There is so much improvement to one’s life that comes with growing self-awareness. When you become more and more aware of yourself, you recognize the choices you make that aren’t healthy, you recognize the thoughts you have that are negative, you realize the facets of life that are a drain to your well being. The wonderful thing about becoming more aware of who you are, including your thoughts, feelings, and choices, is that you can replace them with healthier ones. You can create new thoughts, new feeling, and new choices. And by doing so, you can ultimately create a new life.
Emotional awareness is the skill of knowing what you are feeling, why you’re feeling it, and what physical sensations you are having as a result. Developing emotional awareness can facilitate having healthy, functional, and loving relationships.
Emotional awareness allows you to identify and express what you are feeling moment by moment. It’s also the ability to understand the relationship between what you are feeling and how you choose to behave. It is a skill that can be cultivated over time. It involves the ability to:
- Recognize your moment-to-moment emotional experience
- Handle all of your emotions without becoming overwhelmed
Cultivating emotional awareness can support the ability to respond versusreact. In other words, becoming more aware of your feelings can help put some distance between the stimulus and your response. Frequently, arguments explode between two people, especially among family members, when a person reacts to a thought or feeling he or she is having within. However, being able to put a pause in between feelings and quick reactions to those feelings can prevent angry outbursts and saying things one regrets later.
Cognitive Awareness (Awareness of Thoughts)
Cognitive awareness, or awareness of thoughts, is just as important of being aware of your emotions, and in some cases, more important. Frequently, it’s our thoughts that lead to having a feeling. For instance, we might have had a thought like, “My wife thinks I’m an idiot”. If you believe that thought, you might have feelings of shame or guilt. Thoughts lead to having certain feelings. By examining thoughts, you can almost immediately change your mood and behavior. This is the point of accessing those unhealthy thoughts, even though they might be challenging to face. However, recognizing them, looking at them, and exploring them give you the opportunity to replace them with positive thoughts.
As you may already know, much of recovery is therapeutic, meaning that you are provided with many opportunities to look inside yourself. You are given many chances to explore the thoughts and feelings and beliefs you have. Finding those thoughts that lead to distasteful feelings can help prevent craving for drugs and alcohol that frequently those feelings ignite. By changing thoughts, you can prevent having certain feelings, and in turn, prevent behaviors that aim to avoid certain feelings. Once a thought is found it can be replaced with a thought that is more life affirming and self-loving.
This is particularly useful right in the middle of having a craving for a drink. Instead of actually fulfilling that desire, you can write down the thoughts you’re having along with your associated feelings. Keep in mind that unhealthy thinking might be evident among the behavior of friends, family members, or others who you knew when drinking. In other words, you might see the evidence of unhealthy thought patterns around you. For instance, instead of having the thought, “My wife thinks I’m an idiot”, you can work on changing that to:
“My wife doesn’t always agree with the choices I make, but I know she loves me and cares for me.”
Of course, it’s going to take time to change thoughts and feelings that you’ve had for many years. But self-awareness at least provides you with many opportunities to find negative thoughts and feelings and work on changing them. You might find that having certain thoughts are automatic. But, in time, as you continue to change negative thoughts and feelings to positive ones, it will be the positive thoughts that become automatic. It will require your patience, hard work, and commitment, but it can be done. In the end, this process could lead to changing your life and doing what you’ve dreamed for yourself.