BEWARE! Self-Awareness can REVERSE your EVOLUTION!

Guess what – it’s possible that all that ‘work’ you’ve been doing on yourself for all these years, cultivating the silent observer in you, that inner-witness that you’ve trained to be super aware of all your moment to moment actions, strategies and dysfunctions – that raising of awareness might have been sending you backwards!

Unless that skillful noticing has been permanently coupled with your love and self-forgiveness, even affection for all your fallible, over-reactive, slightly mad behaviours, then there’s a good chance that each time you’ve noticed yourself being imperfect you’ve been using that raised awareness to judge yourself harshly and entrench yourself even deeper in self-loathing, self-disempowering habits.

That’s right – we could be going backwards here! Hold up a moment!

The key to useful self-awareness is LOVE. So now, every time I notice myself being an overreactive diva (for instance) – instead of kicking myself and saying ‘oh Jamie, such a brat, what’s the matter with you? when are you going to evolve?’ – instead of talking to myself in the familiar voice of the slave-driver or the self-hating judge, I bring in the LOVE, in my case, these days, in the form of an affectionate and undramatic, psychiatric nurse who lives within me.

When I’m melting down or making a big fuss about something, either out loud or to myself, my inner psychiatric nurse, in a sympathetic, soothing tone, affectionately says ‘awwww…do you need a little lie down? shall we put the kettle on?‘ a bit like an old auntie who’s seen worse in the war. For me it’s so much less violent to myself, instead of the old, frustrated ‘Oh Jamie ! when will you ever grow up….?’ voiceto place my palm affectionately on my chest and lighten up, and to be self-soothing.

Because self-awareness without love leads to self-harming.

Cultivating my inner psychiatric nurse has been great for this, because self-awareness without affection for myself soon becomes self-judgement, and self-loathing. How easy it is to descend into kicking myself with frustration when I witness myself failing again.

This is why foolishness and playfulness are central to my life, to diffuse any earnestness in me that thinks it has the right to judge and condemn.

Whatever your technique for staying self aware, please don’t forget to include an equal amount of self-forgiving LOVE, and even affection for your own unique fallibility. Without it we are just warring on ourselves, cultivating more seeds of violence, and regressing not progressing, in our Evolution.

All talks and workshops at www.jamiecatto.com

37 comments

  1. when you give a 100 procent and do your best at what you doing , you can never look back and be mad at mistakes , you learn from them 🙂

  2. That’s beautiful Jamie…and so true, when I’ve seen folk who know how to be self aware, yet still chastise themselves. I have often wondered how it could be….it’s easier to be a calming soothing psychiatric nurse to others, than it is to nurse oneself though, don’t you find? Thanks for all the wisdom x

  3. This is one of those crucial observations- that is the difference between night and day. On this point hinges everything.And frankly if we learned nothing else ever – but to truly apply love, gentleness, and kindness to ourselves and to all the reactions and triggers we encounter- it would be more than enough to fulfill our personal destiny . 🙂 Really happy to see this from you Mr C

  4. stunning!
    so obvious, so glaringly ‘in our face’ truth… that i had missed seeing this (and i can safely assume, most others must have too).

    thank you jamie

  5. I love you, Jamie “Over-reactive Diva” Catto. My inner psychiatric nurse’s name is SuZen. She was off duty for several years but she’s a force of love and care now!

  6. This is a good idea but I wish you would change your imagery. I come out of the “One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest”. I also have considerable experience advocating for people in psychiatric hospitals and few nurses are able to be so loving and compassionate.

  7. I agree 100%! I use Internal Family Systems to develop my compassionate inner witness. It has revolutionized my life! Developing a witness who is a “self-hating judge” is not really developing the Self—it is strengthening self-hatred. Thanks for pointing this out so passionately and clearly!

  8. I’ve been so preoccupied with being positive for years that I slapped myself down when I had less than favourable (so I thought) traits coming to the surface. The struggle against those – thinking I was better and knew better to allow this – caused much suffering for much longer and instilled many escape rituals (overspending, overeating, smoking, etc). At the start of last year I plucked up the courage to really explore the polarities in me, to welcome them and to accept with a sense of curiosity whatever showed itself. My financial situation was terrible, but the silver lining was that I had no resources to escape myself. Couldn’t go off somewhere to hide from myself, couldn’t overeat/smoke to lessen and band-aid the negatives. Not very comfortable to start with (at all) but it soon made so much difference. Everything I was afraid of lost its power eventually. It doesn’t magically make the polarities disappear, sometimes it doesn’t even feel better – the pain still feels painful, the sadness still brings tears to my eyes, but the suffering stopped and the shame. The result being, I feel more free. Free to by myself around another, but more importantly – free to be myself around me, without added drama.

    Thanks for the blog – it made me smile so much, as again you put it into words so perfectly.

  9. Does your inner psychiatric nurse have a name? My many parts have names such as Krystal the Rock Chick, Sadie the Biker, and others we won’t reveal here! Can just imagine you telling yourself to have a nice little lie down LOL
    Great article though.. we need to take everything into our hearts and infuse it all with love….

