If I were to identify one fundamental issue of psychological health that we, as a society, don’t do a great job addressing it would be self-awareness. Generally speaking, we are not honest enough with ourselves. Think about how often we confuse thoughts and emotions. What’s the difference between a thought and an emotion? It even pervades our vernacular. Does this sentence make any sense- “I feel like drinking water is healthy”? Does it express a thought, fact, opinion or feeling? Yet, we do it often. Can we identify when we are reacting impulsively versus deciding proactively? I’m not addressing the pros and cons of impulsivity, I’m asking if we are aware. Do we value the importance of self-awareness?
You see, basic self-awareness is necessary for living a meaningfully rich and happy life. At the root of most neurotic disorders like anxiety and depression is a weakened sense of self- not just weakened confidence but a deeper lacking in self-awareness. Even though studies demonstrate that people who are depressed are more accurate assessors of some of their personal capabilities (depressive realism), I would argue that anxiety and depression cloud our ability to be more fully self-aware. The opposite is true is as well, anxiety and depression can be a result of a lack of self-awareness. Be that as it may, my take is that happiness is a function of self-awareness and appreciation. Understanding yourself, your place in the world, the context for the story of your life is, in my opinion, the most basic and important keys to living happily. Happiness is a city that we are all looking for but little do we realize it’s only found in the state of our relationship with ourselves.
(As I strive towards becoming more self-aware, I can state with near certainty that my good friend Barry Horowitz is not me and that I am not him. At times people confuse us even though he is much taller than me. We are not even related. At times even Barry confuses himself with me as well. See http://nefesh.org/events/read.cfm?cID=1054. This is flattering. I tend to think of Barry as clearheaded and if in his self-awareness he thinks that he is me, well…)