Emotion Regulation 1.1: Observe


We have begun a series of posts on how to effectively manage emotions, so that we can engage more thoughtfully in relationship. All of the skills we discuss are designed to support the ultimate goal of wisdom. (See yesterday’s post.)

The first skill is simply observing. Believe it or not, this skill is very difficult to pull off all by itself. To observe, and only to observe, means that you just notice something. You don’t attach to it, push it away, or react to it in any way.

Try It!

If that sounds easy, try it. Look around you. See if you can just see what’s there without doing anything else. Notice how hard it is to refrain from putting words to what you see, or making judgements, or telling yourself something about what you see.

Observing your hand, for example. Just becoming conscious of it, bring your awareness to it. It has fingers–not skinny fingers. It has veins–not protruding ones. There’s a freckle on that finger–not an ugly freckle. It has nails–not ones that really need a manicure. It has a palm–not one that confused the palm reader last week. It has joints–not ones that are so large, the ring won’t come off of that finger. There’s a ring on that finger–not one that impresses your friends.


The idea is simply to become aware of something by bringing your attention to it. This is the first step in gaining control over your emotions: simply to notice them, without even putting a name to them. (We’ll get to that.) Take a few moments at different times today to just become aware of your emotions, to become conscious that you have them. They’re operating whether you notice them or not, so when you pay attention to them, they come one step closer to your being able to consciously manage them.

Becoming aware of one thing means that the other things that had your attention will fade into the background. That’s okay. You can bring your attention back to them again whenever you choose. Just look around. Be careful not to run into that pole, but look up (or down) and see what’s there.



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