Friday 11 May 2012

Observe with gentle curiosity

Let’s suppose that, as part of your job or for a training course, you have to observe someone. This person is a stranger to you, just someone who has agreed to be observed. Your brief is to watch this person without making them feel uncomfortable or that they have to change anything that they are doing. You are to note what they do, when they do it, and how. Your task is to gather as much information about this person as possible, without judging what they are doing or coming to any conclusions about what sort of a person this is. Not easy, but with practice and persistence, you become better at putting your own subjective judgements to one side and you are able to observe this person with gentle curiosity. "Oh, so that’s how they do that, and that’s when they do this, and that’s what they do." The information you gather will eventually enable you to have a good understanding of how that person functions; what seems to lead to certain behaviours, how they cope with situations that crop up in their life and when certain things happen or don’t for them. If the task allowed, you would now be in a very good position to discuss your findings with this person and offer them help and advice, should they want it. Even if the task doesn’t allow that, you will have come a lot closer to this one person and you will have done so with gentle curiosity, not the jack-booted, finger-wagging approach that would have caused that person to shut down with panic or stubbornness.

If we can do this for a total stranger, could we do this with ourselves as the test subject? Could we spend time observing ourselves with gentle curiosity, without judgement, without asking ourselves to change anything – just finding out what we do, when we do it and how?

We have agreed to this scrutiny because we know it’s not going to be punitive; it’s going to help. If we have little to no information about our habits, our reactions and our thoughts and feelings, we can’t do anything to modify them if we want to. Observing with gentle curiosity (otherwise known as tuning-in) will help us to trust the process; we are not looking at ourselves in order to beat ourselves up, to criticize, to find fault, to nag ourselves into changing or into stopping behaviours and habits that we no longer wish to continue with. Instead, we are tuning-in and gathering information in a non-judgemental way in order to come to a gentle conclusion that this behaviour may have helped us in the past, we can acknowledge that and even thank ourselves for looking after ourselves in the best way we knew how at that time – and things are different now and we want to move on and leave that behaviour behind.

At one time, diving into a family pack of crisps or a box of chocolate was a good way of coping with 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' (as Shakespeare put it so eloquently), and in our gently curious observation of ourselves, we have seen ourselves do just that; cope. And now we can choose that not to do that anymore if we want to and feel ready, we can cope without medicating ourselves with food. Of course, there may well be times when nothing but a family pack of chocolate fingers will do and our gentle self-observation will note those times and let them go without any recrimination. Sometimes a woman just has to do what a woman has to do! The rest of the time tuning-in, gentle observation, is helping us move away from self-destructive eating habits because we now know what they are – if we don’t know, we can’t change, even if we really want to.

Gretel Hallet, is a Trained Chocolate Fairy and is running the Getting Started half day workshop in Norwich - perfect for beginners to experience the core principles of Beyond Chocolate and equally great as a refresher for any Beyond Chocolater. If you live in East Anglia and want to know more about Beyond Chocolate or her workshops, get in touch with Gretel.

1 comment:

  1. Great post - thank you Gretel. Although it's still work in progress, I find that when I do tune in and don't judge myself for the food I'm eating, I'm less likely to overeat compulsively. Some days are better than others, but I guess that's all part of the process!


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