[Listen to this reflection on my Spotify podcast here]
In recent weeks, I have noticed a brilliant moment most mornings as I wake up.
It happens during the in-between phase of not quite still asleep and not fully awake yet. Like a sky that is beginning to brighten with the sun itself not yet visible.
In this moment, an insight appears, seemingly out of nowhere.
Not about something random, like my dreams are often about. The insight is about something very specific and very current in my life. A problem that I have been trying to solve. An issue that I have been feeling uncomfortable about. A person that I am feeling challenged by.
Furthermore, I find the insight is very good, and clever. Like that moment during a good thriller or mystery movie, when an unexpected yet brilliant action by the protagonist leaves the viewer with a feeling of admiration. I too find myself in admiration of the brilliance of the insight.
This experience has been occurring for me more regularly over the past few weeks, and I have become curious to understand the conditions that have helped create these brilliant moments.
There are two sides of me. There is the player me, who is on the field, playing the game. And then there is the observer me, who is in the stands, watching the player me.
The player me is experiencing my day-to-day life. He is savouring the meal in front of him, thinking about what to write in that text message, figuring out how to drive safely from here to there, and so forth.
The observer me is watching the player me. He is the one that zooms out to take a bird's eye view. This is the me who while journaling, is observing the past, or noticing the emotions that are in the present, and able to see and connect dots that the player me cannot see. The observer me is the one writing this reflection.
The player me is always trying to score a goal. He is often hyper-active and can easily get impatient and anxious. When problems arise, the player me wants to solve them immediately. Even if the player me does not have enough information to make a decision, he feels a pressure from within to know immediately what to do. It is almost as if a part of his identity and self-worth is wrapped up with always knowing what to do.
The discomfort that comes from having an unresolved issue on the table is unbearable, so his impulse is to rush to a solution. That solution is just a possible solution, perhaps not the best solution. The player me is not trying to solve the actual problem, but the problem of having a problem.
The observer me is different. He is calm, patient and secure. He has observed the past, which gives him confidence. Despite the presence of a problem right now, he remembers that there have been many problems in the past, that in due course were solved. He believes this too will be solved, even if he is not aware of how or when.
He has the benefit of hindsight, and sees how much he worried in the past about issues that were never real issues. And most importantly, he understands that problems are a part of the journey of life and are a sign that one is alive and active. The observer me does not see having a problem as a problem.
In these brilliant moments of morning insight, it is the observer me who is speaking. He has connected the dots and in those few seconds between sleep state and awake state, there is a tiny window when the player me is quiet and the observer me has the stage.
I wonder what else the observer me has to say. I suspect that calming down the player me is part of it. To learn how to relax in the face of challenges. To learn how to trust myself. To learn how to believe that over time, the right solution will appear.
What I find most powerful about these brilliant moments of insight is that they arise from within. There were no conversations with a therapist, no late night calls to close friends, no conscious contemplation or meditation on the problem at hand. They are an inspiring reminder that the answers are often inside, if I can learn to listen.
The player me is often trying to be in alignment with the world external to me, i.e. the other players on the field. The observer me is often trying to be in alignment with the world internal to me, i.e. my own needs and desires.
There is a constant dance happening between these two. And when they are in harmony with each other, each taking their own space and turn, it is beautiful to see.