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The three Ranges of Self-Consciousness

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Under are three ranges of self-awareness together with a caveat. Why three ranges? Who the hell is aware of? Simply go together with it.

Stage 1 – What the Hell Are You Doing?

There’s a variety of ache and suckage in life. During the last 30 days, what number of instances have you ever:

  • Struggled with a relationship with somebody near you?
  • Felt lonely, remoted, or unheard?
  • Felt unproductive or misplaced on what you need to do?
  • Been under-slept, under-fed, low on power, or unhealthy?
  • Harassed about work or funds?
  • Unsure about your future?
  • Been bodily harm, sick, or debilitated?

Chances are high if you happen to add all of these up, you’re going to be fairly near 30 out of the final 30 days. That’s a variety of suckage!

We keep away from ache by distraction. We transport our minds to another time or place or world the place it may be secure and insulated from the ache of day-to-day life. We stare at our telephones, we obsess concerning the previous or our potential futures, make plans we’ll by no means hold, or just attempt to neglect. We eat, drink, and fuck ourselves into numbness to boring the fact of our issues. We use books, films, video games, and music to hold us to a different world the place no ache exists, and every little thing all the time feels straightforward and good and proper.

Now, there’s nothing fallacious with distraction. All of us want some form of diversion to maintain us sane and completely satisfied.


Put one other means, we have to guarantee that we’re selecting our distractions and our distractions aren’t selecting us. We’re those opting into the distraction, somewhat than merely being unable to decide out of distraction. We have to know once we’re trying out. Our distraction must be deliberate and moderated in bite-sized chunks. We will’t binge on distraction.

Self-awareness BW double exposure portrait of a man with mohawk and a mountain

Most individuals spend a lot of their day drowned in a sea of distraction with out even realizing it. I do it, too. The opposite evening at dinner, I pulled out my telephone to have a look at my calendar, and the subsequent factor I knew, I used to be searching online game boards on Reddit. In the meantime, my spouse is watching me as if I simply had a lobotomy or one thing.

I’m getting higher. This solely occurs about 23 instances per day.

Or generally I try this factor the place I’ll have Facebook open, after which I’ll open one other tab and instinctively sort within the URL for… Facebook, the positioning I used to be already taking a look at. I don’t even notice I do it, nevertheless it’s my thoughts’s computerized transfer to disconnect (or on this case, disconnect from its disconnection).

All of us suppose we all know how we’re utilizing our time. However we’re often fallacious.

We expect we work greater than we do (research present most individuals prime out someplace round three hours of precise work per day,6 the remainder is simply fucking round). We expect we spend extra time with our mates and family members than we do. We expect we’re extra current than we’re, that we’re higher listeners than we’re, that we’re extra considerate and clever than we’re.

However the reality is, we’re all fairly unhealthy at this.

Now, some folks take the hardline strategy of making an attempt to take away all distraction from their lives. It is a bit excessive. If time administration and self-awareness was a faith, this strategy can be like strapping a bomb to your chest and blowing up a mall pondering you’ve received a one-way ticket to 72 distraction-free virgins, when actually, you’re simply going to self-destruct (and doubtless hurt lots of people round you within the course of).

The purpose with distraction isn’t to defeat distraction, it’s merely to develop an consciousness and management of our distractions. As a substitute of calling in sick to play video video games all day, you’re capable of dedicate some free time to video video games in a means that’s satisfying and wholesome. You let your self drift away in your telephone for some time if that’s what your mind appears to want, however you’re conscious that you just’re doing it and capable of rein it again in when essential.

The purpose right here is the elimination of compulsion. However to get rid of compulsion you have to first develop into conscious of compulsion. When are you partaking in an exercise you don’t wish to be partaking in? When are you trying out mentally and why? Is it round household? Buddies? Co-workers?

For years I used to hold round an iPod and put headphones on each time I went into public. I felt bare leaving the home with out it. For years, I simply assumed I used to be actually into music far more than different folks, that there was some particular want inside me for badass tunes that different folks merely didn’t perceive.

However finally, it grew to become clear this was a compulsion. I wasn’t in management. My headphones had been a means of defending and disconnecting myself from others. They had been much less a couple of bottomless ardour and extra about easy concern. Being round strangers with out my headphones made me really feel anxious and uncovered.

Don’t choose these observations, merely have them. That is the primary stage of self-awareness, a easy understanding of the place your thoughts goes and when. You need to pay attention to the paths your thoughts likes to take earlier than you possibly can start to query why it takes these paths and whether or not these paths are serving to or hurting you.

