Noticing how you’re feeling, thinking and acting is a vital component of increasing self-awareness about what adds to or detracts from your sense of self. Something I’ve learned from years of going to acupuncture is that pain-wise, unless we’ve literally just directly hurt ourselves on something, the body doesn’t just spring things on us. Instead, it tries to let us know in subtle and not so subtle ways that we need to notice or address something. It might start off as light discomfort. If ignored, it becomes pain that forces us to pay attention. Often where we feel the pain isn’t the actual source of the pain.

Life works in a similar fashion. It forces us to notice something by throwing up increasingly painful lessons until we learn. I hear from people who can’t understand why they are so affected by the ending of a brief relationship or why they erupted in anger and frustration despite having been in that same situation before. These happen because there’s only so much that we can ignore or put ourselves through. We can’t bury our feelings—they just find other ways to poke at and disrupt us.

If at times you’ve felt more stressed than you expected to by something or you are feeling low, it’s because you’ve missed a series of signposts along your journey. The stress has built up. Instead of judging yourself for not having a “perfect” or “better” response, it’s vital to notice the reasons behind your responses and to also step back and notice the lesson themes.

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