Why Awareness Won’t Solve Your Overwhelm Problems

I hear a lot of people talk about awareness.

Awareness is a good thing. But what exactly does it mean to “be aware”?

Being aware can be as basic as “I know this thing is happening, I am aware!”. It can even go as far as “I know when this thing is happening! I am standing right there and being very very aware of it!”

The problem with awareness is, it doesn’t necessarily change anything.

 

Example: Potato Chips

You can be aware of eating too many potato chips.

“Lookie here, I am aware! As I am putting these potato chips in my mouth, I am aware that I am eating them! I even know the solution, I need to stop eating them! I know, I should eat cucumbers instead! I am aware of the problem and I know what I need to do!”

Does this kind of awareness solve anything? Not really. Sure, it’s better than eating potato chips in your sleep and having no idea what happened when your bed is full of crumbs the next morning.

In terms of getting a problem solved, just knowing that you are eating potato chips is a small step. There is still a long way to go before the eating of the potato chips has actually stopped!

Awareness is not a magic switch. An awareness of the problem doesn’t magically solve it. In fact, many times awareness can become an excuse. “Well yes, I am aware of the problem! You don’t need to tell me anything I don’t already know!”

 

Knowing or Doing?

The problem with all this talk of awareness is that there is too much focus on “knowing” things, and assuming that knowing something will magically solve it.

As you start thinking about a problem, it can start to feel like if you just find the right piece of crucial information, everything will fall into place. You just have to put the right code into your brain, and everything else will sort itself out magically! (Where can I download this code? I need to download it immediately!)

I know some very rational people will snort at that, magic puh! Yet, it’s precisely those very rational people who often have this problem: thinking they can think their way out of everything.

Before you say ‘that’s not me, ever!’ consider if you’ve ever thought things like this:

  • I wish I could just find the answer
  • I just want to find the right book to read that will explain everything so I can change it
  • I just don’t understand
  • I want to have the insights I need
  • I’m sure I can figure this out
  • I want to get all the information on this
  • I have some questions that need to be answered before I can take action
  • I am the kind of person who needs to talk things through before I can commit to trying something
  • I already knew that
  • I am just looking for more information on this that will help me solve this problem!

When you think like this, you can start to get mad and feel like experts are holding out on you for not simply giving you the information.

Why, you wonder, don’t they just share the information?

They know The Answer so why are they keeping it to themselves?

 

Why Experts aren’t sharing “The Answer” with you

Well, the conspiracy theorists will not want to believe this, but experts are “holding out” because:

  • There is no one simple answer, to anything.
  • The “right” answer depends on the person, the circumstances, and how to best explain something in the moment.
  • Most problems come from a lack of doing something about them. This involves having some information yes, but the information is the easy part. People get stuck actually taking effective action. (If that’s not true, then why would anyone ever eat too many potato chips?)
  • Most problems are actually already solutions. They are a solution to another, more important problem. Eating too many pototo chips is a solution. It’s a solution to how bad you feel when you don’t eat them. So solving the problem of “too many potato chips” also requires finding a new solution to “feeling bad when I don’t eat lots of potato chips”. (Don’t believe me? Try it. Pick a “bad habit” you know you need to quit and just STOP doing it. Notice how long it takes before the bad feelings take over and you go straight to your “bad habit”)

Talking about a need for awareness too much suggests that all we need to solve problems is more information. It ascribes to a kind of “homosapiens roboticus” – the kind of person who will always act logically and predicatably (and unemotionally) when there are good reasons to do something. In other words, the kind of person who doesn’t exist.

There are good reasons not to eat too many potato chips. Hence, nobody will eat too many potato chips. Errr, no.

And yet, that is what the quest for more information presumes: “I am a logical person! I always do the right thing for the right reasons! When I just plug the right info into my system, everything will go right! I do not have a bunch of odd and complex and emotional reasons for my problem, my problem is completely logical and the only thing missing is the right piece of information.”

Sigh.

I am all for awareness and mindfulness. I am all for noticing what happens and slowing down. Yet, it’s also important to be aware of when awareness talk becomes an excuse. A cop out. A way to blame the world for not giving you the “right answer”. A way to stay in the ivory tower of your own mind. A way to avoid the messy work. A way to avoid asking for help. A way to avoid being vulnerable and admitting darn, I really don’t know how to solve this, and thinking about it some more won’t help!

Knowing things and having an awareness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There are lots of problems that require more of a hands-on approach, where you learn ways of being with and exploring the problem from the inside out, instead of top down from your brain yelling down to your body about what she’s supposed to do.

 

 

 

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