Updated: Oct 1
I was editing a video for my animation, but instead, I am now typing this post. I am sort of unhappy about that since I just took a second one of my ADHD medication today because the first one wears off too quickly and I need that hyperfocus for my video editing. But now, that hyperfocus is going into this post. Great. So here we go.
I'm 30 years old, I've lived almost my entire life as a reclusive hermit in, essentially, one room the entire time. This is not an exaggeration. Anxiety and an absolute lack of motivation to try and break out of my life-blur are to blame. But there is one advantage to having had so much time alone.
I do a lot of thinking. I do a lot of talking, to myself. I do a lot of contemplating and questioning. A lot. Vastly more than the average person, largely because most people simply don't have the time to do what I do.
Today I type about Self-Awareness, and what this concept means to me. Whether I am self-aware or not, and how I got there from being absolutely not-self-aware. Okay, so I am going to split this post into smaller headers because my brain is ahead of my fleshy finger-typing mechanisms and this bothers me. There's too much to say and not enough muscle responsiveness to type it all quick enough.
What Self-Awareness means to me.
First, let's define what I consider Self-Awareness to be, since others may have a broader or narrower definition of this concept. For me, Self-Awareness is the ability to remove yourself from your own innate bias and blinkered view in a situation, and observe yourself and others from a dis-embodied, external perspective using logic to free yourself from bias and subconscious emotions - to be able to truly question your own feels and arguments, and not simply be bound by them.
For example, you are having a disagreement with someone and you are arguing. You vehemently disagree with this person and absolutely, wholeheartedly believe they are wrong and you are right. Self-awareness is the ability to question your argument from a logically-grounded neutral perspective, and be able to identify subconscious bias in your 'reasoning', your arguments. Inability to do this often results in what is known as "moving goalposts" or "Mental gymnastics" in order to justify a position that may not actually be justifiable.
The next section is about an aspect of our brains (or at least, my brain) that exerts significant control over our day-to-day thoughts, decision making and actions. And it does so undetected, operating from a level inside the brain that you can't actually experience like a tangible emotion. For example, if someone really pissed you off, you'd feel anger. You can feel it, in your mind and body. The Subconscious emotions are not like this - they are not perceivable directly. Instead, they exert a sort of 'weighted bias' upon everything you do, think, feel and decide. Everything you think about, even now, is weighted by your subconscious brain and how its emotions, all without you even knowing about it.
These subconscious emotions can trigger real, tangible emotions that you can feel, like anger, hatred, grief; even happiness. To truly identify the subconscious brain, you need to be self-aware enough to ask yourself why you feel the way you do. And be able to judge that feeling against an external, neutral and logical standard of thinking.
An example of subconscious emotional bias can be seen as the driving force behind many arguments between people that seem pointless, or one-sided. In such cases, one party may be trying to fabricate justification for their argument because they are in a type of denial about being wrong. What I mean by this is, it is inherently scary to acknowledge or come to terms with the fact that your entire point of view, opinion and ideology could be fundamentally flawed. Not many people have the ability to accept an incorrect way of thinking, clean the slate, so to speak, and start from scratch wit ha revised viewpoint taking into consideration the views of others. No, most people would rather pretend their views are correct and fabricate arguments to justify your established way of thinking (mental gymnastics). That is caused by subconscious insecurity, or fear. Anxiety.
An example of subconscious driven defensiveness.
Having the strength to acknowledge you have a flawed way of thinking is an important step. To not give into the comfort offered by trying to justify it. One of the biggest examples I can give that I have noticed, from both experience and observing others online - an example that highlights self-awareness in a very broad sense, is the concept of White Privilege.
Many (white) people feel anger or defensiveness when this topic is brought up due to an inherent lack of self-awareness. if you feel that way now, or decide to stop reading due to disagreeing with me acknowledging White Privilege, than that demonstrates it exactly. "Sash is a Social Justice Warrior" comes to mind, without actually stopping, and asking yourself why you feel so defensive about it. That's how my journey started.
Without wanting to drag the topic of racial majority bias (which I have covered in previous posts in greater detail, I will simply state that if you are bound by the knee-jerk (an apt metaphor) reaction of anger at these concepts, you have yet to take the first step on the road to self-awareness, or at least, what it means to me.
I was like this once, until I become so angry with "Social Justice Warriors" and what I considered "Anti-White" campaigns that I decided to go a step further and comfort myself by questioning why I felt anger at things that logically shouldn't trigger anger. That always bothered me. Instead of arguing the usual rhetoric, I stopped and thought to myself "Why does this make me feel uncomfortable". And that Rabbit Hole, though somewhat long and arduous, ended in a realisation that my subconscious brain was influencing my tangible emotions based on fear. I recommend you read my posts covering this in more depth. It's a good example of something that changed the way I think.
One Angle of Many.
I made this title up just now, but I think it fits quite well. The next part I'd like to type about is what I am now calling the "One Angle of Many" concept. To me, this is the realisation that every single human on this planet, every one of us, me, you, everyone; perceives this world from a slightly different angle, an inherent bias, caused by subconscious emotions, experiences, conditions, there are so many factors. But no single person is truly infallible.
