The Curious Coach Podcast

Episode 113:
Mini: Different types of self-awareness

This week’s challenge is about noticing the different types of self-awareness – embodied and conceptual and see if you can explore the differences.

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Hi there and welcome to the latest edition of The Curious Coach Podcast.  This week’s podcast is all about self-awareness.   And for anyone familiar with Emotional Intelligence, when we talk about self-awareness we’re talking about emotional self-awareness where you’re aware of your own emotions – noticing them, naming them, and in the process understanding how they drive you.

However, this week I’m exploring more nuances around self-awareness – thanks to the work of Alan Fogel. A professor of psychology at the University of Utah.  He breaks self-awareness  down into two categories – conceptual self-awareness and embodied self-awareness.    Conceptual self-awareness is you thinking about yourself and arriving at conclusions about the emotions and feelings you’re having.

Then there’s embodied self-awareness – this is where you’re tuning into how you’re experiencing yourself in the moment – and this is your whole-self, going well beyond simply thinking about yourself.

Both forms of self-awareness are useful.  If you find yourself starting to explain and justify your emotions, chances are you’re experiencing conceptual self-awareness.  However, embodied self-awareness is a little bit more interesting. 

For example, interlace your fingers and squeeze your hands and fingers tightly together – don’t do it so hard that you hurt yourself, but do it tightly enough that you really notice the feelings in your fingers, finger tips and so on.  Hold this for several seconds until you can really notice all the different sensations that you’re experiencing.  Where are you feeling it, is there a difference between different fingers, or different parts of your fingers and so on.  Be really curious.   Now – let go and immediately notice how the feelings have changed and again, how different parts of both hands may feel different.   This is embodied self-awareness.

Now – without physical bringing your hands together, think about how it felt to have all you fingers interlaced and squeezing tightly.  Can you recreate the feeling you were experiencing a few seconds ago?  Again, think about the different sensations in different parts of your hands, and recreate the feeling again.  This is conceptual self-awareness.  It’s you recreating the feelings you experienced in the past by using your thoughts.

Now, take this a thinking a step further.  Anytime we’re experiencing feelings or emotions based on thoughts of past events, or by anticipating future events, we’re very much in conceptual self-awareness.   And that’s not to dismiss those emotions or feelings, however, it’s also important to recognise that they’re entirely of your own creation.  However, when you tune into your embodied self-awareness and all the sensations you’re experiencing  – such as your breathing, heart rate, temperature, skin contact and so on, you’re also being full present in the moment.    And now, can use all those embodied sensations to describe an emotion or feeling that encapsulates how you’re feeling in this moment? Episode   And staying with it long enough, to notice how those sensations might ebb and flow over time, and along with it, so might the emotion or feeling you’re experiencing. 

In doing this, you’re now truly experiencing yourself in the moment – this can only truly come from embodied self-awareness.

I hope all that makes sense and that’s my challenge for you this week.  Can you spot the different times during the day when you’re experiencing embodied self-awareness versus conceptual self-awareness.  Don’t judge or criticise yourself – just see if you can start to notice when you’re experiencing one or the other – or maybe both – maybe challenge yourself that when you noticed you’re experiencing conceptual self-awareness, to also tune into your embodied self-awareness and see if you can notice any differences.

Thanks for listening and as always, I’d love to hear how you got on – so please feel free to leave me a comment on LinkedIn or drop me an email to [email protected] – thanks for listening and until next time, don’t forget, stay curious!