What are Self-Observation and the Inner Observer?

Enneagram

The Enneagram personality system has changed my life. Not only do I understand why I do what I do, but I am more aware of my thinking, feeling and behavior patterns as they occur. How did I develop this self-awareness? Through the practice of self-observation.

Self-observation is an awareness practice where you turn your attention inward, and nonjudgmentally watch what you think, feel, and do. Imagine that a kind, neutral person has full access to your inner landscape. That person neutrally describes your thoughts, emotions, sensations, etc. as they occur within you. Now imagine that you can silently observe yourself. That internal part of you that always lives in the present moment and watches what happens inside of you, is called your Inner Observer.

A Self-Observation Practice

The breath is a great tool to use for self-observation. Focusing on your breathing shifts your attention from your automatic patterns. It anchors you in the present moment, directing your attention inward, quieting your mind, and focusing your attention.

To practice this simple exercise:

  1. Allow 5-20 minutes or more.
  2. Sit in a chair in a comfortable position with your back straight.
  3. Put your feet on flat on the floor and close your eyes to reduce external distractions.
  4. Focus on your breath, and just follow it from your nose down to the place in your abdomen where it disappears. This is called going in and down or grounded presence.
  5. When your attention goes to some thought, feeling, or sensation (and it often will!), simply observe that you are distracted, and re-focus on your breath.
  6. When you’re ready, bring your attention slowly back to the external world. Notice the sensations of sitting in your chair, hear the sounds around you, and open your eyes.

Once you are well-practiced in this exercise, you may discover that you only need a few breaths to re-center yourself and become present.

To use The Enneagram, you must first discover your “Type”, which is a combination of your patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. In most cases, questions asked by yourself, or others, during your Type discovery process activate your Inner Observer.

To use The Enneagram, you must first discover your “Type”, which is a combination of your patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Click To Tweet

The Enneagram and self-observation are most effective when used in both the physical and spiritual realms. The same patterns manifest in all areas of your life. Spiritual communities call the Inner Observer other names such as your Real Self, True Self, Inner Witness, or Witnessing Consciousness.

Because of the nature of the Inner Observer, self-observation never becomes a habit. Just like following a diet, you must develop the discipline to periodically reflect and notice what pattern is presenting. These patterns are both tenacious and automatic. The good news is that just noticing them relaxes them and makes them less compulsive.

Self-observation creates a space. In that space lies an opportunity for you to make a conscious choice. Is my automatic response pattern the best option for this circumstance, or would another behavior be more helpful now?

The Enneagram makes self-observation easier by giving you a “map” of your own specific habits and patterns. The more you develop your Inner Observer, the more you can bring your unconscious, reactive patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving into your awareness. Then you’ll be able to consciously choose and control them.

The Enneagram makes self-observation easier by giving you a “map” of your own specific habits and patterns. Click To Tweet
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