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Self Awareness – A Path to Serenity

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Ever had one of those days? Sometimes the reasons are obvious – the car ran out of petrol, you arrived 20 minutes late to an important meeting, a last-minute job with an urgent deadline got dropped on you at work and you returned home at 8:30pm to find only mouldy left-overs in the refrigerator for dinner! Pretty easy to see how this kind of day could leave you feeling out-of-sorts!

But what about those times when the reasons for your low mood aren’t obvious at all? You can clearly discern a sense of uneasiness, despondency or even sadness. On reflection, none of this can be traced back to any specific event or circumstance. Yet the feeling is ‘real’, nonetheless, and you may begin to feel even worse because in the absence of a ‘cause’ you feel powerless to actually do something to help you feel better.

I vividly remember experiencing this latter type of day a few months ago while working interstate. It was the end of a long day of facilitating a workshop an Customer Service and I was nurturing myself with a quiet coffee in the hotel café before eating dinner in my room. I suddenly became aware of this draining, low mood descending upon me. Ignorant of its cause (it had been a good day with my group of participants – lots of learning and laughter), the ‘depressed’ feeling grew more pronounced as I neared the bottom of my cup.

Some physical exercise – that’s what I needed! I set off on my 45 minute power walk, keen to put my troubles (whatever they were!) behind me. Though I’m sure the exercise was beneficial, it failed to serve my prime purpose and I returned to my room still feeling burdened by some unidentified weightiness.

During his phone call to me, my husband picked up on my mood and asked me what was wrong. Still unable to articulate ‘it’, we moved on to chat about other things for a while until my room service dinner arrived.

So there I was, 5 minutes into my dinner when the AHA struck me! I was missing ‘connectedness’. A natural extravert, I enjoy spending time with other people (which I’d done all day in the workshop). More specifically, though, I’m an intimate extravert. This aspect of extraversion desires (even, at times, needs) to have contact with people with whom they share an ongoing relationship. They like to communicate about issues that are important to them and the other person. They seek a depth of connection with others which allows them to share (with those they trust) the normally secluded parts of themselves that are the real human being.

So despite having spent the entire day (and the previous 2 days) surrounded by people discussing various topics of the workshop, there was a part of my extraverted nature that was unfulfilled. And that, I realised with relief, was the catalyst to my low mood.

This awareness enabled me to understand and accept how I was feeling. It was no longer something to worry about, stew over or try to ‘fix’. The mystery solved, I asked myself “OK, if that’s the cause, what do I want to do about this right now? What are my options?” Away from home and my loved ones limited my choices, but I still had some, nonetheless! Reading my novel won and I spent the next few hours both physically and emotionally relaxed.

So why have I shared this story? Because I learned (again) that night how important it is to know ourselves well. Had I not had the awareness of my intimate extraverted nature, I might well have spent the next several hours or days allowing the feelings of gloom to grow and perhaps even overwhelm me. My self-knowledge enabled me to identify where my low was coming from, accept it and simply move on.

The benefits of self-awareness are numerous. To begin with, we can be more kind and gentle with ourselves. As a consequence, we are then better able to relate and be of service to others – and feel empowered to do whatever it is we need to do.

Enjoy your learning journey!

© Sandi Givens, 2010

Permission to reprint this article is welcomed provided the following:

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