour off the regular path to go to the sea wall to look out at the Gulf of Paria. I immediately felt a sense of foreboding as I made my approach for the tide was in and the ships looked nearer and bigger than on previous occasions.
I did not stay long, and as I departed from the wall the foreboding feeling was replaced by a calmer, more relaxed rhythmic breathing. I realize now that I may have been holding my breath as I scanned the far horizon of the Gulf. To be that in tune with myself was a really exhilarating feeling.
In addition to the above experiment on my own mindfulness, I researched the internet, my modules and library books about related topics on self-awareness. For instance, I found out that to be self-aware is one of the pillars of emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman calls it the “keystone” of emotional intelligence. In his book entitled Emotional Intelligence, he writes, “self-awareness is the foundation of personal growth and success”.
Emotional intelligence helps us as humans to deal with all kinds of emotionally trying relationships either with our siblings, our spouses or even in our work related interactions.
“Self-awareness is our capacity for introspection. It’s our ability to be honest with ourselves about our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and habits” (theprosperouspursuit.com). Being self-aware helps us to pay attention to and “identify our own hot triggers and to understand what factors determine how likely we are to be able to weaken them. Equally difficult, but not impossible, is to change how we act when we are emotional so our emotional behaviour is not harmful to ourselves or others” Eckner (2003). If we are not self-aware we will hardly know why we react the way we do to some stimuli, and so beat ourselves up emotionally, after the event.
We also would not know what to do with stray thoughts, and instead of letting them pass through and go their merry way, we will allow them to stay and be entertained by us through pondering and ruminating on them until they become disruptive, and therefore unwanted.
Self-awareness is a tool to help us move from our present state to the one that we would rather be in. It helps us be at our best in each moment and this tool can help us to know where we are most effective and so attract the job we would rather have. Being aware of our beliefs and values can help us to keep a steady head and mind when we come against challenges to what we believe and have proven to be real, over time.
“Self-awareness necessitates looking at all aspects of yourself and through this filter,(italics, my words) you will discover what is truly important to you. Deeply rigorous and shining integrity is essential as you travel the road of self-awareness and of contribution to others… the aware, focused, creative person of integrity and perseverance will find themselves indubitably led to the service of others. One of the marks of greatness is the willingness to serve others.” Drummond (2004).
Application of Self Awareness to Coaching
A study was done by Ryff and Singer (2001) on parent coached (pc) and parent dismissed (PD) children showed that pc children have “the ability to regulate emotions, to self-soothe and to focus attention during emotionally trying peer situations (p.35). Pcchildren are also able to maximize opportunities for meaningful interactions with significant others and have a consequence on (their) long term health and well-being. (p. 172).
If we feel “stuck” in our lives, unable to move forward, communicating our thoughts to a coach is a satisfying exercise. A coach with the right questions can help a client find out what their true feelings are about a given situation and so raise their awareness about what is causing the “stuckness”.
Coaches are trained to probe deeply into the clients’ innermost thoughts to clarify issues of underlying beliefs of which the clients are unaware. Coaches can help to bring lightness to situations or issues where there may be undue significance. A compassionate coach perceives and treats each client in their own right and will help the client to visualize a worst case scenario “helping them to figure the worst things that could happen and help them to see the real issues and not attach significance to what is really a light issue” – Lorna Poole (2018).
It is important to be mindful and self-aware as a coach, and if the client’s situation is also impacting you as a coach, it is imperative that the coach acknowledges the client’s feeling and get both yourselves into a safe place. Deep breathing exercise helps.
Another tool that is helpful in coaching alongside self-awareness is visualization. Visualization helps the client to become more aware of “the insights and messages our subconscious might evoke during the process of visualization (and) we can learn more about ourselves and how we interact with others”. Boyd (2001). A powerful visualization raises feelings and emotions. It helps the client to calm down, become centred and relaxed and helps the client to get clarity and awareness. During the visualization, good questions to ask are – what are you seeing, feeling, who is around you? The visualization exercise could also be a very emotional time.
Other tools that can be used in tandem with self-awareness are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). These are both tools that interact with the mind of the client.
