The Water We Swim In

How does it help to know ourselves?

This seems like a dumb question on the surface. Of course it’s always better to know yourself. People have been telling us to do this since we were in elementary school.

But in my experience knowing myself is one thing, changing my behavior, trying something new and responding differently to a familiar stimulus, is a lot harder than it looks.

I’ll take myself as an example. One of the things I’ve learned from putting myself through the Know Yourself pilot, is that I am a Six on the Enneagram, sometimes called the Loyal Skeptic.  

We Loyal Skeptics have lots going for us, but one thing that isn’t, is our knee-jerk reaction to be afraid, whether there’s a reason to be or not. Things look scary or dangerous even when they aren’t. Until Sixes become aware of this automatic reaction, we don’t notice ourselves becoming paranoid or fearful. It’s simply the water we swim in.


Now that I recognize this fear reaction, I have choices.


Noticing the behavior is the second-hardest part. Research is showing that in order to notice your automatic behavior, you need to train yourself to be observant. And to train yourself to be self-observant, you need a mindfulness practice. (Read here and here to get a taste of the benefits of a mindfulness practice).

The first hardest part is what to do now that you’ve noticed and you want to change your behavior.

Here are some pretty reliable options:

  1. Call someone for support or just to listen to you observe your own behavior. 
  2. Read a spiritual book.
  3. Pray.
  4. Or my least favorite, and most effective: Get curious and notice what’s going on, whatever it is, without judgment. Sit with it. This choice is also counter-intuitive. In my case, why would I want to pay more attention to fear? But happens is that the feeling shifts. Sometimes in less than 90 seconds.

When it does, I can make clearer decisions about what to do next. I can even take the advice I gave you in the introduction to this edition of the newsletter.

How about you? Do you notice yourself repeating unskillful behavior? What do you do once you see yourself? I’d love to hear. Comment below.

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