How To Be Authentic

We all awake each day and get ready to head out into the world. We put on our clothes, possibly our makeup. The last thing we put on is the way in which we act in front of others. We operate in a certain way, depending on who is around us. We do this because we think that this is the way in which we gain friends and influence people. All of these actions make our persona.

The Persona

We create this persona because we are often not okay with who we are. We also may think if we act some other certain way then we will gain a more considerable amount of success. The idea that this is an illusion is rarely talked about in the modern western world.

According to Carl Jung: “The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual.” [1]

Before we leave the house, we clothe ourselves. This covering is our first layer of defense against the world. As long as we veil ourselves, we conceal our bodies for what they are. We must understand that our bodies are not us, they are but a small part of us.

The next level of defense is through our words and deeds. We create in our mind a particular way of acting or presenting ourselves to others. We do this to try to position ourselves some way in this game called life to gain something.

The Pearl

We can think of what it is that we conceal as some small spec of dirt, or darkness within us. The analogy can then be drawn to that of a pearl. As Jim Carrey so succinctly put it:

“What is the dirt that the pearl is built around? And the pearl is the personality that you build around yourself as a protection against that thought: “If they ever find out that I’m worthless if they ever find out that I’m not enough, I’ll be destroyed.”

The dirt then is the real you in all of your flaws, intricacies, and quirks. This message seems especially poignant coming from someone who is so successful by most measures of society.

Living with the knowledge that we are regularly covering up the real and spontaneous self-leads us to a life of tension. This tension comes from the duality of what we present to the world and that of our actual selves. The vaster the distance between the two the more stress, anxiety, fear and sadness you will feel.

We know that we are carrying around a heavy burden and we all would like to release it. Death is the point where it all falls away, and we don’t have to worry or try anymore. This falling away is a similar idea which makes drugs and alcohol appealing. We are continually looking to go on vacation from ourselves.

The Thorn

There is another analogy that we can explore to better define the dirt of the pearl. Michael Singer suggested in his book “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself” that this dirt is like a thorn. Any emotional or spiritual pain that we have inside of us is like a very painful thorn in our side. The barb is sensitive to specific stimuli such as having others being close to us either physically or emotionally.

We try to cover the thorn up with layers upon layers of gauze. However, like the story of the princess and the pea, no matter how many layers, when someone gets close to us there is acute, chronic pain.

Having this painful thorn in our side, we can choose to do one of two things, create a life of avoidance that stays clear of anything that might disturb the barb, or we can decide to pull this it out.

The pain will be much more significant up front if we choose to deal with this pain, however, in the long run, our lives will be much better off. The only thing that our brains use to judge pain is the maximum intensity and the ending state. So right off the bat, the best decision for us – pulling out the thorn – will be the most difficult due to pure human psychology.

If we choose to pull out the thorn, two things come into play here. Spontaneity and present moment awareness as tools for the cultivation of real freedom.

Spontaneity

The ancient eastern mystics knew the power of spontaneity. That is why in Buddhist monasteries the teachers hit their students with sticks, throw spoons at them, or tell them to listen for a distant river hundreds of miles away. These practices are all in the name of getting a completely genuine, spontaneous reaction out of the student.

Spontaneity is an incredibly complex game for westerners as we have all been raised with the mindset of contemplation, debate, and planning before acting. It is often correlated with brash, unintelligent or uninformed decisions. In reality, a spontaneous arrangement allows for the much more powerful unconscious mind to come into play.

True spontaneity can only come with extreme present moment awareness. We must release the story that we tell ourselves and not let it influence our current moment experience. Interpretation of our thoughts and emotions is our only real choice in life. We must take them as lessons, learn and leave them behind.

It should be made clear that spontaneity does not mean that we just give up all responsibility or do what we want to no end. If we are intensely aware of ourselves, we know that this is not the right path. True spontaneity comes from the fulfillment of our own personal, spiritual journey.

We can think of spontaneity much as Alan Watts has taught in the framework of a flower or the beating of your heart. A flower does not think about growing, it just grows. You do not think about beating your heart, it just beats. Your heart does not seek all possible pleasures it can because it is spontaneous. It remains in perfect balance and harmony with the rest of your body. This pattern is the way of spontaneity.

Take Off The Mask

We have two choices in our lives. Keep putting on the mask to fabricate the impression we make upon others while concealing our authentic selves, or let go of the story that we tell, face the fear of vulnerability and lead a genuine and spontaneous life. I am not suggesting it is easy, as I still struggle with it daily. However, as you can probably agree, any valuable life skill or personal growth is not natural.

[1] “The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious” (1928). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.305


https://en.gravatar.com/thelifeodyssey

Pete is a young, energetic, life loving “thoughtrepreneur”. An engineer by training he has found himself as an inspirational and thought-provoking writer. His primary goal is to help people to lead “grounded and thrilling lives” through thought and idea sharing. His website with blogs, art and soon to be book promotion can be found at: www.thelifeodyssey.com


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One Response to How To Be Authentic

  1. Damon Wylde says:

    OMG! I’ve always loved the metaphor of”Wearing a mask in society”.
    I’ve actually got an incredible back link to this article about “Full Disclosure in Conversation”:
    http://damonwylde.com/one-secret-to-make-an-instant-connection-with-somebody/
    Check it out if you want.
    Thanks Erin.

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