According to Peter Walker in his YouTube video on CBT and self-awareness, this counsellor and clinical supervisor say, in parts: “there is a high value of focusing on self-awareness… individuals need to see how they are thinking … reflect on yourself … do you see how you are processing, what values you are putting on those thoughts? Well, maybe it could be because of this association with parents or spouse… As you become aware of the components of your thought processes, you can reorganize those components and thereby recalibrate the roads that those thoughts take in an area or a topic. Self-awareness is looking at how you are thinking, what might be going into those thoughts and feelings. – Getting a hold of these thought processes is the key to being self-aware”…
With neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), the originators, and one with a background in gestalt therapy, which is to find ways for people to have richer and fuller lives. The NLP originator believed that by studying the patterns of successful people, these could be modelled so others could learn from them.
One tool that is commonly used in NLP, is anchoring, “which conjures up a feeling of strength, stability and safety. Anchoring allows an emotional state to be associated with and triggered by, a word or action or movement”. (Module).
You might remember me doing the focusing exercise whilst on my regular morning walk, at the beginning of this paper. The neurolinguistic programming part of this self-awareness exercise would have been for me to be looking down to my dominant hand and using my eyes to access the cues to my feelings. (I would have been looking to see how relaxed or tense this hand was.) This tool is used by some coaches to help their clients to check exactly the physiological and mental signs of their presenting emotions. (nlppod.com)
As I said, the above is a useful tool to use with self-awareness but more importantly, in order to create awareness in others, the coach must first be self-aware, and self-awareness involves self-regulatory behaviour. This includes “attentional selectivity, emotion control, motor control, environment control, lack of parsimony”. Brandstatter (2001).
Psychology.wiki defines each of the above, thus: Attentional selectivity is the ability to focus on what is important at the moment and block out everything else. Emotion control is the ability to respond to the ongoing demands of experience with the range of emotions in a manner that is socially tolerable and sufficiently flexible to permit spontaneous reactions, as well as the ability to delay spontaneous reactions as needed. Motivation control refers to the motive to exercise at least some control over important events in our lives. Lack of parsimony is a lack of generosity in trifling matters or procrastination.
Benefits to Self Awareness to Coaching
Part of self-awareness is about allowing the client to talk about themselves and also to share whatever emotion they are feeling at the moment. “Talking aloud to a coach can begin to change [the client’s] inner self-talk.”
Module – Creating Awareness.
“If there is a “stuck” moment, the coach will ask another question to move the client on and if the same words come up again, then it is time for exploration. Self-awareness is valuable because it helps the coach to think about the values they bring to the coaching space.” Sham (2018).
Some of the components that are useful in creating awareness for the client is giving them space using metaphors, to appreciate the situation they are in.
With self-awareness or mindfulness, the coach is able to recognize many emotions and the experiences they out bring in their client. The coach is able to keep a better perspective and not be overwhelmed by these. Additionally, the coach can empathize with the client’s emotions and use their own awareness of their own emotions to negotiate interactions with the client.
Reflections and Conclusions
As we learnt at the beginning of the paper, mindfulness is very much a part of self-awareness, and mindfulness is what helps us to regulate our emotions. For instance, once we are mindful of our presenting emotion, we can choose whether we want to act on the emotion, take a step back from it or observe the emotion. Mindfulness is the sense of being aware of what our mind is doing in the given moment.
Creating awareness in a client in a session not only helps the client to problem solve but it also the client to drop self-defeating habits and develop new ways of thinking and being.
To sum it up, when you are self- aware, you are in control of your life. Not only are you in control but you feel in control and with that feeling of control you can do anything you desire. You can change something you do not like about your life; you can decide not to do things that do not make you feel good; you can choose to participate more in things that do make you happy and you will be aware exactly why you are making these decisions. Increasing one’s level of self-awareness is a life-long pursuit, so use patience.
Eckner, Paul (2003) – Emotions Revealed
World Wide Web – theprosperouspursuit.com
TeleclassLightness vs Significance with Lorna Poole 0n 05/18/18
Boyd, Hilary (2001) – Banishing the Blues
Brandstatter, Herman (2001) – Person, Situations and Emotions
World Wide Web – psychology.wikia
ICA Module – Creating Awareness
TeleclassCreating Awareness with Haseena Sham on 04/22/19
Eich, Kihlstrom, Bower, Forgas and Niedenthal (2002) – Cognition & Emotion
Drummond, Norman (2004) – The Spirit of Success
Ryff & Singer (2001) – Emotional, Social Relationships and Health
YouTube Video on CBT: Self Awareness by Peter Walker, the counsellor
ICA Module – Neuro-Linguistic Programming