Stage 2 – What the Hell Are You Feeling?

Have you ever ever been raging pissed and when someone asks you why you’re mad, you’re like, “I’M NOT MAD! I’M NOT FUCKING MAD! I’M PERFECTLY FINE! I MEANT TO SMASH MY KEYBOARD THROUGH MY MONITOR! I’M NOT MAD! WHY ARE YOU MAD?!”

What folks usually discover is that the extra they take away themselves from distraction, the extra they’re compelled to really take care of a variety of the feelings that they’ve been avoiding for a very long time.

For this reason meditating for a very long time freaks lots of people out. Meditation is principally the observe of coaching your thoughts to develop into much less distracted and extra centered in your fast expertise. The result’s that some folks develop into overwhelmed by the entire emotions they’ve been bottling up perpetually.

Remedy has the same impact, however somewhat than quieting your thoughts and watching a wall for hours on finish, you’re sitting on a sofa and a very nice and friendly-looking man/woman is slowly guiding you again to how you’re feeling, again and again, till your thoughts lastly capitulates and also you’re snotting in all places and crying like an upset youngster.

This second stage of self-awareness is the place you actually begin discovering out “who you might be.” I hate utilizing that phrase as a result of it doesn’t actually imply something, however that is the extent that individuals speak about once they say they’re “discovering themselves”—they’re discovering how they really really feel concerning the shit occurring of their life, and sometimes they’ve been hiding these emotions from themselves for years.

Most individuals glide on the floor of Stage 1 of self-awareness. They do what they’re informed. They observe instructions. They distract themselves with the identical shit again and again. At no level have they allowed themselves to specific particular person feelings and reactions to what’s occurring round them.

As soon as they’re faraway from these contexts they begin to notice issues like, “Oh rattling, I’m actually delicate and am unhappy quite a bit, and holy shit, I by no means allowed myself to really feel that as a result of I assumed it made me weak or pathetic, however truly my disappointment is a part of what makes me completely different.”

Stage 2 is an uncomfortable place to go. Individuals usually spend years in remedy navigating Stage 2. It takes time to develop into comfy with all of your feelings. Going again by these feelings and permitting them to happen is one thing that requires a variety of focus and a variety of effort.

However lots of people additionally get held up on Stage 2. They suppose Stage 2 is as deep because it goes and so they get misplaced wallowing of their emotions for the remainder of their lives. I believe this occurs for a few causes.

The primary is that feelings are highly effective, particularly for individuals who have been suppressing their feelings for many of their lives. Out of the blue opening as much as them will really feel life-changing and extremely profound.

Consequently, lots of people begin spinning up a bunch of tales about how that is the last word stage of self-awareness, simply feeling stuff on a regular basis. They could even go so far as to think about it a “non secular awakening.” They’ll describe it in all types of high-falutin’ phrases like “ego dying” or “transcendent consciousness” or “increased consciousness.”

However this can be a little bit of a entice. Feelings, as you finally uncover, are a) limitless, and b) don’t essentially imply something. I imply, generally they do, however generally they’re additionally self-induced and utterly arbitrary.

For example, take a look at this pet.

A cute puppy

You in all probability felt good taking a look at that.7 Now does that feeling imply something? Fuck no, it’s only a pet. However lots of people ascribe profundity to any and each emotion that arises.

It’s a easy however usually disastrous error. They assume that as a result of some feelings are extremely necessary and very important, that all feelings have to be extremely necessary and very important. And that’s merely not the case. Numerous feelings are pointless or—and right here’s the kicker—merely distractions!

Sure, you heard me. Feelings will also be distractions. From what? From different feelings.

A part of creating a powerful sense of emotional intelligence is having the ability to discern which feelings that you just expertise are necessary to behave on and which feelings needs to be acknowledged and felt and nothing extra.

See, there’s one other delicate little entice with feelings. And that’s the truth that analyzing one emotion will generate one other. So you possibly can find yourself on this limitless loop of self-inquiry, which, after some time, will flip you into a extremely self-obsessed individual.

However wait, maintain on, this one deserves its personal part.

Caveat—The Limitless Navel-Gazey Spiral of Doom

There’s an outdated apocryphal story from Sixteenth-century India the place a younger man climbs a big mountain to talk to the sage on the prime. Supposedly this sage knew, like, every little thing and stuff. And this younger man was anxious to grasp the secrets and techniques of the world.

