Checking in: Gaining Clarity through Self Awareness
We all have seen the AA bumper stickers and heard the tag lines, "One Day at a Time", "Progress not Perfection", and my favorite "Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes". These lines make me think of my college roommate Francesca who comes from an old school traditional Italian family, often she would repeat, "It is what it is". I never understood that. For years I would respond, "What does that even mean?". I kind of get it now. Kind of. I have come to find a lot of wisdom in these declarations. Despite the awful font, when I see these bumper stickers today I can feel myself re-centering my perspective to focus on my journey.
For many years of my career, I was primarily working with people with addiction issues. Substance abuse work should be taught to everyone in American before the potential of addiction happens. Alcoholics Anonymous does a great job of refocusing people to reflect on their emotions.
One of my favorite techniques is HALT (Hunger, Angry, Lonely, Tired).
Having a tool to self evaluate every day, maybe even every hour, could be one of the most beneficial things you could do for yourself. This is something you can control if you understand your emotions. When you identify and understand something, you can start to formulate a plan to address the issue. My brother is a math wiz. He thinks math is fun because he understands the rules of math. There is a process that one function can not be addressed until another process is completed. These are the rules for people also. You must address your needs before you address others.
Let's look at an example of this. If you are experiencing one (or more) of these four emotions, you will not be responding to people and events in your life with your authentic needs or desires. For example, I know this woman (who is not me) that hates being cold. She hates it so much she becomes angry if she is feeling physical discomfort from the temperature. She struggles a lot with this. However, she has a job where she needs to be present 100% of the time to make decisions and help others make decisions about their lives. If she is distracted by her physical discomfort and/or anger, her decisions are now filtered through her anger and she is not fully responding to her clients' needs. People can be affected and relationships can be damaged through situations that were never related to each other. If she never self evaluates her physical and mental state then she will never find out that wool socks and sitting on a heating pad could change her emotional perspective.
This process works. Practicing self awareness brings us closer to understanding what triggers our emotions and how we react to them. Remember that taking time to think about your emotions before responding to events or situations allows you to gain clarity. With clarity we are better able to reach our goals and maintain a healthy life.
Karen Peabody, LICSW is a therapist and business consultant for social workers and therapists interested in starting their private practice. She founded Forgewell Solutions in East Bridgewater, MA. Her office is a great place to start a private practice. Visit her FOR THERAPISTS page to learn more.