The Traumatic Stress Institute fosters the transformation of organizations and service systems to trauma-informed care (TIC) through the delivery of whole-system consultation, professional training, coaching, and research.

The Practice of Noticing

June 4, 2021 / by John Engel, MA

Monthly RC Mindfulness: Come Fill Your Cup - June 2021

More than 30 RC trainers, champions and staff attended the third RC Monthly Mindfulness session! This blog offers a brief summary of the session, initial feedback from participants, and resources to advance learning and practice.

Enjoy the read and remember that all staff, Champions, and Trainers at RC agencies are welcome to attend this free, monthly drop-in offering – share this registration link with your coworkers today. We hope to see you July 7th for The Practice of Noticing: Meditation and Anchors of Support.

Session Summary

We explored the two wings of psychological growth and practice as offered by psychologist Rick Hanson (see link to article in resource section below). We also considered ways that this model can be used to build RC capacity for noticing our reactions to others.

The two wings of growth and practice are being with and working with. Being with refers to simply being with our experience by noticing what is happening in the present moment, without judgement–and without pulling away or attempting to change the experience. So, being with is about clear noticing.

Working with is about holding experience with compassion, attempting to be more skillful or capable. So working with is about skillful action.

Benefits and Pitfalls

Of course, there are benefits and pitfalls with both being with and working with. The main benefit of being with is that we become more aware and present with our own experience. A benefit of working with is that we are able to use awareness for skill building and completing developmental tasks, such as emotion regulation or inner connection to a caring other. A pitfall of being with is that we may appear indifferent to the suffering of others. A pitfall of working with is the tendency toward striving – constant improvement and the stress that can accompany this state of being.

The invitation for RC treaters is to experiment with mindfulness practices that develop each of the two wings, combining clear noticing and skillful action.

RC Application

As RC treaters, when a client or colleague is dysregulated, we can take a moment to be with our own experience of the other person’s dysregulation. A potential benefit is that I might gain greater clarity of my own experience, including my experience of the dysregulated client or colleague, and I might also more clearly see the other person’s experience too. It’s also possible that by taking a moment to first notice, I might be viewed by others as indifferent to the other person’s experience.

Of course, I can also choose to work with this experience by expressing compassion toward my dysregulated client or colleague. A direct benefit is that I might alleviate the suffering experienced by the other person and may also build my own capacity to be compassionate with others. It’s also possible that I might trap myself in a cycle of working with whereby I strive to become better, without the benefit of clear vision.

Just as in nature (for you’d never see a bird flying one-winged) we need the balance of both wings being with and working with to best support healing.

Noticing Our Tendencies

We also explored the following questions – noticing our tendencies toward being with and working with. These questions could be further explored in supervision, team meetings, staff meetings and other RC Agency settings.

  • As an RC treater, are you more included to be with or work with difficult experiences?
  • What do the people in your RC Agency reward you for and count on you for – being with or working with difficult experiences? 

Practicing Noticing

Three being with practices include: Sitting meditation, walking meditation, and body scan.

We will further explore these practices in future RC Monthly Mindfulness sessions. In the meantime, as an RC treater, consider noticing your reactions to others in the coming month by reflecting on, or discussing with others, the following micro-practices:

  • As an RC treater, notice difficult experiences as an opportunity to practice being with…even for a few seconds.
  • As an RC treater, notice intolerable feelings – yours, your client’s or your colleague’s – as an opportunity to practice being with…even for a few seconds.

 Closing Thought

“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.”

- Ronald David Laing, Scottish Psychiatrist

Initial Participant Feedback  

"I love that these [mindfulness] practices have become part of our culture."

Resources for Noticing

Tags: Mindfulness

John Engel, MA

Written by John Engel, MA

John Engel is a Program Coordinator for the Traumatic Stress Institute of the Klingberg Family Centers, where he serves as a trainer and consultant for client agencies adopting whole system change to trauma-informed care. John also facilitates strategic change initiatives and product development for TSI, including development and launch of the Online ARTIC Scale and workplace mindfulness programs. Additionally, since October 2011 John has promoted public and private conversations about fatherhood through the Fatherhood Journey, a monthly column appearing in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and at www.fatherhoodjourney.com.