I’ve found there are basically 3 ways of being in the world: Reactive, Proactive, and Self-Aware. Reactive means a situation occurs and I have a habitual reaction to it. Proactive means when the same situation occurs I have a reaction which gives me the result I desire. Self-awareness happens when the situation occurs and I feel empathy or no reaction.
As a reactive person, I am normally responding to life in the way I’ve been trained to see the world. I react the way other family members react. A reaction can be anything from screaming, yelling, crying, hitting, to complete withdrawal and leaving the situation, either physically, emotionally, or mentally. We learn reactive responses as children. We develop them to help us cope with the stresses of our lives. If they work, and sometimes, even if they don’t, we internalize them to such a degree they become habits. In the world of psychology, the situations are called “triggers” because they trigger a consistent reaction within us.
Once we develop enough self-awareness to recognize which situations cause specific reactions, we are left with the choice of whether to change our behavior. If we choose to make a change, we must decide how we will react in the future. Once we can consciously choose our reaction it can become proactive.
Proactive means we choose to be aware of what is happening around us so we can, often, diffuse situations. When being proactive we not only are aware of our reactions but we are aware of the actions of everyone around us. In this place, we can help create calm amid chaos, look at various angles of a situation, and make reasoned decisions without letting ours or other’s emotions and reactions influence us. Proactive means situations, which use to generate a habitual response, no longer generate any visible emotional response. As this happens, new scenarios will present themselves which will trigger old responses. This is a training process and takes time to learn. When I find myself realizing old triggers no longer affect me, I know I am on the path to more self-awareness.
I don’t know if anyone ever achieves complete self-awareness. I know I haven’t. There are areas where I’m very self-aware, some where I’m proactive, and some where I am still reactive. Luckily, I catch myself more quickly in the reactive situations so I can, often stop myself. Once stopped, I then figure out what is being triggered within me. The “triggered” part of myself still has healing work to do. Most of my issues center around feelings of abandonment. This is an issue for many people. Self-love can be difficult. It is absolutely necessary to achieve complete self-awareness. We are the only ones who can love us enough to heal us. Other’s love is nice but it will not fill the holes within.
The holes within happen to us as children. I believe we are born whole, complete.The external influences begin to tell us who we are, what we lack, how we fail to complete or fulfill someone else. Because of these external expectations, over which we have no control, we begin to feel deficient. The outside world confirms this new knowledge and tells if we’d only do better everything will be alright. We internalize this message. Some of us even begin to believe we are responsible for everything: divorce, other’s happiness, death, attacks against ourselves or others. I find it amazing we function at all.
I was blessed to experience three days of complete self-awareness. Though I have not achieved it since, I know where I’m going and I understand what I must do to get there. It is a process and I’m developing a love of the process. During those three days I was fearless. If someone was hurt, angry, or upset, all I could feel was an overwhelming love for them. I call it overwhelming because I’ve never felt anything so strongly and it took over my body. I felt like my body wasn’t big enough to hold my heart. I also noticed, when this feeling would come over me, the other person calmed and seemed to feel better even though I’d done and said nothing. When I spoke, the quality of my voice was noticeable, even to me. I could hear love with every word I spoke. I wondered if others would hear it and, from their comments, I soon found out they did. My husband, who was in another country, commented on my voice the first time we talked. He commented that I sounded so happy and calm and I could hear the emotion in his voice. I could tell he really wanted to be near me because of my complete self-awareness. I noticed my emotions were more calm. My happiness wasn’t as gleeful as before and sadness wasn’t heart wrenching. I noticed missing the highs and lows and being unsure which state is better.
After a couple of days, I notice the fears of others beginning to chip away at me and bring forth my old fears (triggers). I’m glad for the experience. I want to achieve that place again. In time, I believe I will. Until then, I will continue towards loving myself and filling the holes within so I will be complete and can love completely.