How Overcoming Our Excessive Need for Private Awareness Can Help Us Take Care of Ourselves 

How Overcoming Our Excessive Need for Private Awareness Can Help Us Take Care of Ourselves - ATH BlogTake a look at what you know about yourself emotionally. Especially the things that you don’t share with others or at least with almost no one.

You very likely believe that this is something that you take care of on your own or that even if you don’t, these are aspects you would rather not have anyone else’s input on because it would either be too dependent, feel invasive, or too vulnerable. In my observation, when considered in moderation, it represents potential areas where we could grow, be more intimate, and still maintain our independence.  

I am not talking about obsessing over our feelings or needs, but simply being comfortable enough with those closest to us to reveal a fair amount of what is affecting us. I know this exists in people of all age groups. Teenagers often don’t want to share their insecurity, inadequacy, competition, and anger. Young adults (those in their thirties or forties) want to control their new lives and don’t want to reveal their anxiety and self-doubts. Middle-aged adults who have this private awareness don’t want to reveal insecurity about starting to face the loss of personal and physical capacities or how they’re facing challenges in relationships. They might not want to talk about their concerns or about incompleteness in how their life is going. Then there might be seniors, who are reluctant to talk about the challenging feelings of aging, fears of mortality, not wanting to be a burden to others, significant losses of capacity, and the many regrets that they’d like to find a way to be at peace with. 

Of course, there are others that go to the other extreme — always talking about their feelings and burdening others with their problems. These individuals are more obvious out in the open and usually have a cast of characters that evaluate them at their expense. Not too many people are attracted to those who always ruminate on their own issues.  

Today, we’re attempting to explore a sense of balance by addressing a group that unquestionably and dominantly believes that they are in balance in a self-sufficient way. However, they limit in various degrees the capacity for intimacy and growth. There might be another way in life to find a sense of communication and create an expansion of trust and intimacy.

No matter your age, ask yourself: 

  • Which are some areas of my life that I won’t share or will hardly share with others?  
  • Am I really as sure as I feel or tell myself I am? Am I really positive that it isn’t worth exploring more often?
  • What might I be most afraid of that might be stopping me from taking this risk?  
  • What image might I be trying to keep that is contributing to my desire not to experiment?
  •  Who would be the person that I would be most likely to share with, even if I don’t think I really will go for it?”   

Asking these questions sincerely may be a catalyst to bring more courage, humility, and intimacy into your life. It could be where you feel vulnerable, need, anxious, insecure, inadequate, shameful, guilty, or afraid — or any number of similar feelings. Let yourself contemplate how you might speak about one or more of these areas to open the possibilities of a better quality of life for the person you trust the most.  

You might say to someone you trust: “I want you to know that I suffer from feeling jealous and insecure with “x” person and I would like your help to either trust myself more, to grow, or to be able to express it in a way that makes us closer, rather than create a problem.”

Or, “I would like to explore my guilt, shame, or need with you to try to sort out how I can find my feelings of innocence, kindness, and trust. I want to figure out how to express my needs in a balanced way or to resolve it internally.”

Let yourself explore what you would say to give yourself the best way to have a quality of life by sharing your “private awareness.” You may be paying an unwitting price for privacy and hurting your chances of loving and being loved even though you have convinced yourself in the past that this is a sign of self-sufficiency, consideration, and a quality that you have admired. You may even secretly feel a sense of pride in your lack of need.

This is all too common in my experience — many people suffer because of these choices to keep it alone inside themselves and not explore the alternatives that could create greater courage, intimacy, and trust.

Are you able to find any significant places inside you that you keep private even if you feel convinced that you’ll want to keep them private for the rest of your life perhaps to your own detriment?  

This is a great starting point to really see that your choice is likely to be based on the modeling of how your original family stayed silent on these issues. Or it could be that you were misunderstood or shamed when you brought things up. It could also be that there weren’t any people who could really help you or that you believed could help you.  

