Hello everyone!

Even though we are now in February, Valentine’s Day is next Saturday and thus the theme of Relationship is on a lot of our minds, and in my October post I had mentioned that I would have been soon moving along in my exploration of the I- You relationship, I can’t help but continue along in my exploration of the first essential “piece” in any relationship – the relationship that we have with ourselves.

I can’t help but return to looking at the Authentic Self, what it is, what it means, and how we are called to connect with it. The other day a client told me “Authentic Self, ok, I get it …. or maybe I don’t! What IS the Authentic Self? What does it really MEAN to be AUTHENTIC???”

This got me pondering. I realized that while on the surface the answer can seem pretty straightforward, something shakespeare colorlike “to Thine Own Self be True” as Shakespeare’s Polonius pronounces in Hamlet when giving advice to his son (he was essentially telling his son to behave while visiting in the big city), if we look deeper we can see that it is not quite so simple.

The reason it is not as simple as “just behaving”, is because we are not such simple creatures. While there are certain general “rules” that apply to all of us, such as the need to eat healthy food, get enough rest, learn to have fulfilling relationships and develop meaningful engagement in life, the details of all these things can vary widely from individual to individual. The variables in what is good for our bodies, minds and souls can be quite profound, despite some commonalities we can have with certain groups of others. What is good for me, might not be good for you, and vice versa.

Hieronymus-Bosch-A-Violent-Forcing-Of-The-FrogAdd to this all those external factors, the circumstances and the people that have shaped us from our time in the womb forward, and we can see that being “true to thine own self” for most can be actually very challenging.

It often is not something that comes automatically; it requires that we make a decision to begin to discover first of all “who” we really are, and only then begin to also figure out how to express that authentic “self” that is lurking just below the surface, but is afraid to come out and show its true face, for fear of being ridiculed, abandoned, shunned, shamed or perhaps even more violently violated by those around.

For some, paradoxically, expressing oneself authentically might even mean breaking society’s most cherished rules; for others, it might mean accepting years of abuse and imprisonment, to achieve a huge goal that benefits all of humanity – such as with Nelson Mandela.

So, the fact of the matter is that while there are certain characteristics that can help us say – ah, yes, this is me being authentic, and this is how it shows up within me and in my life – it is, perhaps, one of the great paradoxes of human life that we are often deeply challenged to first discover who we are, how we function best, and then make the decision to begin to align ourselves with these inner truths, that can often bring us into direct contrast with what we have been taught to believe, about ourselves, about how life works, and all kinds of things.

Becoming authentic, expressing ourselves authentically, means also connecting with our Personal SELF, the “center of love and wisdom found within each human being”, as defined by A. Mercurio.

Our authentic, or Personal SELF is always nudging us towards deeper love and wholeness, and this can often mean first having to break through our conditioning, which can set off quite intense conflict, within ourselves and with those around us.

All of the religious and spiritual traditions of the world speak eloquently through their mythologies of the epic battles that must be fought so that a deep relationship can be forged between the – the personality, also often known as the Ego  – and the SELF (also called the Soul in some schools of thought), and indeed, when we begin to undertake the difficult task of really listening to its urgings, it can feel quite frightening!

gilgamesh

Mesopotamia’s Epic of Gilgamesh is one of humanity’s oldest known tales that illustrates the battle between the I and the Self, or the Personality and the Soul.

However, those who have chosen to do so, and become willing to go through the discomfort that such change requires, often attest to the new dimensions of awareness and integration, to say nothing of the joy of discovering the deeper purposes of life, that can be achieved.

But, as I said, the process can be complex, and painful; it is not something that most of choose without having to face some inner and outer conflict. Rarely do people undertake a path of self-discovery when everything is going along just fine!

In fact, some of the signs that your authentic SELF is wanting to be acknowledged and integrated into your conscious reality are anxiety (fears and worries that may or may not be “real”, in the sense of connected to actual life circumstances of the moment), depression, certain physical illnesses and symptoms, excessive shame and guilt, conflict with others, excessive isolation, being accident prone, addictions to/compulsive behaviors around food and  substances, money and property, people (love, approval, attention), prestige and the list goes on and on.

One of the less dramatic and painful symptoms, but nonetheless one to pay attention to, is just a nagging feeling that something is not right. woman-looking-in-mirror1Many people complain that even though they have gained all the money, recognition and satisfaction in their relationships they could possibly desire, they still feel that something is missing.

As you can see, in this view, almost all the things we can suffer from are connected to, on some level and to some degree of intensity, a problem with getting in touch with, acknowledging and expressing our “Authentic Self”.

Our Authentic Self, while deeply personal and unique, is also that part of us that connects us to the rest of Life, to the consciousness and the purpose of the Universe in which we live (however you may want to recognize that or call it).

As cells within various “lives” greater than our own little individual lives, we are a part of all life, and the way I imagine it, our Personal SELF is like a little spark that has inherent value, is influenced by the other lives and energies around it and in which it is inserted, and contributes to the wellbeing – or not – of these lives as well.

Greek_Plate_295Whether or not we get in touch with our authentic, Personal SELF actually deeply influences the wellbeing of all levels of life around us.

When we are NOT aligned with our own individual purpose, when, due to our conditioning, we are following others’ plans and dreams for us, or are out of whack due to our traumas or lack of support in developing our ability to acknowledge and express that SELF, there is no way we can be at peace within ourselves and with others, or offer our unique contribution to the world in a way that is satisfying for us.

The SELF as a center of wisdom and love within us wants us to always be growing, becoming more deeply integrated, and connecting with others in creative, loving, life-giving ways.

