Welcome to Part 1 of How to Use Awareness to Improve Communication.
In this post we are going to focus on self-awareness. In the subsequent post, we will learn how to communicate our self-awareness to others in a clear and simple way.
Self-Awareness: Thinking, Feeling and Sensing
Self-awareness means looking at your internal experience and making sense out of it. Right now, just allow your attention to move internally and notice what’s there.
You might notice that there are three parts of your internal experience that you can focus your attention on: your thoughts, your emotions and your bodily sensations. I am going to help you understand and separate out the three parts of an internal experience: thinking, feeling and sensing.
Thinking is associated with the mind. In your internal experience this is the easy one to identify because it’s what we pay attention to most of our lives. Take a second to notice what you are thinking right now.
You may be thinking, “What does this blog post mean?” Or “I need to pick up milk from the store tonight.”
Or, perhaps, you’re thinking, “I want my relationship to be more peaceful.” The list goes on and on and on. Thoughts happen so consistently that most of the time you don’t even notice that you are thinking them.
Just let your mind run for a few seconds and notice all the thoughts that occur in a very short amount of time. Every time you have a thought, notice that you are thinking that thought.
Feeling is associated with emotions. Feeling is a little more complicated to understand than thinking. Emotions can be affected by your thinking, but they are not always logical.
I define emotions as the intersection between thought and sensations. For example, when you feel sad, you may have the thought “My cat just died.” You may have the physical sensation of heaviness in your body and then cry.
You would then name this whole experience as sadness, a thought plus the sensation of heaviness and tears.
Sensing is associated with the body. This category of experience includes observable physical sensations in the body such as “cold,” “tingly,” “numb” and “tense.”
The clearest example of how this connects to feelings is when you get really angry at someone and a flush of heat runs through you body.
Awareness at this level allows you to break down emotions into simpler body sensations and thoughts associated with those sensations, causing the feelings to become less overwhelming and confusing.
Separating Internal Experiences
Why is it important to separate internal experiences out from each other?
First, it helps you know what it going on inside of you so that you can tell the important people in your life.
Second, internal awareness can help to regulate your emotions. When you are in an argument, your internal experience can turn into a big tangled ball of negative thoughts, feelings and sensations. When you separate your experience into three parts, it helps you understand what is happening and slow down before you speak.
Finally, it will help you and others to more fully resolve the issue all the way, through instead of just arriving at a cease-fire.