Vultures may sore like eagles but they do not carry the same reputations along with them. They are seldom invited to parties.
Authenticity is a practice like meditation. It is not that it is particularly difficult as much as it needs to be deliberate. And the value of practicing authenticity is embossed with our ability to emerge in the world at a place and location where we feel comfortable, where we feel we belong. The experience of connecting with others is predicated on our ability to connect with our own deeper, more authentic self. I wish that I could say that this is going to be an easy thing to do. Unfortunately, unlike the big red easy button that acts as a mascot for Staples the office supply store, there is no easy button for authenticity.
The reason we humans find it so hard to be real is because layers of shame and guilt have prevented us from growing into our authentic selves. The very process of growing along with our egoic view of the world has us deliberately deciding what we can tell the world and what we can not tell the world. This dichotomy is set up early and for some of us the bucket filled with what we can talk about is nearly empty compared to the bucket that is filled with, “top-secret”.
Deepening connections with other humans is a process that is not accomplished with the same ease for everyone. For some people it seems that deeper, more inclusive relationships appear to be what is desired, while for some the idea of a deeper shared intimacy is frightening, and leads to behaviors that are more akin to isolation.
So in general this is nothing new, right? The fact that some of us fall into certain categories is as old as psychology or at least as old as psychological testing. What may be newer to some of us is the concept that deeper connections are not only possible, but they may actually be the evolutionary glue that has held the human race together. The sense of belonging and the place that that took on the psychology stage was well documented in, Abraham Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs.
However well documented this hierarchy would have seemed to be, and as closely connected as this theory has been with humanism, still we find that the most difficult thing for people to do is to sustain satisfying and deeply intimate relationships. The notion that a connection is made is not the same thing as a connection being sustained. We have as the primary relationship, the relationship between parents and children and later we have the primacy of children’s relationship with other children and in young adult life the focus become pairing up with a partner that we assume will be for life.
Connection with other humans in our environment is mostly contained through language. Language forms the linkages between people. Language gives us ways of categorizing our likes and our dislikes and the connections are supposed to be made based on similar, or at time divergent interests. However well that may work, what we see very frequently in our clinical practices is a form of ennui or alienation that has led to a frightfully lonely existence. Also frequently, these people seeking our services are not people who are unsuccessful. Many times these people hold high level jobs in corporate America, or high level jobs in politics and in academia.
The level of financial success that a person may have achieved with his or her career is not attached to the notion that that person is able to make connections. In fact, there are time when the very nature of the job is thought to interfere with developing relationships.
So, what accounts for the kind of ennui and self promoted isolation that we so frequently see in our clinical offices. Let me include a brief case study:
A very handsome your man who is equally intelligent as he is handsome makes an appointment to discuss that he is unable to sustain a relationship with a woman for more that six months. He describes himself as underemployed and lays blame on this for his inability to decide on what he wanted to do with his life and consequently he dropped out of school because he felt it to be a waste if he was not working toward something that he wanted to do. More than anything this character appeared to be well versed in what he did not want to do, but had spent little time knowing what it was that he liked.
Knowing what he liked, he told me in the first interview was going to limit him. If he majored in creative writing then he would not be able to pursue music and he loved his keyboard. If he went to school for music, just think of all the things that he would miss in literature classes. He became overwhelmed with the multitude of choices and decided to not do any rather that pursue one at the exclusion of the others.
In time this decision wore down many aspects of his personality. For one, all of his friends graduated with degrees, some were jobless, but they had degrees. All of the friends that he use to be close to were out in the world developing connections and narrowing their interest while our friend the character we are studying, became less and less comfortable in his world. One of his closest friends wanted him to attend his graduation, but he made up a series of excuses because he knew internally that he wound not fit in on the campus.
His egoic voice told him things like–why go spend a morning sitting listening to boring speeches with a bunch of loser know it alls. His mind was beginning to fool itself. He was beginning to believe his own excuses and this began to add the the alienation that he was already feeling.
When his friend got back from the ceremony there were more parties and now he felt not only like he did not belong but he felt guilty that he had not attended the ceremony and once again he stayed home alone. This sense of not fitting in began to plague him in just about every situation he found himself in, except for the one local bar that still held many of the same characters that had been there since just post high school. So his life began to be wrapped around his drinking buddies and his world became smaller still.
I am sure we do not have to carry this character further into his analysis, because we already know what happened to him. The downward spiral took a hold of him and it was years before he could ever face himself authentically again.
Vultures may sore like eagles but they do not carry the same reputation along with them.