  10. You are Barry and I claim my £5. The last two entries have come right at a time when I needed to be reminded of this wisdom. Stop. Empty. Listen. Thank you Jamie. My deep ache being loved is soothed. My deep ache being chastised persists and grows.
    Hope to see catch you at Shambala.

  11. Totally outed me here – gonna fire my mean nurse and hire a nicer one…thanks for the heads up 🙂

  12. i’ve only just learnt to do this for myself… every time I catch myself being judgmental, I say to myself “I am Compassion” and feel it…

  13. How funny I’d been listening to a Buddhist nun, Pema Chodran, about this type of thing – very comforting to know that to “give yourself a hug” when you notice rubbish things about your behaviour is what makes everything okay.

  14. Love this…just some tender self care when it’s needed. You know what fascinates me? my subconscious….lately I’ve been feeling compassionate and when I see someone struggle I would think “poor baby” and send them a thought of love. HA….I went for a semi run in the park and self pity crept into the conversation with myself…and you know what came back to me….yes “Poor baby” Ticked me right off. Good learning…..no doubt why Jesus never saw anyone as a victim.

    But learning to separate myself from the feedback and take in the feed….good learning 😉

  15. LOVE the essence of your blog, its an important observation, for awareness. just my intuitive response, theres something about the term psychiatric nurse that I find doesn’t sit right. Psychiatry has betrayal so many people their soul. What about universal nurse!

  16. Just seen this quote which seems to sum up the benefits:
    “The beauty of self-compassion is that instead of replacing negative feelings with positive ones, new positive emotions are generated by embracing the negative ones.” ~ Kristin Neff

  17. As someone who spent many, many years cultivating a razor sharp, microscopic self awareness with buckets full of criticism and judgement of myself and all around me, I will say that it does not send it backwards rather it stagnates and constipates awareness. It took the painful breaking open of my heart to understand the essential importance of love, compassion and forgiveness. Love and compassion are a skill something I have to practice and remind myself of constantly. Love and compassion the senokot of awareness.

  18. Absolutely Brilliant! I find myself saying exactly that many times, every day as I tell passers by of the real ‘movement’ sweeping planetary consciousness. IT’s time to take it: 1gaintleap

    I am so looking forward to seeing more.

    At the same time, I wouldn’t mind a word with Tom Robbins concerning his take on the worthlessness of ‘Art’.

    As an unappreciated struggling artist myself, I take issue with a successful writer of pulp – openly reducing another discipline to valueless treasure based on a lack of multipurpose useability.

    To me, money too only has one use; although – like that large ceramic statue Mr. Tom Robins payed ten measly bucks for – well, you could always bide your time ‘dusting it’. I mean just for starters.

    Very therapeutic you know.

    Failing that – I recommend as a gesture of ‘cool’, exchanging large and generous quantities of wampum, in return for something a lot more gratifying than a rising print-out in your bank book; and at the same time – recognizing the effort, material and transportation of said ‘kitch’ by that particular artist seems only fitting.

    Artists Unite!

  19. Love it!
    “An affectionate and undramatic psychiatric nurse who lives within me” made me laugh! Others have called this the “peaceful watcher” I think I like yours better! Just watched 1st 20min of 1Giant Leap2- moved to tears 2x in 20 min- Bless you Jamie!
    Do you ever make it to ‘downunder’ with your workshops please?

  20. Jamie, i’ve always understood standing as the witness to be just that. The impartial witness allowing everything. The thoughts about the thoughts.
    If a self loathing thought arises and you rush in with positive self talk then that’s a pushing away of the first thought. It’s a more subtle resistance but a resistance and you’re no longer the witness. Doesn’t the love come from allowing everything to be as it is?
    Maybe you’re talking about witnessing in another way but to me it sounds like you’re talking about transplanting negative self talk with positive self talk and that’s not witnessing.
    Therapy/self improvement have their place, i’m sure, but they’re pulling in the opposite direction to witnessing.

  21. here is an interesting video from “Teal Scott” , she says, there is no such thing as going backwards in spiritual practice..

    by the way , dear Jamie, I mentioned you in my last blog article…” Vagina’s pure heart ”
    http://kalyanikokic.wordpress.com/

    Thank you for the inspiration
    with love
    Kalyani

  22. Great blog Jamie…I’ve read it a few times now… the imagery isn’t good to me, as is for a few people that have commented but that’s ok. I just have to change who I hire to calm me down inside my mind. I’m a catholic from a small Scottish mining town; that said there must be somebody in my life that I don’t associate with anger! Maybe I’ll hire Mother Theresa.Thanks for the message. 🙂

  23. I love the psychiatric nurse of yours, I’m about to look for my own. I know she’s in there, somewhere. Or perhaps it’s a he. Recently found your blog after a couple of years of listening to 1Giant Leap.looking forward to discovering more of your work 🌞

  24. Love this subject. I agree 100% with this. Awareness without cultivation of good healthy self-esteem can lead to even more anxiety. So often awareness is prescribed as the answer but clearly is layered in many complex lessons.

    I had a Tibetan teacher who use to talk about the goal of “The Pure Mind” and it was for this very reason..

    Thanks for writing on this topic!

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