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Awareness Without Right Action Increases Misery

Awareness or insight into yourself can be a fine gift. Many struggle in their ability to grow insightful and instead, live their life in ignorance. This ignorance can harm you and those close to you.

Once I knew a man who hurt himself and those close to him due to his blunt interactive style. Several folks tried helping him to become more insightful about this, attempts were made by other family members, his spouse and folks outside his family. He would become frustrated at the feedback, justifying his behaviors based on his values and hopes for his marriage and family. His perception of his behaviors were completely different than what folks were mirroring back to him. He genuinely believed he was doing the right things, but ultimately his lack of insight, and openness to feedback made his children afraid of him and his wife became bitter, hurt and distant.

There is another group of folks who strive to become more aware, to grow and learn as much about themselves as possible. This is a courageous endeavor for a person to take, far better than living in ignorance.

I believe that no one should live an un-inspected life. It's vital for us to come to know ourselves better, to review pieces of our lives and those important interactions we take part in, to learn and to grow from those experiences -- to become better men and women.

This group of folks earn more credit, from themselves and from those around them, for taking up the mirror and looking deeply into it. But all too often this is where the work stops. Insight without "right action" only leads to more misery in life.

When I first began to discuss my life with a therapist years ago, and keep in mind that she believed she was doing her best to help me, I grew very insightful. I began to understand better why I acted how I did. Not only that, but I suddenly realized what a powerful impact my family of origin had in my life when I was a child and how this followed me into adulthood. At first I was amazed at all the connections. It felt like a grand breakthrough.

But the therapist didn't know how to take me those crucial next steps. She was trained from an "insight model" which assumed that insight alone would heal me. And I have to admit, there are moments of healing that do come from insight! However, after the initial surge of believing I was really getting somewhere, I grew more anxious and more depressed. Eventually I was as depressed as I had ever been and much of the reason was that I knew more, but what I did not know was how to put my new knowledge into right action. In time I felt much worse and more angry than I had prior to entering therapy. Had I learned? Yes! Had I become more insightful? Yes! Had I added the skill of introspection? Yes! But it wasn't enough. In fact, a Joseph Campbell quote would often ring in my ears, "Ignorance is bliss." 
I had more understanding about my struggle in life and it made my struggle deepen. At times, I wished that I had not learned anything.

I had once been depressed and sought help. After increasing my understanding about the core reasons surrounding my depression, I became more depressed and now, for many more reasons. 

This is a dangerous place to be; knowing more but not knowing what to do about what you know. It can lead to a jump right back into the choice to live in ignorance.

Today there are so many self-help books out that you need not attend insight-oriented therapy to build personal insight. The same danger still exists. Beware, insight without right action increases misery.

I don't simply use the word "action" when referencing the step beyond insight, and for good reason. I use "right action" in place of "reaction." Too often we take our insights and use them like weapons in defense of personal boundaries, personal rights and personal needs. 

I once knew a woman who had the realization that for much of her life she allowed people to take advantage of her. She said she'd become a doormat. Her "reaction" to learning this about herself was to become angry with anyone showing the slightest possible disrespect towards her. She would yell, cut people off in mid-sentence and she overall acted angry and disrespectful.

This certainly hurt her relationships, but as important as that was that she was hurting herself. She had taken the knife that hurt her and turned it around on the world. 

Two things happened with her. She "reacted" out of her insight, but what she needed to do was learn new skills in assertiveness and take them out into her world gradually. This would have made for a lasting change. The way she reacted increased her level of misery initially and she didn't understand it was due to the fact that she was acting much like those who'd hurt her.

When you combine "Awareness" with "Right Action," powerful, lasting changes can begin to occur in your life. They are the "Dynamic Duo" of personal success! 


Dave Turo-Shields (email)
Veteran Psychotherapist, Trainer & Life Coach

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"Awareness without Right Action increases misery."


Ask Dave


How do I stop relapses?


Hi Micheal,

Thanks for asking a fantastic question.  

First, congratulations on achieving recovery.  It's obvious by your question that you've tasted recovery in a significant way.  

There are many things I can teach about relapse prevention.  Today I will introduce one powerful idea.

A number of years ago I became aware of a new approach emerging within the field of healing.  It has several names of reference, but for our purposes here today I will refer to it as "Energy Psychology."

One such technique is referred to as the Emotional Freedom Technique (Click to learn more).

In just 60 seconds a day you can eliminate pesky problems and/or protect yourself against the return of previous issues that you want laid to rest permanently.

Many of you who have been receiving my newsletter for a while know how careful I am about researching new approaches.  I've watched EFT develop now over several years.  It's the real deal.  I've been using and studying it for the same amount of time and have had great success using it with fatigue, negative thoughts, physical illness, success, anger etc.  The potential for application is so great I will soon devote either a newsletter article or a website page to more fully explain it.


Dave Turo-Shields

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