“Dad, there’s something wrong with the lights.”
My daughter came to me in a panic. The bathroom lights suddenly shut off. Couldn’t turn them back on either. After some investigating, apparently the wind driven rain was getting into one of the plugs on the Christmas lights outside causing the GFCI to engage.
GFCI is a Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor used primarily in wet areas in and around the home. You probably have these in your home, too. Should any moisture be detected within the electrical outlet the GFCI responds in 1/40th of a second and disables the outlet immediately preventing any damage from being done.
Once we fixed the problem outside I hit the reset on the GFCI and the bathroom lights went back on.
The whole key to the GFCI is awareness. Once it knows of the potential danger involved it’s able to prevent a potential catastrophe.
I wish I had one of those in my mind. An emotional circuit breaker which could sense any negative and disempowering thoughts I may have and disable them before doing any damage.
How life changing would that be?
Our thoughts and words are powerful. Often when we are triggered by outside forces we can habitually react in ways which harm us, either by what we may say to others, or equally as important, by what we may say to ourselves. Specifically, it’s the negative self talk and those habitual responses reinforcing limiting beliefs which damage us more than we realize.
But how do we train ourselves to respond differently?
It all starts with self-awareness.
Unfortunately for me, I’ve never been very good at self-awareness.
With no emotional safety valve in place, challenging situations were always allowed to run their course. For better or worse. And it was usually for the worse. I didn’t know I had the choice to respond any differently than I always had. I just automatically harshly reacted to the difficult and uncomfortable events in my life which simply perpetuated more of what I’ve always done.
My lack of self-awareness meant nothing would change. I wasn’t even aware there was anything to change.
At some point on my life’s path I had heard about the concept of being an observer of your life. Sort of like stepping outside of your physical self and just noticing what life really looked and sounded like. Without judging what was noticed. Just observing.
Eventually, and with very low expectations, I gave it a try. Mostly out of curiosity. As I stepped outside of me I began to notice how I would habitually respond to what showed up in my life. Especially the difficulties. I remember what I saw. The anger and the frustration. The intense bitterness of disappointment. Even, at times, a tendency to blame. Maybe I actually was what people had told me I was. As I was able to develop some sense of self-awareness, the real challenge for me was doing so while not judging or punishing myself for the things I discovered I didn’t like about myself.
We all have the ability to be cruel and unforgiving towards our self, don’t we? I was quite good at that.
Noticing how I was judging and treating myself, though, was in itself an extension of my own self-awareness. I was now aware of my habitual responses and also aware of how I felt about myself for having such responses.
We can only hope to fix the things we know are broken. In my lack of self-awareness world, I was never the one who was broken. But at some point I realized that, in fact, I was, and a more self-aware version of me has done a great deal of work to address it. There is still more work to be done. But subtle changes have lead to anything but subtle positive results.
Simply put, self-awareness has made me better at being me…kinder, gentler, more compassionate, especially when dealing with myself.
Self-awareness has become a vitally important part of who I am these days. It’s become my emotional GFCI allowing me to observe what is going on within me, enabling me to disable and negate the reactions and responses which no longer serve me and replace them with ones which do. I may not respond in 1/40th of a second, but being able to monitor my own emotional state has allowed me to better deal with challenging situations I often find myself in.
What about you? When life squeezes you just a little too tight, how do you habitually respond? Have you ever taken the time to just step back and observe? To simply notice?
It could be the greatest gift you’ll ever give to yourself.
It’s a great day to be you.