more “clinical” words on authenticity

Just recently I wrote a blog column about the impact of authenticity on life.  I received a few comments on the blog and decided that there was enough interest to merit a second go around on this topic.  This time I want to connect it more formally with other pieces of writing that I have done about the ego.

To start with, I want to remind my readers that Eckhart Tolle continues to have an influence on my thoughts on the ego and the soul.  I have not decided in the past 18 months of research on the word “self” or the word “soul” to oppose the word ego. Self has a wide following in psychoanalysis.  Work on the self was promoted by post-classical analysts like, Kernberg and Kohut and many of the object-relation theorist who wrote following Freud Death in 1939.  Many of our concepts about narcissism have come from this period of writing.  The emphasis moved from the curing of neurosis to the adapting to semi-psychotic conditions such as the borderline personality.  Tremendous inroads were made to working with pre-verbal conditions and today the conditions of hysteria have all but fallen from consciousness.  We have become engaged with the age of anxiety and the age of annihilation and with those post Great Wars concerns, we have arrived at a new place in psychotherapy that is so widely splintered that eclectic approaches can mean anything from Behavioral Cognitive Therapy to New Age laws of attraction.

The splintering is a good thing and it is not such a good thing.  People looking for help with how to manage their live after a loss or during a crisis can be overwhelmed with how to choose a therapy that will work for them.  This blog, this current article will not help you if you are reading this to help you find the right therapist.  But I hope it can shed some light on one process that i find might be connective to many or most of the therapies out there today.

When I was studying Mental Health Counseling back in the early 1970’s, the word to be most cautions about was, “self-disclosure”.  I think that self-disclosure and counter-transference have shared a similar fate.  If you feel an urge to do this and you are a practicing therapist or analyst–get your self to a consulting supervisor quickly.  The idea of opening a two way dialogue was thought to weaken the powerful position of the therapist and consequently the therapy would fail.  This was such a promoted idea that it eventually made its way into the professional code of  ethics of the profession, and it became nearly illegal to reveal something about yourself to a patient or client.  We were cautioned that only very experienced clinicians could work with this tool and even then it was only as a last resort and should be applied with tremendous care.

Well, my thought on that is this:  Everything we do as analysts ought to be applied with tremendous care.  But, that does not mean that a effective means of connecting with the patient ought to be ignored based simply on historical concerns.  When working with the average normal neurotic there is little cause to have to self disclose.  Actually it hardly comes up because people coming into a therapy with a question or two are often satisfied with the brief answers that provide for a new way of thinking about the question at hand.

However for those of us who have ventured out into the realm of the pre-verbal conflicts–making an emotional connection with the patient is the only way to establish a cure–that is, to advance the patients ability to get along in the world.  For the person who comes in suffering with poorly established ideas of who they are, frequently an authentic relationship with the analyst is exactly what is needed in order for them to experience a corrective emotional relationship.  The corrective experience seems to fill in the gaps where the person failed to find meaningful connections in the world.  As a result they repeat the experience of “non-connecting” and they continue to feel the shame of isolation.


O.k. that takes care of the little back ground that I want to give to this topic.  What I am more interested in is looking at the idea of authenticity itself and trying to come up with why it seems to matter so much to people when they bump across some one who they experience as authentic.

How many times have you said or heard some one say about someone, “He or she is such a wonderful person to be around–you just know they are so real when you are with them.”  What i think we are hearing is something that resonated deeply within.  We feel a connection about to happen because we have been confronted with the possibility of a genuine person being close to the surface of vulnerability.  When we get close to that kind of experience we actually have a visceral experience that tells that we are close to someone real, close to someone who will be ready to deliver authentic facts and feelings about their experiences.

It is unusual to find this in our world because for eons we have been establishing a society through evolution that depends on a kind of boasting, or a kind of inflated identity.  We have an idea that to simply be the simple soul that we are is not enough.  The inflation factor is almost a mandate, for example on a resume.

How do we get to authentic? And, once there how do we feel secure enough about our selves to actually let someone look at us in that bare-essentials kind of way?  I am including here a video that someone sent to me as a response to my last blog.  The video appeared on the social network, TED.  It features a Ph.D. Social Worker who has researched aspects of authenticity that we have been talking about in my practice for the last year or so.   The write that I want to introduce you to is, Brene Brown.  The short video is at the following URL:


Please feel free to comment here on my blog site.  I am eager to hear people’s response to both this woman’s content and seemingly authentic manner of delivery.

3 comments on “more “clinical” words on authenticity

  1. Thanks for the link to the Brene Brown talk. It’s a relief to me that the moral of our human story is being said so plainly and with so much personality. We have the answer… now we just need to clarify the question.

    For me, authenticity is the central idea, and really it is no more than just being unafraid to be yourself and see the world from your own point of view. But this is not a “state of being” we can achieve once and for all and just rest in… because the “inauthentic” viewpoint (the worldview of the ego) is also something essential to being human. Growing up, it’s important that we’re able to internalize how “everyone” sees the world, and specifically how other people see us… and even in the best of circumstances this doesn’t happen without generating fear and shame. So authenticity only exists through the overcoming of fear and shame that Brene describes…

  2. faye mandell says:

    In order to be authentice you must express your vunerability….In order to do that you must take the charge off of vunerability….the culture has held as the paradigm “perfection” and if you are vunerable you will be taken advantage of but worse you do not fit the cultural paradigm…Only in the present moment do you see the illusion of the cultural parigms stored in the ossified concpetal strucctures know as thoughts…fully engaged in your experience there are no thoughts…I could go on and on…however, let me suggest that you read a copy of my book called self-powerment that is endorsed by eckhart tolle…In gratitude for having the courage to explore new possibilities…. Dr. Faye Mandell

    • aldussault says:

      well, i will look up your book…courage is attached to authenticity because as you say we are tethered to the egoic part that
      is created by and creates language….we could go on forever–it is delicious to accept the fullness of who we are, then to have
      the courage to be that in as many locations as we can, followed by the wonderful feeling that one has by writing and painting
      and playing music and in general playing with the consciousness that is not egoic…..thank you for writing AlD

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