You likely know of the term 'getting a second opinion' or 'more eyes on the subject', or something else along those lines. Those are based on this principle, but to be unbound by it, you have to go a step further.
Consider the way you view the world to be like shining a torch at a complex statue in complete darkness. the light from your torch only illuminates one side of the statue, but to you, this is very real and what you perceive. The statue being a metaphor for a topic of discussion, or a perspective, ideology, etc. Now consider that another person may shine their light from a very slightly different angle; their light illuminates the statue in mostly the same way but there are slight differences in what they see. Some shadows may not be visible to you or them, and the overall shape might be slightly different. You are both viewing the same statue, both are observing what you see, but you are seeing different things.
This underscores the One Angle of Many concept. acknowledging this is important on the journey to what I consider self-awareness. There are many ways of 'escaping' from the blinkered view of your angle; I have covered some of these briefly in a previous post detailing my opinion on how to conduct a rational discussion ( which is closely related as it requires a degree of self-awareness).
To re-iterate, playing the 'Devils Advocate' (Entertain your adversary's argument, and try to make a point from their perspective) is very important here. This is similar to metaphorically moving your position to that of the other person, and shining your torch at the statue from their perspective, and comparing it to your own. Of course, not everyone is going to argue in good faith, and not everyone is going to see their perspective accurately (there are so many variables influencing ones' way of thinking), but at least it gives you the opportunity to reinforce your own position in this case.
Rational discussion is about understanding and entertaining opposing viewpoints, not matter how absurd or wrong they may seem on the surface. This is fundamental to being self-aware. Reddit's community-drive moderator team and the frequent "Censorship due to disagreement" that occurs there is a primary reason as to why Reddit is flawed for rational discussion. Many communities are not exposed to opposing viewpoints, breeding extremism and one-sided thinking styles of 'if you don't agree, you're wrong'. The opposite of self-awareness.
Seeing yourself as another single, fallible point in a complex, multi-faceted subject with countless variables, many hidden behind others. Interpreting evidence and data in a rational, logical way.
The easiest way I can describe the last part of this subtitle is the statement 'correlation doesn't mean causation' and would be a component in the concept of being able to interpret raw data in a rational and logical way (again, I cover this in my guide to fighting sensationalism). This concept is very important in achieving self-awareness, because it builds on the "One Angle of Many" concept to include how you interpret evidence and data from non-human sources (for example, a study, not what someone is saying in an argument) and how you use that data as 'evidence' in your own arguments.
Misinformation is in large part caused by misinterpretation of solid data, usually by making unreasonable conclusions based on perceived correlation of data points along with the innate bias of your own view (driven by your subconscious emotions). In my experience, this results in seeing data in a way that aligns with your views, instead of a truly neutral, logical perspective. This is largely known as the Confirmation Bias phenomena.
Establishing a logical and moral baseline.
For me, this is an important subject. I find it helps achieve self-aware styles of thinking to create a baseline way of thinking when you are calm, collected and enforce this baseline with established morality and, importantly, logic. This baseline can then be used to cross-reference your own viewpoints and judge them for hidden bias and illogical thinking, helping you 'sanity-check' your own thoughts.
For example, it's important to hold yourself to the same standards as you hold everyone else. In my experience, there is a distinct internal desire to 'turn a blind eye' so to speak, to your own actions, while judging others for those actions. This can be broadly associated with hypocrisy but in reality is more nuanced than that. This phenomena, I believe, is driven by self-preservation and the effect is far more subtle than simple hypocrisy, whether conscious or not.
Another example of this, driven by subconscious emotion, is the way you judge yourself regarding events in your past that you feel very strong tangible emotion over. Events that maybe, for example, have been traumatic, or you may have felt you were treated wrongly.
In such cases, you might feel a very subtle inclination to judge yourself with more lenience than others in similar situations, because 'it's different'. The feeling of insecurity from the idea that you could share some blame in such events that you feel strongly about is an example of Subconscious Emotional bias. It is similar in nature to victimhood mentality. This is an area I still struggle with to this day.
It is a fundamental pillar, in my opinion, of self-awareness, to be able to judge yourself with the same standards you judge others. Self-Nepotism in judgement is counterproductive and inherently not-self-aware.
For the record, I am not fully self-aware. I have seen a glimpse of this way of thinking and try to apply it to my everyday life and thought processes, but I struggle in many areas. If you read my blog, you will likely encounter many emotionally-drive posts that are entirely fabricated out a desire to cope with internal emotional turmoil. Being able to identify this turmoil is one thing, actually being able to mitigate it in a healthy, constructive way is another thing entirely. It's only somewhat helpful to be self-aware in retrospect.
Maybe one day I'll get there.
My fingers hurt, and I am sleepy.
There was more to type here, as usual, but I am now exhausted from typing this. As usual, my physical body lags behind my mind, and my focus wanes, as do the ligaments in my finger joints. Hopefully, if even one person reads this, it can help in some way. If not, then, well, I suppose it's a good insight into the inner workings of my brain.