Lately, I’ve been reflecting on how to be more conscious and what tools can help me to do so, aside from daily practices such as meditation and mindfulness.
One thing that can be immensely helpful is recognising that we all have many different aspects to our personalities. Living consciously is all about becoming more aware of these different aspects and how they can subconsciously influence us. Therapists and psychologists sometimes call them sub-personalities or “parts” of ourselves. The more we are able to recognise them when they arise, the more fluid we can be, and the less likely they are to take hold of us.
Have you noticed, for example, that you may be grumpy with your nearest and dearest in the morning, charming later in the day with a colleague or friend, and perhaps totally compliant or passive with a domineering person such as a boss or authority figure?
Being ourselves is like conducting an orchestra or driving a bus. We need to listen to the different parts or aspects of ourselves. If we don’t, then they are likely to find other ways of attracting our attention! This is especially true if a younger part of our psyche is not being listened to or receiving the attention it needs. This may mean we act out, fail to act at all, or engage in another undesirable behaviour that is coming from this previously unconscious aspect of ourselves.
During the pandemic, many of us tapped into other aspects of ourselves that were, perhaps, previously hidden.
Some of us became more creative and less driven, while others became more introverted and perhaps fearful. Some headed off to the rainforest (Yogananda Sinead!) and others to a holiday home in the west.
Now, as things change again, we can reevaluate and become more conscious. We can ask ourselves whether we want to give more room in our lives to the aspects that emerged for us during the pandemic.
One of my clients is in a job that she feels really unsuited to. She chose the position because she always did well academically, and this job suited her abilities. Now, as an adult, she really feels that there is absolutely no joy in the career she has chosen. She feels stuck. When we look back at how she was as a child, however, she had great fun and was very creative and engaged in life. Our work together is not necessarily geared towards her giving up the day job – although she may decide to do so – but rather, how can she listen a little more closely to this younger aspect of herself, have fun at work, take more breaks, and maybe listen to music she loves during her daily commutes.
My clients often report experiencing problems with authority figures, such as their boss. When I ask them more about the problem, it generally transpires that the way they feel with this person is exactly how they felt in front of other authority figures as a child.
Our work here, again, is to recognise that a younger part of our psyche or emotional body is being triggered. Rather than ignore this part, we need to actually listen to it more and allow it to be witnessed. We don’t need or want our hurt younger selves to be our present at work, but we do need to recognise when they are looking at the adult version of ourselves in order to be seen, heard, or held.
Our triggers, fears, or uncomfortable feelings are wise. When we were children, they protected us from being too exposed or overwhelmed on an emotional and physical level, but now, the aspects of ourselves that give rise to the fears need to be cared for as they should have been before.
I find it is really useful to keep an eye out for these aspects.
Some practical tips I use are:
• Notice when we have strong reactions or experience a reaction that is disproportionate to the situation.
• Journal or write about it. Find a way to reflect on what is going on and get to know this younger part of you that is being triggered.
• Seek to understand what this younger part wants to tell us or communicate with us.
• It could be that we need to have more fun, slow down, or perhaps heal an early wound that still crops up from time to time.
• Connect with others who inspire you or support you on your journey – people you have fun with.
During the lockdown, did you catch yourself doing unexpected things or behaving in a way that was new to you, and you quite enjoyed it? Would you like to do more of that? We all have many different aspects to our being, and it’s amazing to allow ourselves the freedom to get to know our aspects. That way, we can make clearer choices about who drives the bus or conducts the orchestra and when!