I remember, one Saturday morning sitting with new friends, having breakfast and, talking about life and about being authentic and true. These friends have all done many self development workshops and, aspire to lead authentic lives. One of them turned around and asked me out of the blue: what’s on your mind now? Tell me the truth. First I was taken aback…he insisted that I’d be totally true and honest and asked again: What’s on your mind now? So I said: ‘What a stupid question!’… He smiled, a smile of a true satisfaction, and said: I feel a real connection with you now because you were honest and true. I knew that, part of the reason I had answered the way I did, was because I knew he was asking me to give him the raw material of my mind. Despite enjoying his sense of connection, for me, my answer was far from being, what I call, authentic and true.
There was another instance with another student friend that made me realize how differently we can each interpret what ‘being true’ means. She told me how she thought of me and what I had said about being true when she had a conflict with a waiter over what she had ordered. To cut a long story short, she swore at him, called him names and walked out of the restaurant. She told me the story and then added: ‘I thought this is what you would do’! I wish I could show you a picture of what I looked like at the time I heard this! I was both amused and horrified. Amused because I could see how happy she was at letting out anger and standing her ground but, horrified to see how something that I had said could be interpreted that way.
I’d like to share with you what I think being authentic and true means. Now, how do I begin? Shall I start with, how many voices do you hear in your head, or does that sound too spooky?
How about there are at least 2 voices: 1. the voice of our animal self (the emotional /lymbic brain) and 2. the voice of our human self (frontal Cortex / logical self). The animal self is wild, it deals with survival. It stops at nothing to get what it wants, it kills to survive and lets emotions dictate how it responds and so on. I’d like to call it my inner little kitten. (we do need different names and labels after all because, we don’t have enough with inner child, ego, lower self and pain body, right?) 🙂
The human self on the other hand is orderly, logical and rational. It takes facts into consideration and has high aspirations. I don’t have any names for it myself but some call it superego, higher self, inner adult or spiritual aspirant. I think I’ll go with the latter for now. To recapitulate: we have the voice of an inner little kitten and the voice of a spiritual aspirant inside. What a mix!! Needless to say, they both have different needs, different agenda, different ways of getting what they want and here comes Dorna who says, ‘be true to yourself’!
Now, which self are we talking about?
Is it the inner little kitten or is it the spiritual aspirant?
What happens when we identify with the inner little kitten? Let me give you an idea – and I should know because, I have 2 real ones at home at the moment. Upon hearing ‘be true to yourself’ it jumps straight into the plants pots and makes a proper mess throwing the soil on the carpet because ‘it’s just so much fun!’. It will eat anything that resembles food including those that make him/her sick afterwards. It will climb on humans using claws when necessary especially when it sees the prospect of getting food or anything sparkly. It can even hurt when angry or petrified …well…You get the gist…
Now, what if we identify with the inner spiritual aspirant? Well, that really depends on what you aspire to. Generally speaking though, it is the one that knows. It’s the little prefect that knows what is good or bad. Right or wrong. It’s the one that carries a huge book which dictates what is allowed or not allowed under its supervision. For examples, you are never allowed to feel negative emotions, or anything less than compassion for anyone, You are not allowed ‘not to live in the now’. You are only allowed to have clarity, control, love and harmony – AT ALL TIMES.
So when you hear, be true to yourself which one of these 2 do you listen to? Do you relax, start having lots of fun, eating, drinking smoking whatever you want? Do you let your emotions out at the cost of someone else’s feeling? Do you hurt, punish and take revenge?
Or, do you stay totally on track with your inner prefect? Controlling your every step to avoid any mistakes and anything that resembles conflict, chaos and spontaneity.
Who is the ‘self’ when we hear ‘be authentic and true to yourself’?
In other words, Which one of these 2 are we? Are we the animal or human self? The emotional or rational? The material or spiritual? I am inclined to say ‘neither and yet both’.
We are the awareness that sees both and identifies with both.
The awareness that is free from identification is the one that is capable of witnessing the needs of both. The awareness that is stuck in identification with one, is blind to the needs of the other. And I think, an action can only be true to the self, when it is true to the whole self and doesn’t deny/reject or suppress either parts. So when I said to my friend ‘what a stupid question’, I knew it wasn’t the ‘true’ answer because I was aware that I was compromising my orderly (spiritual) self. The awareness free from identification allows the meeting and union of these separate parts, which are indeed what make us human- after-all.
Summing up, our life starts with an unconscious war. The more we become conscious, the more aware of this war we become. We notice the split between the sides and how we fight. We fight as separate selves, for what each believes to be true. We fight and each side takes turns in winning and conquering which, leaves only the bitter taste of separation. Until, we finally cease fire when, each side sees their truth to be partially so. Only through their union and willingness to look after and work with each other, do we start enjoying the sweetness of authenticity.