Upon arriving on the prime of the mountain, the sage greeted the younger man and invited him to ask him something (word: this was means earlier than Reddit threads). The younger man then requested him his query, “Nice sage, we stand upon the world, however what does the world stand upon?”

The sage instantly replied, “The world rests upon the again of quite a few nice elephants.”

The younger man thought for a second, after which requested, “Sure, however what do the elephants stand upon?”

The sage replied once more, with out hesitation, “The elephants relaxation upon the again of an important turtle.”

The younger man, nonetheless not happy, requested, “Sure, however what does the nice turtle relaxation upon?”

The sage replied, “It rests upon a good higher turtle.”

The younger man, rising annoyed, started to ask, “However what does—”

“No, no,” the sage interrupted, “cease there—it’s turtles all the best way down.”

In The Delicate Artwork of Not Giving a Fuck, I in contrast self-awareness to peeling an onion, that no matter you’re pondering/feeling, there’s all the time one other layer beneath, and the deeper you go, the extra layers you peel again, the extra doubtless you might be to spontaneously burst into tears.

The self-questioning concerned in self-awareness can result in this sort of limitless spiral. Layer upon layer upon layer. And, in lots of circumstances, not solely do deeper ranges not elucidate anything useful, however the mere act of peeling them again can generate extra anxiousness, stress, and self-judgment.

For instance, right here’s me spiraling by layers of questioning whereas scripting this part proper now:

  • Layer 1

    I’m conscious that I’m scripting this sentence proper now—I really feel drained, a bit cloudy-headed, but in addition anxious to make progress on this piece earlier than I’m going to mattress tonight.

  • Layer 2

    I’m conscious of my very own anxiousness and anxious that this can be a unhealthy pattern in my current work habits. Why am I up working at 1:30 AM anyway? I’d in all probability write higher if I received some sleep.

  • Layer 3

    I’m conscious of my self-judgment. Maybe I’m being arduous on myself. What’s fallacious with working at 1:30 AM? I’ve achieved this loads of instances.

  • Layer 4

    I’m now conscious that I’m conscious of my montage of emotions and emotions about emotions and emotions about emotions about emotions.

  • Layer 5

    I’m additionally conscious that my Layer 4 consciousness is hardly understandable.

  • Layer 6

    I’m anxious concerning the comprehensibility of my ranges of consciousness.

  • Layer 7

    I really feel that maybe I’m being over-critical, blah, blah, blah…

  • Layer 193

    This shit is turtles all the best way down, isn’t it?

Lots of people get caught within the entice of all the time trying one stage deeper. Doing this feels necessary however the reality is that past a sure stage, it’s only a navel-gazey spiral of doom. It’s turtles all the best way down. And the act of trying deeper itself will generally generate extra emotions of tension, despair, and self-judgment than it relieves.

Self-awareness turtle on the road
The key of the universe is only a rattling turtle.

When taking a look at layers of intention and motivation, it’s greatest to simply go a couple of layers down till you begin repeating your self.

You might be concerned about your relationship together with your mom. Let’s say that anxiousness stems from the truth that your mother is hyper-judgmental and also you fall into this unconscious behavior of desperately making an attempt to show to her that you just’re not a bit of shit. This must show to her that you just’re worthy is underpinned by your need to be liked. This realization then makes you extra anxious—an anxiousness pushed by the need to please your mom, which is underpinned by your need to be liked—we’re spiraling now. It’s time to simply draw the road and say it’s turtles all the best way down and transfer on. You need love from mother and that’s that.8

And with that, I’m going to cease eager about this part and simply go to mattress.

Stage 3 – What the Hell Are Your Blind Spots?

The extra you develop into conscious of your personal feelings and your personal needs, the extra you uncover one thing terrifying: you might be filled with shit.

We notice that a big proportion of our ideas, arguments, and actions are merely reflections of no matter we’re feeling in that second.

If I’m watching a film with my spouse and I’m cranky as a result of I had an argument with my editor that afternoon, I’ll determine that I hate the film. And the extra my spouse tries to persuade me the film was good, the extra I’ll relish the truth that I get to argue along with her about it—as a result of it all of a sudden turns into a solution to justify my anger.

(By the best way, if you happen to ever questioned why we are likely to battle essentially the most with those we love essentially the most, that is partly why: we are able to use them as an emotional punching bag to validate all of the crap that we’re feeling, whether or not they deserve it or not—often not.)

