The observing self, and why to make friends with it.

By Joe Acciaioli, LCSW
​Ever notice how good your dog or cat is at being fully in the moment? Not a care in the world. Just lying around, enjoying a sunbeam or special toy. Not worrying about what comes next, or what happened last week. Just enjoying what is happening. Right. Now. So simple!
We humans, however, are much more complicated than our pets. We are both blessed and cursed with what is sometimes called the observing self. The observing self means our ability to step back from thoughts and feelings, in a way animals can’t. This is due to our big brains. The trouble is, we often race around letting our thoughts and feelings rule us. When that happens, we’re not so much observing our thoughts and feelings as we are buying into them, as if they were our identity.


The key to making the most of your observing self is to slow down and notice. Just notice. How are you breathing? What thought are you having in this moment? What emotion are you feeling right now? Whatever it is, just let it be there. Just notice. Feel the difference?

As soon as we shift into observing mode, we start to detach from all the chatter our mind gives us. This is one step toward better mental health: slowing down and watching our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations as if they’re a stage show. Some thoughts and feelings are pleasant. Others are very difficult. But the key is just to observe, opening up to the whole “show.”

The more you practice this kind of observing, the less reactive you’ll be when it comes to your inner world. While life can hand us plenty of challenges, the key is how we respond to them. And that is where noticing, from the vantage point of the observing self, comes in very handy.

Joe Acciaioli is a licensed clinical social worker who works at Inspired Life Counseling in Chico CA. He sees clients online and in-person.  He specializes in trauma-informed care using mindfulness, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), and EMDR.  The combination of the three styles of therapy come together to make for a beautifully healing experience in which he’s able to fully be present with his client while helping them learn to be present for themselves while they’re exploring their pain and growth.  The ability to learn to tolerate these two experiences simultaneously (pain and presence) means the client will have better coping and tolerance to the inevitable stress life brings later.

To schedule an appointment with Joe, please click the link to go to his bio.