The Spirit Of Therapy Blog
Marsha Linehan, the founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) says that truly living is learning to live with your eyes wide open. Saying “yes” to life and to whatever life has brought you. Taking control by taking a good look at what is before you and inside of you.
Observing is one of the skills DBT helps people fine tune. It sounds easy, and in a way, it is a very simple skill. Yet, it can be difficult to practice. We are always observing. Some of us notice our outside world; colors of changing leaves, facial expressions, and birds in the trees. Some of us notice our inner world; thoughts, emotions and body sensations. Our attention is usually drawn to particular aspects of our experience. That leaves quite a bit to escape our notice.
We have a tendency to shy away from uncomfortable aspects of ourselves and our world. Someone who is good at observing her surroundings may be compensating for an unwillingness to observe her internal experience. On the other hand, there are those of us are who consumed with internal dialogue, to the extent that we hardly notice what happens around us.
The skill of observation requires us to slow down and take notice. External observation can help us escape the confines of our mind and our limited experience and allow us to enjoy the pleasures of our five senses. Internal observation can help us tune into ourselves to understand what we are truly feeling and thinking in a given moment. Observation has the power to help us become “unstuck” from distressing thoughts or worry, disengage from overpowering emotions, experience or notice other emotions and give us a different perspective on our situation.
1. Observe your surroundings. Use your five senses to truly see, hear, taste, smell and feel what is around you. Let go of thoughts so that the act of simply observing can take over. Feel the sun on your skin, watch the uncurling of the clouds, hear the quiet sounds of nature, smell the earth, taste the flavors of your food. You may find that basking in these simple things will allow you to release tension.
2. Observe your thoughts, feelings and body sensations without judgment. With curiosity, stand back and “catch” thoughts as you would butterflies. Notice the constant movement of thought, the waves of emotion and the way they affect your body. Begin to notice the relationship between these three aspects of yourself.
3. Observe yourself. Use your second attention to “watch” yourself go about your day. Be curious about your movements, reactions and behavior. Notice how you react to your environment or the things that happen during the week. Study yourself.
“Self-observation brings man to the realization of the necessity of self-change. And in observing himself a man notices that self-observation itself brings about certain changes in his inner processes. He begins to understand that self-observation is an instrument of self-change, a means of awakening.” - George Gurdjieff
The Spirit of Therapy
Where psychotherapy interacts with our mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and relational wellbeing.