All of us consider ourselves as unbiased thinkers who motive based mostly on information and proof, however the reality is that our mind spends most of its time justifying and explaining what the guts has already declared and determined. And there’s no solution to repair that till you’ve discovered to acknowledge what the guts is saying.

I’ve written fairly a bit about how flawed our acutely aware minds are, each in my guide and on this web site. However to offer a fast synopsis:

  • Our reminiscences are unreliable and sometimes flat-out fallacious, particularly relating to remembering how we felt at a sure time or place. Our capacity to foretell our ideas and emotions sooner or later is even worse.
  • We continuously overestimate ourselves. Actually, as a normal rule, the more serious we’re at one thing, the higher we expect we’re, and the higher we’re at one thing, the more serious we consider we’re.
  • Contradictory proof can usually make us surer of our place somewhat than encourage us to query it.
  • Our consideration naturally solely focuses on issues that already cohere to our pre-existing beliefs. For this reason two folks can watch the very same occasion and are available away with two utterly contradictory reminiscences of it (consider two opposing sports activities followers each satisfied they noticed the ball land in or out of bounds.)
  • Most of us, when given the chance, will inform small lies to enhance our outcomes. Typically (i.e., often), we’ll even inform these lies to ourselves.
  • We’re abysmal at estimating statistics, making cost-benefit choices, or reasoning about giant populations of individuals. It’s truly each miserable and hilarious how unhealthy we’re at this.

I might hold going, however I’ll cease there. Mainly, the purpose is that you just suck, I suck, all people sucks. People form of suck. On a regular basis.

And that’s OK. The necessary factor is simply that we’re self-aware about it. If we all know our weaknesses, then they cease being weaknesses. In any other case, we develop into enslaved to our thoughts’s defective mechanisms.

Self-awareness double exposure concept with lady portrait silhouette and woman in forest

Releasing ourselves from the twisted confines of our thoughts comes down to a couple issues:

  1. Maintain weaker opinions. Acknowledge that except you might be an skilled in a subject, there’s a good likelihood that your intuitions or assumptions are flat-out fallacious. The easy act of telling your self (and others) earlier than you converse, “I may very well be fallacious about this,” instantly places your thoughts in a spot of openness and curiosity. It implies a capability to be taught and to have a better connection to actuality.
  2. Take your self much less critically. Most of your ideas and behaviors are merely reactions to varied feelings. And we all know that your feelings are sometimes fallacious and/or meaningless. Ergo, you need to take your shit much less critically.
  3. Be taught your bullshit patterns. After I get indignant, I get argumentative and smug. After I get unhappy, I shut down and play a variety of video video games. After I really feel responsible, I phrase vomit my conscience throughout folks. What are your tics? The place does your thoughts go whenever you really feel unhappy? Once you really feel indignant? Responsible? Anxious? Be taught to identify your coping mechanisms as a result of that can tip you off subsequent time you’re distracting your self out of your emotions. I noticed years in the past that once I’m wholesome and completely satisfied, I get pleasure from enjoying video video games a couple of hours every week. However once I begin binging on a recreation, staying up all evening and skipping work, it’s nearly all the time as a result of I’m avoiding some downside in my life. This has develop into an enormous cue for me to take a seat down and determine what’s occurring with myself.
  4. Acknowledge the issues you create for your self. My greatest downside might be not having the ability to speak about my anger or disappointment. I both escape by video video games or develop into passive-aggressive by sniping at folks round me. Each of those tendencies don’t assist me. And I’ve discovered to acknowledge myself once I begin doing them. I’m capable of say, “Hey Mark, you do that shit whenever you’re unhappy and also you all the time remorse not speaking to somebody.” Then I’m going speak to somebody.
  5. Be reasonable. It’s not about eradicating your defective psychological reactions. It’s about understanding them so to alter to them. The identical means all of us have some abilities and actions we’re higher at than others, all of us have feelings we’re higher at than others. Some persons are unhealthy with happiness however good at managing their anger. Others are horrible with their anger however relish their happiness. Different folks by no means really feel depressed however endure uncontrollable guilt. Others by no means really feel responsible however battle with emotions of melancholy. The place are your sturdy feelings and weak feelings? Which feelings do you reply poorly to? The place are your greatest biases and judgments coming from? How are you going to problem or re-evaluate them?

This, in fact, is way simpler mentioned than achieved.

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