Watching oneself is all very well, but if you have an emotional response to watching then you are like a dog chasing its’ tail.
Think of it like this: you are observing your thoughts passing in front of your minds’ eye, one after the other then… oh, look at that thought about my childhood. Gosh, I had forgotten that. It was hard/sad/depressing/frightening etc. Slowly, almost imperceptibly you have stopped watching the thoughts float past like bouncy clouds but are being taken over and basted in your memories and your emotional response to them. Quietly, almost stealthily, feelings arise. Sadness, fear, anger, loss, grief, depression or all manner of others, and you now find yourself fully dressed in your history and it’s attendant emotions. You are no longer a functioning adult, you are a child in pain in an adult body. Big Argh!
This is how it happens, but it needs to be stressed that most of the time it happens without you or me noticing. Emotional drama creeps up and the day is trashed. The feelings leach into this reality and then pour all over whatever experience comes up next in the day.
We need to come back to the original act of watching the thoughts. The mind is a tricky and wily beast. It knows that you are trying to change how you behave. It can sense that you are taking steps towards behaving differently so, like a chameleon, it changes and adapts to your new reality. The bouncy little clouds of your thoughts send our barbed hooks to catch you unawares and drag you along in the breeze behind them, to embroil you in their wake and eventually brew up a storm, with you as the eye, so quickly that you did not feel the sting as you were snagged in passing.
How does this affect the watching? The mind is very invested in pain and stress. It loves it. The mind feeds on fear and stress and will do all it can to generate those feelings. If you can remember this fact then it affects how you observe yourself.
An example: Last night I received an email that I did enjoy. It had news that was not what I had wanted to read at the end of a long day. Five minutes later I was in a meeting and started to feel fearful, cold inside, uncomfortable. My mind had taken this information and quietly inflated it, I had gone into the future with my thoughts and turned it into something huge and unpleasant and imperceptibly I was wrapped in my mind’s projections and not a fully functioning adult.
The huge leap is that I could trace the feeling of fear back to the source. I could then look at the train of thoughts that had accumulated without me really being aware of them. The next part was trickier… I then had to unwrap myself from my feelings, my self pity, my depression and my insecurity and put these feelings down and return to being a functioning adult. I had to let go of the drama and all its’ consequences, I had to grow up, and I did. I managed to smile at my mind for the first time, to see it as the naughty child, not me. If only I had been able to let the thought pass me by in the first place.