Be an observer

Social science researchers spend a fair bit of time people watching: observing how people behave and interact with each other teaches them a great deal about human behaviour and relationships even without saying a single word to them.

It can be very easy to see for example, if one spouse in a couple is making attempts to connect with the other spouse who may be distracted by their smart phone. While the other is distracted, observers may be able to notice just a hint of sadness when their bid for connection goes unanswered. While the distracted spouse may not understand why their spouse seems distant and upset for the rest of the evening, the observers can better understand the dynamic from their observations.

It is not difficult to see such interactions in others and understand what is going on. It is much more challenging to become an observer of ourselves in this way and it is a very effective way to develop equanimity.

Try this fun exercise: imagine yourself leaving your body, floating above it, and going higher until you are looking down on yourself and the world and people around you. In this exercise, you are only an observer, not involved in the situation. As an observer, you don't get angry or emotionally involved … you simply observe without judgment.

From this perspective, you are able to see things that you cannot when you are a participant in the interaction and in your own body. If you do this after a conversation that did not go well, it can help you understand your part in the interaction.

When we practice this somewhat detached observation, it can really help remove us from the throes of emotional reactivity and provide a different perspective on the situation.

Try it!

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