Learning how to be aware of your internal and external responses within any given relationship is an essential aspect of being present. But like most skills—and especially those connected to our well-being—practice makes perfect.
Well, not perfect, but certainly better.
When I’m discussing how my clients can be more present in their relationships, I talk about a continuum of awareness, which goes in this order from left to right:
- Awareness at some distant point after an event has occurred
- Awareness several days after
- Awareness one day after
- Awareness a few hours after
- Awareness a few minutes after
- Awareness in the moment the event is occurring
When it comes to troubling relationships, a majority of us default to the left end of the spectrum, i.e., awareness at some distant point in the future, or at least a few days later. Hindsight is 20/20. We tend to want to distance ourselves from becoming fully aware about our deepest wounds.
But awareness isn’t just about the truly difficult moments in life. Being aware in all of our relationships will make for better relationships.
Think of the continuum as a training program for your emotional health. Work on going from the left to the right of the continuum.
As I wrote in The Stories We Tell Ourselves, “The ultimate goal is for the client to develop internal and external self-awareness as the event happens. Learning this art of being present means being able to recognize that you’ve made up stories about the other person in the exact moment when those false, internal scripts collide with your present reality.”
As you become more aware of your awareness, you’ll become increasingly better at exercising those particular emotional muscles, thus (one hopes) making it easier for you to be aware in the moment the next time you should do so.