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Step 4 - Recognize and Question Behavioral Patterns (again)

I'm currently finding the most difficult piece of this step is getting the balance between introspection and outside feedback. When I think I'm behaving one way, but it's coming across in another - who's right?

Behavior is driven by emotion, and we're not in complete conscious control of our emotions all the time. Some emotions are unconscious.

There are two "levels" of unconscious: one is pre-conscious, i.e. knowable through introspection and reflection. The other is sub-conscious, i.e. not even pondering about the affect will bring it up to awareness.

Clearly, introspection allows us to understand why and how we behave in certain situations, yet we may not be able to solve all the riddles. To recognize behavioral patterns, we have to first become aware of them. This may need outside stimulus. Like Sherlock's analysis of Watson, for example:

This is from the first episode, but by the second series, Watson isn't even using his cane anymore. In this case, outside stimulus (Sherlock) brought awareness to a behavior (relying on unnecessary cane) and Watson took some time to accept it (2 or 3 episodes) before changing his behavior (walking without a cane).

Philosophers like Descartes believed introspection was the be all and end all of self knowledge.

I think, therefore I am.

300 years later, Ryle posited that introspection is limited and (therefore) overrated; to obtain knowledge of the nature of the self we should take observable behavior into consideration.

When was the last time you acted out a conversation in front of a mirror before doing it in real life? 

Do you know how your face moves when you tell a fib? How you blush when you're self-conscious? How anger rises up through your body through clenched fists and jaws? Whom do you trust enough to ask and do a Sherlock on you, i.e. tell you how they observe your typical behavior?


The Self


The Self

I noticed in my blog statistics recently that a number of search engines pointed people towards one specific article I wrote back in January, called "Step 2 - Accept myself". I think it's great that you guys are looking up information about self-acceptance, because in my opinion accepting oneself is the basis for creating peaceful relationships with others around us. Let me take this opportunity then and talk some more about "the self" - what it could mean, how it might work, and some questions you can answer for yourself to support your definition.

In that article from January I mentioned the importance of accepting one's body, facing weight issues, and educating oneself as well as the next generation to make sure we can grow up and grow old in good health. When it comes to your self, there's more to you than just your body though. There's your mind, your reason, your feelings, your personality, your behavior, your beliefs, your values, some people even believe in a soul or essence. As part of an exercise I did with my own coach a few years ago, I gathered a number of words and concepts dealing with the self and my perception of it. I'll share some of them as an example and invite you to see what ideas you have of them and what other words you can think of. They are, in no particular order: self-confidence, self-reliance, self-pity, self-employed, self-explanatory, self-doubt, self-display, self-adjusting, self-conscious, self-imposed.

I read an article about how to be your authentic self in Psychology Today's issue of June 2008. It talks of self-recognition, self-esteem, self-awareness, amongst others, and core self. If offers explanations according to leading psychologists and eight tips on how to live with authenticity.

There's a step that comes before authenticity though, because how can you be authentic if you're not sure who you are, what values and beliefs you are being authentic to? But at the same time, you also have to look outward, because how can you accept yourself for who you are when you're not sure where to draw the lines of what is unacceptable? Who gets to decide about what fits in those lines, anyway? Therein lies the beauty and frustration, my dears, since we're all such unique individuals, we all have a different take on things. Finding the balance between what we want and need to do in order to be happy and live fully, while respecting our friends and neighbors is the name of the game.

I'm still finding my way as I go and have come to terms with that. No need to know it all in advance, there's room for improvisation if needed. I'm happy believing that every single person has the power to decide who they want to be by adjusting their attitude, their mindset, and their behavior. I also believe that if you find yourself surrounded by people who do not share your beliefs and values, you are free to make a choice and move, take yourself out of a negative environment. In an ideal world, it's anybody's call to choose between living up to someone else's expectation or define their life for themselves. You have everything you need inside of you. This, by the way, is one reason why I love coaching: I don't advise people, I accompany them on their journey to find out what works for them.

So, can you be authentic if you follow someone else's advice? And how authentic is our life really when most of us consume the same cola-brand, use the same phone, listen to the same CDs, and watch the same movies?

I don't know, what do YOU think?

Til next time, have a good week!

Image by Flower's. Lover, Flickr, Creative Commons License.