One way to start developing the observer self, the witness, is to start paying attention to your own body language.
How are you standing? How are you sitting? What gestures are you making? Are your arms crossed in a defensive position? Are you making eye contact with the person you are talking to?
The dynamic of interactions, the process of what is happening, is just as important - if not sometimes more important - than the content of what is being said. To quote the old song: "Games people play now, every night and every day now, Never saying what they mean, never meaning what they say." That is how codependence works. We were taught to be dishonest, we were trained and traumatized into keeping up appearances and hiding what was really going on inside of us. So was everyone else.
In a group, pay attention to the dynamic. Who is trying to get the attention? Who is hanging back being invisible? Who interrupts? Who changes the subject when they are uncomfortable? What is their body language? Who feels a need to be in control?
Starting to really pay attention to the dynamics of interactions is a very important part of learning to listen. Listening in communications is about much more than just hearing what is being said. Does what a person is saying match their body language? Is someone talking just to hear themselves talk? Are they paying any attention to what is going on with me? Do it seem like they even care if I am listening?
There are people who are always humming or whistling or singing - that is not because they are happy, it is because they can not stand silence. They can't stand silence because it leaves them alone with them self - so they talk or whistle or have the television on or have music playing in order to not be alone in the silence.
I have learned to really cherish silence. One of the ways that I know whether or not someone is a safe person for me to be emotionally intimate with is if they are comfortable with silence. If someone is not comfortable with silence it tells me that they have not yet learned to listen fully. Someone who does not know how to listen is not someone I am going to choose to be emotionally intimate with.
Silence can really be golden. In the silence of the moment is where it is easiest to tune into ourselves, and others, emotionally.
Pay attention in the moment. You can tell if someone is listening to you by watching their eyes. "If they are not listening then why am I talking?" - is a good question to start asking ourselves.
It is very important to start paying attention and listening to ourselves. Early in my recovery, I discovered that a lot of the time I was telling stories. Stories that were part of my self image, part of the way I wanted to portray myself. They were stories that had grown over the years, that I had embellished to make more interesting - and they didn't have much to do with who I was now. They were part of my codependent defense system.
Once I started observing myself, I could start becoming aware in the moment, could start Truly being present for the first time in my life.
I would suddenly become aware of the fact that I was telling an old story and the other person wasn't really listening - so I would stop myself.
I would become aware that I wasn't really listening to what the other person was saying - I was just waiting for them to pause long enough for me to jump in with my story.
I would actually catch myself in a 12 step meeting speaking to a room of 150 people and stop and say "No, you know what, that is bull shit. That is not what is really happening. What is really happening is I am scared," or whatever.
The more we get aware of ourselves the more we can start getting honest with ourselves. The principle that is the foundation of recovery, that is necessary for personal growth and healing of our codependence, is self honesty. We need to start getting honest with ourselves - to start pealing away the layers of denial that we had to adapt to survive.
The challenge is to have compassion for ourselves. The disease will try to get us to judge ourselves for the awareness we are gaining. The more we can develop a little detachment, a witness self that can have some compassion, the more we can start getting to know who we really are - with Love, instead of allowing the critical parent/disease voice to shame and beat us up for our self discovery.
Think of the witness as a scientific observer studying the behavior of a fascinating species. Observe yourself and others from a place of impartial neutrality - "Oh, isn't that interesting the way that person started to attack me when I said that." With a little detachment we can start to have choices about how to respond instead of reacting. When we react by going on the defensive and taking other peoples behavior personally than we are off and running in the soap opera - playing out our old roles, repeating our patterns.
That will happen often as we learn to observe ourselves - it is important to have compassion for ourselves in retrospect. To look back on something that just happened and say "Well, I certainly reacted there. What was the dynamic that took place?" And do a little detective work. That's when we start realizing things like: when the person wagged their finger at me it felt like being lectured by Dad; the tone of voice the person was using was the same kind of condescending tone Mom used to use; and such things as that. That is the gold. Those are the keys to changing our behaviors - figuring our what is triggering our reactions. It is good news to get in touch with these things - not something to judge and shame ourselves for.
Being in the observer also helps us to start watching our own thoughts. Start paying attention to your thought patterns. Watch for any "should"s, "have to"s, "ought to"s, - for any black and white perspective: "always", "never" - these are sure signs the disease is talking to us. And of course, any name calling - stupid, loser, fool, idiot, etc., - is not coming from the Spirit, it is coming from the critical parent.
Someone once told me that I had 7 seconds to take back a negative thought or statement before it went out into the Universe. Whether there is any Truth in that or not, it was very useful for me to help me start paying attention to what I was saying and thinking. I started trying to catch those thoughts and statements and change them from negative to positive. I would catch myself calling myself stupid and change it to silly. (I couldn't go from calling myself stupid to calling myself a Magnificent Spiritual Being in one jump - it took little steps to change the programming.)
Start acting as if you have 7 seconds to recall negative thoughts or statements and see if it doesn't help you start being more self aware, more detached. Becoming detached is vitally important in increasing self awareness. Self awareness is necessary for self honesty. Self honesty is the foundation that recovery is based upon.
Start paying attention to your thoughts, your body language, your communication, your defensive reactions - and start doing it from at least a neutral observer place so that you can start taking the shame and judgment out of your internal process by not giving power to the disease, by telling the critical parent voice to shut up.
That is the way to start being Loving to our self.
Some other pages that focus on Detachment and detached observer perspective:
Go to part 2 of this article: