There are two forms of self-awareness: Narrative-Based and Immediacy-Based.
Narrative-Based Self Awareness occurs when we produce a story based on our unmet needs that we repeat to ourselves over-and-over. This “narrative of a wounded self” keeps us stuck in the past and future, which helps us avoid emotional pain that may occur in the present moment. By not facing this pain as it occurs, we instead remain in a state of suffering as we continue to focus our attention on the self-limiting stories that we created.
Immediacy-Based Self Awareness is an active, present moment awareness that opens us up to experience who we are right now, to acknowledge and work through any pain as it appears.
Neurological research has shown that these two forms of self-awareness are located in two separate areas of the brain. A study was done using neuroimagery, which can detect which self people are operating from. When participants of a mindfulness meditation program shifted from a narrative focus to their immediate experience, there was less activity in the region of the brain associated with narrative-based self. This study shows that we can disidentify from the self we’ve created with our stories and discover a new sense of self based in the present moment.