Out to Lunch, Space Cadet, Head in the Clouds, Absent-Minded. We have many expressions for describing someone who isn’t really present in mind and body.
And if we are honest, many of us would be in touch with a sense of distance when it comes to our true feelings and motivations. We may know how to go through the motions, or react to what is in front of us, but there may be a gap when it comes to really owning our thoughts and the decisions we take. Self-Awareness provides a way of being grounded and present to who we are and the real situations before us.
BUT ISN'T THIS SORT OF 'INWARD-LOOKING-NAVEL-GAZING' BAD FOR ME?
There can be a belief that introspection is unnecessary, indulgent and narcissistic. However the task of looking within is very useful at identifying the source of problems and anxieties, discovering disowned feelings or unrecognised ambition, and in making us aware of how we are towards others. Christians will know the teachings of Jesus, such as:
‘Take the plank of wood from your own eye before removing the speck of dust from another.’ Matthew 7:3-5
‘Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.’ Luke 6.45
These statements require some form of introspection and self-awareness to see the problem and to change personal behaviour. The book of Proverbs commends the act of seeking wisdom for oneself and gaining in understanding. A useful verse here is Proverbs 20.5 ‘The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.’
These above verses show how looking inwards is not an indulgent act. It isn’t for our own gain, but rather has a direct benefit on our behaviour towards others.
Similarly, introspection rarely produces narcissism. As someone looks on the inside they tend to see the same hopes and fears, vulnerabilities and needs that are also in the people around them. The process makes them more aware, empathetic and connected. The product of introspection is usually the opposite of narcissism. It becomes less about ‘me’ and more about how to best relate to others.
WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE IF WE TRULY 'INHABITED' OUR LIVES THROUGH GREATER SELF-AWARENESS? --- INTRODUCING THE HOME COURSE ---
The Home Course explores this very question. It uses the metaphor of rooms in a home to describe various parts of who we are. The kitchen is the place where we consider what we take in, the loft is where we hide things away, the lounge is where we think about having ‘space to be’, and so on. The course uses concepts from both psychology and Christian theology to consider how we can live in a full-hearted way, fulfilling our deepest passions and truly being present to ourselves and those around us.
In 2016 the Home Course is being offered at Sarum College, Salisbury in April and Lee Abbey, Lynmouth in late June.
Of course the Home Course is just one model, and there and many other tools for developing self-awareness. I’ve offered a few of these in a previous post, and Christians use practices such as ‘the examine’ as a tool for growing self-understanding within the context of prayer.