Self-Aware vs. Self-Absorbed

In a lot of mental health literature there is a mantra that we must be “more aware” of ourselves at all times.

More aware of our thoughts. More aware of our emotions. More aware of our speech. More aware of our actions. More, more, more.

I have to admit that I am partly responsible. In the past year and a half I’ve mentioned self-awareness about 30 times. It is a concept that I generally hold in high regard, but I’m learning more about its intricacies each and everyday.

What I’m beginning to find is that there is a time and place for us to be more self-aware, and there is a time and place for us to be less self-aware. There are times when we need to take control, and there are times when we need to let go.

Say you are having a heated discussion with a loved one, like a spouse, or sibling, or boyfriend, or girlfriend. Naturally the more heated the conversation gets the more you feel angry, frustrated, or desperate. Your negative emotions begin to possess you, your ego shifts into high gear, and suddenly you don’t feel so in control. In fact, it feels more like you are a puppet on strings. A slave to your own negative energy.

In such a case it is appropriate to take conscious action, break the pattern, and step back in the driver’s seat. Increase your self-awareness by being more mindful when negative emotions possess us, and know how to react to them in a more effective way.

For example, instead of using your anger to fuel the argument further, you could see it as a sign that this conversation isn’t going anywhere productive. So one positive thing you could do is end the conversation and walk out of the room to regroup yourself.

It is important sometimes to reflect on our thoughts and feelings, monitor them, and make sure they are taking us where we want to go. However, a constant state of monitoring will lead us to be too self-conscious. If we are always worried about “What am I thinking?” or “What am I feeling?” then we can never engage in our surroundings with full consciousness. This is when self-awareness becomes more than just self-awareness, it becomes self-absorption, and this can end up being very detrimental.

Self-absorption is when we are too preoccupied with our inner world to appreciate our outer world. It is when we find ourselves chatting away in our heads and making petty judgments, instead of letting go and living presently with what surrounds us.

Imagine what a self-absorbed person would be like to hang out with. You try to have a conversation with them or play a game, but they are never fully “there.” Their attention is constantly shifting from one thought to the next. They are always reflecting, so they seem disinterested in everything else going on around them.

We’ve all been in a similar situation before. Instead of seizing the moment for what it is we get stuck in our heads with questions like, “Why am I here?” or “What am I doing?” We over-think, over-analyze, and simultaneously disconnect ourselves from the world.

Out of your mind and into the moment

I suspect that a lot of people get too absorbed in their own inner world because they don’t have a way to express it. In my article, “Introverts Guide To Thinking Less” I recommend over-thinkers to be more creative and exercise more. In this post I want to touch on a form of meditation that includes both of these aspects. It is called Dynamic Meditation.

Dynamic Meditation is a form of meditation that embraces spontaneity and the mind-body connection. It can be best summarized in 5 different steps:

    1. For the first ten minutes stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees relaxed, and joints loose. Move around, breathe fast through your nose, and really emphasize the out-breath. Make sure you move as spontaneously as possible, don’t follow any particular rhythm, and act as if everything is happening to someone else.

    2. Allow all your feelings to come out over the next ten minutes. A little acting will help you start, but then emotions will start arising on their own accord. Let it all erupt through your body movements and sound. Your feelings will always be changing, but be totally into the experience. Channel all your feelings through body expression.

    3. Keep your eyes closed, arms raised, and for the next ten minutes jump up and down saying “Who” whenever your feet hit the floor. Don’t hold back, exhaust yourself, but while doing this remain aware of everything that is happening both inside and outside.

    4. Freeze. For the next 15 minutes remain just like a statue. Eyes closed and without adjusting the body. From inside, just be a watcher. Observe passively any sensations or feelings coming from inside or outside you.

    5. For the last 15 minutes, go into a celebratory dance. End the meditation on a positive, feel-good vibe.

Watch a video representation of this exercise below:

Think of how much healthier it is to release emotions through something creative like Dynamic Meditation instead of a heat-of-the-moment argument.

In an argument we are often only exchanging negative energy with the person we are arguing with. Due to this we both walk away from the experience feeling even worse than before.

However, after Dynamic Meditation, we actually feel relieved because we have released our emotions in an organic and spontaneous way that doesn’t create negative karma (it doesn’t hurt others).

I’ve personally found this meditation to be one of the best ways to get out of my analytical mind and become fully in the now with my feelings. I highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves constantly distracted or preoccupied with their inner world and wants to find a healthy release.

Your thoughts and participation.

  • Where do you draw the line between self-awareness and self-absorption?
  • During what parts of the day do you find yourself most distracted or disengaged?
  • What do you think of Dynamic Meditation?
  • What activities help you “get in the moment?”

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