Today, I taught a counseling theories class and then a mindfulness workshop for educators who are feeling the crushing pressure of their jobs. In both settings, we talked about the idea of leaning on the “wise observer,” a concept that can be found in places from ancient religious texts to current therapeutic and mindfulness teachings.
We all know parts of us that are scared, angry, exhausted, despondent, and mean (i.e. I once named mine Judgy Jill). We also know parts of ourselves that are patient, trusting, deeply kind and wise (Saint Michele). Which one are we? Of course we are both and many parts live within us and are expressed in different ways.
I often work with clients to develop a wise observer. One who can stand back and watch the thoughts, behaviors, and feelings unfold without judging them to be good or bad. Once that wise observer can recognize that even though we have thoughts and emotions, we are not our thoughts nor our emotions, it can advise us on how to ride the waves of life without so much reactivity or fear.
I have learned so much about myself in all roles of client, counselor, and coach. One of the most valuable tools I have used with myself and others is to learn to observe myself and then tap into the wise part of me whom I can trust to guide my steps. Some may call this a higher power while others may say it is a power held deep within.
One student today asked if it was dangerous to kind of “dissociate” from who we are. It would be unhealthy if we did this all of the time. It is also unwise to live without examination, lest we repeat habits and patterns that are not serving us. Are we saints or are we sinners? I contend that are whole selves made up of varied parts…saints, sinners, and all that is betwixt and between. When we accept ourselves for all of who we are, we can truly own our decisions and take more control over our own lives.