Question from a friend: ...our culture actually encourages thoughtlessness and poor self-awareness and poor other- awareness. And yet, you have honed (and continue to grow) these skills better than anyone I've ever known. Did anything set you on that path? Was it just innate? A combination of things?
My self-awareness began with the church, I think. I went to a revival when I was 11 and promised God I wouldn't lie or steal any more (which I had done a lot before then). I stopped, and through monitoring my own actions I became aware of what led to them, slowly over time. But it also stalled out for a while because I shut down to everyone and everything to survive living with my parents and living in a city full of terrible painful energy. Later I started LJing and met Hannah, whose wonderful prying questions helped me open up to myself and others. When I started going to therapy for the sexual abuse I experienced as a child, I became self-aware more acutely and I became aware of others in a deep way.
I realized that every hurtful action came from a hurt person, and that people didn't hurt you because they were just nasty people but because their experiences led them to think that their behavior was an appropriate response. It wasn't until I was with Kylei that I realized that most of the time, people don't realize the pain they are causing. Kylei and I loved each other so deeply and yet often caused each other terrible pain, never intentionally. I came to understand that my reasoning is just my point of view and that another person could have a positive intention for an action even when it seems to me like there could only possibly be negative intentions.
The biggest help for me with learning other-awareness is asking questions instead of deciding for myself what someone's motives are. Nowadays forgetting to check is the outlier, but it still happens. The biggest help for me with self-awareness is writing often and having at least one chunk of alone time per week. Self-awareness is a privilege, because it takes free time (at least for me) and free time is a privilege. Another thing that helps HUGELY is people asking meaningful prying questions, which is part of why I take them as a gift.
And reading people's introspection helps a great deal with both self- and other- awareness, because I realize new perspectives that others have and I realize my own perspective, in contrast. It helps me to notice the air I'm breathing, so to speak, to notice my ways and thus be able to engage with them deliberately rather than through habit. This is a huge part of my love for LJ.
Also, I think there is a part of my awareness that comes from my neuro-type; I see things in pieces rather than as a whole, especially people. So I notice small shifts that signal meaning, more often than I would if I was considering the whole. And lastly, part of it is a reaction to trauma. As a kid I learned how to avoid pain by paying close attention to my parents' moods and reacting accordingly. This is some intense training in reading emotion, in being aware of others. The harder to learn has definitely been self-awareness, for me.