The most important reasons to achieve the ObserverMode of power are:
Victim and Interpreter emotions are the source of all human ills.
Interpreter Mode may be the most common mode in human nature.
Moving out of Interpreter Mode moves you out of the struggle.
When you operate from Observer Mode, everything becomes easier.
If one or more aspects of your life are difficult or unsatisfying, very likely you are approaching that situation or condition from Interpreter mode. You resist it, you struggle with it, and you are imposing a judgment on the situation, on other people, or yourself. When you withdraw judgment, the struggle eases; when you stop resisting, the problem abates.
Personally, my facility with Observer Mode didn’t come automatically, or even naturally. For most of my younger life, I could more than hold my own when it came to annoyance, irritation, frustration, embarrassment, envy, guilt, hostility, misgiving, defensiveness, and pride. When I finally started to recognize the fruit I harvested by nurturing such a crop, I began to select different seeds. Eventually, I began to see that judgment equals pain; acceptance equals no pain. All emotions and states of mind from Victim or Interpreter Modes generate adversity of some kind.
An Uneven Balance
Back when I taught novel writing, I began compiling a list of emotions as a “cheat sheet” for writers. When developing the Modes of Power Diamond™, I sorted them into the various modes based on the following commonalities: Victim emotions are characterized by the fight/flight/freeze mechanism. Interpreter emotions share the element of judgment. Observer emotions are neutral. Cooperation marks Partner emotions, and harmony characterizes Creator. To access your personal power at the Observer level, you must be willing to leave judgment behind. When you choose neutrality over judgment, most (if not all) the trials, tribulations and adversities of your life will ease up.
This does not mean “bad” things will never again happen to you. I’m assuming you have no desire to retreat to a hermit’s cave and seek enlightenment through isolation. I’m assuming you want to live, love, aspire, experiment, experience, and grow. I’m assuming you will create new challenges for yourself – and if you don’t, life will no doubt supply you with some. By thus engaging with your life, you will continue to gain self-knowledge, you will sometimes stumble and sometimes transcend, you will occasionally discover hidden pockets of judgment. When you stop operating from Interpreter mode, you will find more blessing than hardship in the events of your life. Everything in your life will flow more easily.
Moving into Power
So, let’s look at ways to become the Observer. We’ll start by observing what happens in Interpreter mode.
First, an event occurs and your brain responds with an emotion. You experience this emotion somewhere in your body: your gut, your throat, your heart, your pituitary system . . . somewhere.
You are now likely to internalize it in some way. You may ignore it, act on it, think about it, bury it, etc. Or you can dismiss it. I encourage you to acknowledge it, to become mindful of it. Notice it and name it. An ignored emotion tends to take up residence in your body and busily generates its result. (For instance, resentment results in neediness.) On the other hand, an emotion you acknowledge is likely to simply dissolve away. This level of mindfulness is the very essential first step in accessing the power of your emotions.
If the emotion persists, however, here are several options for what to do next:
Deal with the emotion directly. You’ve named it, now own it. Say to yourself, “I’m choosing to feel _______.” When you consciously take responsibility for the emotion, your subconscious mind recognizes you power to choose something else. You will probably find yourself accepting this power to choose. Choosing to feel something else instead will probably follow quite naturally.
Listen to it. Pay attention to the story the emotion gathers to itself. In and of themselves, stories help us make sense of a situation, make sense of the emotions we feel and look for options. Unfortunately, in Interpreter Mode the story always contains an element of judgment. The story may be as simple as “That’s bad.” or “That’s good.” “It’s her fault.” or “It’s not my fault.”
The story may assign motives – and the motives assigned will contain “He’s stupid.” Or weak, or unconscionable, or a coward, or immoral, or wrong.
The story may rationalize behaviors: “I just took the facts into account.” or “Given the circumstances.” or “I couldn’t just stand there.” or “I wasn’t about to get involved.”
The story may deny options: “I didn’t see.” or “I have to protect myself.” or “She made me.” or “I had no choice.”
Once you can see the judgment in the story, use an emotion from observer mode to retell the story without judgment. For instance, respect will remove the scale of good/bad, right/wrong; compassion will reassign motives; humility will discourage rationalization; and courage will illuminate options.
You may find yourself in resistance to the emotion. Perhaps you feel beset by anxiety, loneliness, embarrassment, ambition, doubt, envy, or some other Interpreter emotion. The presence and power of the emotion overwhelm you, and you want to be free. Keep in mind that by judging what you feel, you hold onto it as firmly as it holds on to you.
Open yourself up to it. Say to the emotion, "Show me everything you’ve got!” When you approach the emotion itself from the Observer Mode, with curiosity, tolerance, courage, patience or courage, the balance of power shifts from the emotion to you. As the emotion loses its power and you access more of yours, you discover it to be ephemeral – nothing but air.
Identify an antidote. While every emotion in Interpreter Mode produces an unfavorable result, each one also has an antidote. I first encountered the concept of emotional antidotes while reading the transcripts of a symposium the Dalai Lama held on destructive emotions. (Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions and Health. Goleman, Daniel. 2003.) The lama who discussed the idea said an antidote is specific to the emotion. Not having access to his list, I’ve worked with clients by asking them to imagine which emotion would be the logical antidote to their situation. We then work with whatever they come up with, and that seems to produce the results we want. Consider the following examples, then choose your own antidote:
Doubt – Optimism
Frustration – Patience
Anxiety – Calm
Irritation – Niceness
Pride – Humor
We all operate across a spectrum of emotions. Sometimes, in some situations, we’re caught by Victim or Interpreter emotions. Other times we operate from Observer mode. On occassion, we soar into the realms of Partner or Creator. When you can see yourself functioning mostly as Observer with shorter and more infrequent dips into Interpreter, you will also notice your fluctuations are elevated. Sure there will be occasional slips, but as Observer becomes your natural state, Partner emotions will beckon more frequently.
It’s all a journey. Where you are is where you are. The choices you can see are your choices. And your interpretation is your reality – until you choose a different path.