The Observing Self is a capacity that all humans have and which depression locks us out of – and so as we heal we can return to this state again.
The Observing Self is a concept written about at length in a wonderful book by Arthur Deikman. Not that he would claim any originality for the concept – as it has been part of who we are since ancient times, recognised by wisdom traditions that go back millennia.
What is the Observing Self?
The Observing Self is that part of us that can step back from emotions and be aware of ourselves as a unique centre of awareness, apart from intellect, emotion and conditioning. This inner core of our being is the essence of ‘me’ that nobody else can access or take away.
Your observing self has the power to attach and detach from the world at will and therefore see things from many different points of view and be more objective.
This inner core of our being is the essence of ‘me’ that nobody else can access or take away. It doesn’t have depression or anger or pain or MS or anxious worrying or anything except calm awareness.
And the more we lower our emotional arousal the easier it becomes to enter our Observing Self, the wider the perspective we can see, and the easier it is to figure out how to overcome the obstacles we face. This capacity is the special human talent.
Of course those locked in depression are panicking in part because their Observing Self is locked away from them – locked away by overwhelming emotional arousal, fear and hopelessness.
Mindfulness and the Observing Self
It is this contrast that can explain why mindfulness practice is now such a fashionable recommendation for those who are depressed.
But let us be clear. Those locked in depression need much more than mindfulness to unlock their trance state and begin to detach and lower arousal. And only then does mindfulness and meditation become possible.
But much more important, that a life that is working, with essential needs being met, can resume.