Of the four components of the EBT check-in, decentering seems to be the one that most people struggle with initially. This is the part of the check-in where you “throw a cell up into the air” and warmly observe yourself, without any judgement or any criticism.
Not only can it be tricky to be able to build up the visual ability to imagine yourself outside of your own body, looking down, but to see yourself – I mean really see yourself – without any judgement or criticism; well that can seem virtually impossible at times. How many times throughout the day do we tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough, that we can’t handle things, that other people are better than us, prettier than us, richer than us, etc? Chances are we are criticising ourselves (and others) more often than we even realise; so much so that we really begin to believe those things at a deep level of our beings. (I will talk about this more when we discuss the “internal advisor” component).
In the early days of practicing EBT, it is suggested that if you cannot see yourself without any judgement, then you can imagine someone or something else gazing down at you; for example, a loved one, a deceased relative with whom you had a bond, an animal or even a spiritual figure. The idea behind decentering is that you begin to get used to “being seen” as you – as the human being on this planet who is completely unique; doing the best that you can in a world without any instruction manual. It also helps to cultivate ‘mindfulness,’ the practice of which allows you to begin to non-judgmentally focus on whatever arises – be it breath, sensation, emotion, thought or sound, without putting up a fight. Research is now showing that resisting or holding back on expressing emotions leads to a number of problems – including depression, anxiety, hostility and shame to name a few.
Eventually, through practice of this particular technique, you may even begin to see yourself not just without judgement or criticism, but also with love and compassion. And if you can see yourself with unconditional love and with compassion for the struggle that life often brings, you can begin to see others with love and compassion too. Thus, decentering can lead to empathy and to a different way of seeing the world and those in it.
It is, therefore, not surprising that just this one small component of EBT can lead to a large improvement in relationships – both romantically and with friends/family/colleagues. As you begin to realise that all living beings struggle, and thus deserve compassion, even those who are rude and nasty to you can be identified as merely being stuck in a 4 or a 5 state. And then, instead of hating them or getting angry and taking on their state (merging), we simply begin to wish that they too had the tools to rewire their brains away from unnecessary pain so that they could begin to experience true joy.