Recently, I read an article from Psychology Today called, “7 Strategies too Survive Christmas with the Relatives,” because that season is almost upon us. Don’t get me wrong, I love my relatives and I don’t necessarily feel like I have to “survive” Christmas with them, but I was just browsing a handful of articles about getting through the stress of the holidays.
One of the pointers author Thomas G. Plante, Ph.D., includes in this article is to develop an “observing ego.” He says, “Try to take yourself out of the situation you are in and observe it similar to if you were watching a movie.” This idea of an observing ego interested me because I think it can be applied to all experiences we go through, not just stressful holiday ones, and not even just stressful ones.
I did some research on this term. I found a Huffington Post article by Jane Simon, M.D., called “The Observing Self: A Tool Essential to Save Ourselves and Our Planet.” She says the observing ego is “the split between our experience and our observation of it,” and it “allows us to perceive and change.” In other words, the observing ego is a place we can go to that’s outside of the moment. By stepping out of our own shoes and seeing the bigger picture, we can analyze our actions and see if there’s anything we can be doing better.
I think the idea of an “observing ego” is important because it shows us that we can be in control of our own experiences, even the stressful ones. Sometimes it feels like there are forces more powerful than us acting upon us, and we have no control. But if you can imagine yourself watching your life as a movie, make yourself the narrator. You call the shots.
Developing an observing ego can do so many positive things for our day-to-day lives. For one, it can help us look at our own actions from an outside perspective, as crazy as that may seem. This perspective can help us grow by allowing us to see what we’re doing well, and what we can do better.
Secondly, it can remove us, for a moment or two, from a stressful situation. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, try to step out of it and act like you’re watching it on a movie screen. Taking yourself out of the direct action for a little bit might help.
Finally, the observing ego can allow us to feel like we are in control of our own destinies. If you imagine that you’re the movie director of your own life, it might not be as easy to get swept under external, stressful forces. You write the script. You are the force.
So this holiday season, try developing an observing ego. Whether you need it for those encounters with crazy relatives or you just know the holiday season can get a bit stressful, this technique can help.