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.