I was always told as a youngster, "be aware of your surroundings." Obviously, I was told this to use awareness as a protective measure against the evils that could be lurking around. As a child, the greatest need to becoming aware of your surroundings would be to look out for, and flee from human predators (i.e. kidnappers, sexual offenders). Is becoming aware of your surroundings so different as an adult, when it comes to looking out for human predators (i.e. psychopathic soul stealers)?
Awareness is defined as, "the state or ability to perceive, feel, or be conscious of events, objects or sensory patterns." The definition goes on to state, "in this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. As adults we seem to become conflicted with the last part of the definition – feeling as though we have to 'understand' the sensory data to make sense of it, categorize it, and then take appropriate action. This is the part that seems to pose the problem – not fleeing when sensory data is clearly sending material to become keenly aware of and to move away.
How many times do women recognize the 'sensory patterns' they feel within themselves, when in the beginning stages of a relationship with a pathological man? Perhaps it's the sensation of intense excitement, apprehension, heightened sexual response, or feeling that something is 'just not quite right.' Instead of leaving the situation, many women, especially those with elevated traits and characteristics which place them 'at risk' for the pathological predator, stay and wait it out – hoping to regain a sense of balance, or to see a change in the situation. These women, aware of perceiving, feeling, and being conscious of the sense data coming in upon their first meetings with the pathological tend to ignore the sensory patterns that develop as the relationship continues and becomes increasingly dysfunctional.
Those women that operate at a higher level of consciousness may begin to recognize the 'problems' that are occurring within the relationship – becoming aware of the pattern of behavior with the psychopathic man, as well as their own pattern of response to his behaviors. However, usually by this time, the relationship is well under way and she has invested time and energy – she may see her only viable option as remaining, working it out and hoping things change – she's smart and resourceful, she can 'make it work.' So, instead of taking this sense data, which is confirmed by the 'observer' (the woman involved), without necessarily implying understanding, and fleeing the situation that is not understood – she remains – and awareness is diminished. As time goes by, her level of awareness and consciousness dwindles as her mind and thought processes are busily tending to the everyday dealings with the pathological man.
To begin to cultivate awareness, a very simple practice is to be aware of the breath. This is a first step in stopping the process of habitual mindlessness, and bringing yourself back to the present moment. This practice helps to shift the constant mind chattering that affects all people with 'thinking back to the past, ahead to the future.' It puts a halt to this mind chatter, and brings you back to the present moment. When you are consciously in the present moment, concentrating on the breath, the mind can rest and awareness can take place. When the mind is at rest, developing skillful ways to handle stress can then be used to respond to various situations.
There are many breathing practices that can be learned through various books and articles, or by attending classes dealing with holistic healing methods. A basic breathing practice that can be used throughout the day, especially during times of stress, is the Four Square Breathing Technique. This technique is done as followed:
• Inhale the breath for the count of four.
• Retain the breath for a count of four.
• Exhale the breath for a count of four.
• Retain the breath for a count of four.
Repeat the practice a few more times. When doing a breathing exercise, always breath from the lower belly (feeling the belly rise), instead of from the upper chest. Breathing from the upper chest is shallow breathing, the type of breathing most people are use to, and the type of breathing that happens when people are anxious. The more you perform breathing techniques, the more fully you will breath automatically, bringing much needed oxygen to the body. Fully exhaling the breath assists in removing toxins from the body. Breathing practices are very restorative to the body and mind, and bring healing and steadiness. Breathing assists in cultivating awareness, and awareness keeps us in a present state so that we may become aware of our surroundings.
(With any traditional or alternative health practice, please consult your health care provider or a licensed/certified individual in a particular area. As with any practice, be responsible for your health. Cease the practice with any discomfort you may feel.)
This article was written for the 'Sandra Says' column with permission from Sandra Brown M.A. by Michelle O'Brien M.S. Ed.
Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.