These areas need to be reevaluated because keeping such important areas private from those you have close relationships with can often be a sign of hidden insecurity, false pride, or a lack of exposure to real intimacy in your original family. It is clear both personally and professionally that there are some sensitive and capable people who you can’t seek help from things that trouble you. You might be concerned that they might blindly take your side with validation when you need to face a personal issue, or maybe they wouldn’t empathize when you need empathy, or they wouldn’t have any wisdom to pass on, or they might even be critical and reinforce you feeling worse.  

Almost all of us have had situations in our life where one or more of these have happened in some cases enough to be a disincentive. Any of these past experiences makes it understandable why we would rather keep things private. However, it is worth contemplating to see in your group of people closest to you, who might be able to give you the empathy, wisdom, courage, vulnerability, words, and courage or humility that would benefit your life.  

It is helpful to ask yourself (when you have a troublesome feeling) — “Who would I share this particular area that I keep inside myself to potentially get some help?”

This requires an expansive maturity and in-depth communication whether it’s with your spouse, friend, family member, counselor, or teacher. I know that in my life, there has been a continuous evolution of discerning who I might be able to share virtually all of my troublesome feelings. There aren’t a large number of people that would be beneficial (to either me or them) to share my feelings with. 

However, there are a lot of people with whom I can share no matter what the issue is, and doing that has benefited me in many areas of my life. For instance, if I am dealing with an aging issue and a loss of capacity, I would look to my close friends who are also older. If I was dealing with a loss of meaning or limited sense of purpose, I would share it with someone that is devoted to service, finding meaning, and is psychologically sensitive. If I am deeply feeling sick or altered because of my transplant medications, I would share with others that have had the same or similar experiences.

We need to distinguish and find the courage and sensitivity to astutely share where it can be supportive. It is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves or offer to others. 

I have a close friend who is a Christian who takes care of his own needs through prayer and inner faith. This is quite beautiful and he is a very sincere loving soul. However, he keeps things quite private as he had a background where no one shared difficult things, and that’s how he feels comfortable. 

He is very loving and able to find a lot of peace no matter what he is going through. I have great respect for that, and through the years, he has increasingly expanded his inner capacities to trust me to share many of the more challenging aspects of his life. It became clear that he now has access to really good inner and outer resources.  As life has gone on, I wasn’t the only one he turned to and he has been very careful about choosing who to seek support from. The most important thing is to see how this relates to you, and hopefully, it encourages you to reconsider being open in some private awareness that could bring more intimacy, resources, trust, and courage to your life.

In my earlier years as a counselor, I would often think that the person who wasn’t expressing themselves in a personal way was likely unconscious. It only became clear after several years of seeing the development of self-expression by numerous individuals and asking them 

“How long have you been aware of those feelings or needs?” that it was a choice, and that they had held what I thought was unconscious in a private compartment in their inner worlds.  

The response at first was surprising until it was obvious that such a large amount of people had the awareness but just thought it safer or wiser to keep it to themselves. An incredibly high percentage were glad they made the change especially as it frequently led to greater support and intimacy which was quite reliable.

It is a very helpful insight to realize for all of us and perhaps, especially for people in the healing professions to not assume that those that are mostly non-verbal are not conscious when it comes to emotional communication. It may very well be a choice, which opens the door to inquire with respect for their awareness.  

I know this has helped a number of people with great integrity and re-evaluating a belief in what it means to be self-sufficient and to be supported in ways that weren’t modeled for them. After all, it is counter to most of our conditioning to communicate what is inside us in a significant way. This is still frowned upon by many people who live dominantly in the outer world and have ignored major portions of their inner life.

It is a helpful inquiry for virtually all of us to continue through our lives, “Who are the most trustworthy, developed, and important people in my life that I might benefit from by sharing something where I am in a state of insecurity, self-doubt, inadequacy, self-rejection or anything that is causing any kind of suffering whether it’s fear, sadness or anger that isn’t able to be released on its own?”