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Self-Awareness for Kids and Grownups

By Drs. Rick and Jan Hanson

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For Grownups
The inner world has its own reality, and you can become a very skillful observer of it as well:

  • Take a minute or two at least once a day to check in with yourself and assess the full spectrum of your experience, including your body sensations, emotions, thought, desires, and images.

  • Whenever you feel at all upset, do a quick check through the full spectrum of experience described just above.

  • Do an honest self-assessment about the aspects of your inner world that you tend to ignore, suppress, deny, disown, or push to the sidelines. People who know you well can help with this. Remember that resisting your experience just makes it persist. The fastest way to help it move on is to open the door wide to it; otherwise, it keeps on knocking!

  • Cultivate a daily practice in SOMETHING that centers you in an inner sanctuary of peaceful, interested, kind awareness. Meditation, yoga, or prayer are the preeminent methods for this, but you could also get a lot out of very consciously cooking, gardening, walking, playing music, or making art or crafts. Then, from time to time during the day, take a moment to re-center yourself in this inner sanctuary of simply being.

  • Imagine that your experience is a kind of layered parfait, with adult levels on top and younger parts underneath, reaching all the way back to earliest childhood.

Notice your attitudes toward your younger parts; these are often an internalization of your parents' messages. Do you accept those younger parts or push them away? Do you bring kindness to them or meanness? Experiment with being especially kind to them, and see what that's like.

Whenever you're upset, try to sense into the younger layers beneath the surface of frustration, loss, or anger. Your awareness of them will help them flow...and move on.

Like any other skill, you get better at the inner ones with practice. Each day has many opportunities to help yourself or your child develop greater self-awareness. Enjoy!

* * *

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson, M.S., L.Ac., is an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and son, ages 16 and 19. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the first and second authors of Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin. You can see their website at or email them with questions or comments at; unfortunately, a personal reply may not always be possible.

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