The SELF does not expect perfection, nor does it consider anyone better or worse than anyone else. The SELF is relentless, however, in its goal for us – all of us, with no exception – to become ever more capable of loving ourselves and others, and of contributing to Life on many different planes with the authenticity of our own, personal expression, which is something that only we can bring into the world. 

It seems to be kind of a paradox when you think of it, because if we are each just one tiny cell within the gigantic “body” of the Universe (or even just of the earth, or of our community or family), how could our own personal realization possibly have any meaning, or affect anyone or anything else, outside of our immediate sphere of influence?Leonardo Da Vinci Drawing art-320x480 wallpapers

Well, if you look at the human body, we can see how great an effect even one cell that is “off” can have on the entire organism. With cancer cells, for example, we can clearly see the devastating effects that one cell that is “off” can produce, by creating a sort of domino effect all throughout the body.

The same can be true of each one of us. We can either affect positively or negatively not only our own lives, but also the lives of those around us, and whereas I am not writing this to frighten or blame anyone, it is important that we become aware of just how important our own integration truly is, not only for ourselves, but to others, and to all of Life.

What is important that we become willing to acknowledge and accept, is that most of us have to make a conscious choice and an effort to first become aware of our Personal SELF, and then to learn to follow its urgings and nudgings, that are continuously being communicated to us, often through our bodies and minds, and experienced by us as some form of pain or discomfort.

Rose 158x165

Whereas we sometimes seem to believe that our “purpose” has to do with some hugely important accomplishment in the outside world, such as an important job or creative project, or having a particular kind of relationship or family, in reality the purpose of our SELF is something that is continually unfolding, day by day.

We are challenged in all kinds of situations to transform our emotions and energies; to shift out of automatic reactions that can do ourselves and others harm; to create new life, new levels of awareness and engagement within ourselves and with others, etc., etc.. And sometimes, the transformations we are called to carry out are quite the opposite of what we might think.

To be a bit more clear about this, let me use one example that has been very important for me to understand personally, and that I find many of my clients struggle with as well (both men and women, although for women it can often be especially tricky – but we’ll leave this discussion for another time): how to deal with the complex emotion of anger.

Most women have been deeply conditioned to not express anger of any kind, so, when their partner, children or anyone else does something that makes them angry, their first instinct is to repress this feeling. Now, while it is certainly better to repress anger than to lash out in a violent expression of it, the kind of repression that women often activate within themselves can be equally as dangerous, even though not as visible.

The inability to first acknowledge emotions such as anger, and then express them clearly and honestly in constructive ways to others – which means communicating our boundaries and limits, and therefore claiming our own “space” while asking others to respect that space – can often implode into not only depression, as is today commonly known, but can also become a literal wall that we build between ourselves and others.

Rather than allowing anger – which is often a signal that our boundaries have been infringed upon – to help us set things straight with those around us, it can wind up becoming a prison, for both ourselves and our relationships.

In this case, the repression of anger, which no doubt has helped us reign in our baser reactions and therefore has been an important aspect of our evolution and therefore of our Personal SELF’s goal for our individual and collective lives, can end up being an inhibition to the expression of that same SELF.

This does not mean that all control of anger must be thrown out the window and that we should just let it out and destroy ourselves and others, but it does mean that getting in touch with our authentic, Personal SELF involves also learning to become more flexible in how we are applying the rules and regulations of human relationships, so we can recognize what our real needs are, and begin to respond to them in healthy ways.

If we are to be authentic, we must learn how to express even the more difficult parts of ourselves, our shadows, our negative traits and our difficult emotions, not to be destructive, but to be real. 

When we can give ourselves permission to be real, to acknowledge that we are not perfect, and that we like everyone else, suffer from all the human shortcomings in some measure, we can actually learn to harness the energy contained in them, to use it for useful purposes.Bullfighter and Bull

Anger, for example, is what signals to us that there are boundary issues with others, and it can help us find the energy to confront someone who is not treating us with respect; it can give us the impetus to speak up in our own or another’s defense; it can help shake us out of our lethargy and find the help we are needing to turn our lives around. So, rather than repress and deny it, we must learn to harness it, and use it in constructive ways (and A. Mercurio also has an interesting term for this,  “the love force”, which is a combination of love and hatred, used for constructive purposes).

If we look at it in this manner, we can see how precious even a difficult emotion like anger can be, and we can learn how to use its energy to improve our lives. I know that as I personally have learned to utilize anger in a constructive way, all my relationships have improved, in the sense that I now feel truly authentic and whole when I interact with others. I can work through resentments much quicker, and let things go …. and I am also much better at being able to distinguish who is truly good for me in my life, and who it is better to keep my distance from, because there is just no possibility for a mutually enriching , truly authentic, exchange.

I also see how learning new strategies and tools to transform anger into a positive energy transforms my clients, which is even more thrilling. There is nothing more heartening than to see someone who has felt like a beaten-down wallflower step into a greater love and acceptance of him or herself, and begin to shine!

If you are feeling nudges from your own Authentic Self, or are wanting to learn how to express yourself in ways that feel freeing and empowering, open up to considering getting help in doing so. Often it is in the act of connecting to others who are just a bit further along the path that we can find the new information and support that we are needing to connect to our Authentic Selves and begin feeling the love and seeing the beauty that is already here for us to embrace.

Click here to get an idea of what kinds of services I offer and don’t hesitate to contact me today. As someone who has been walking this path for a while now, I know how important this journey is, not just for each one of us, but for all of humanity, and it is an honor to be able to help others and be of service to life by sharing a bit of what I have learned – and continue to learn from and with my clients – along the way.

My best to all and ….. till next time! Maybe in my next post I will finally get to the whole relationship-with-other-thing…. and maybe my new website will be finished, too! Miracles happen every day ….. 🙂

Much love,

Martha