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The Voice of the Authentic Self

Learning to Listen

Last blog we talked about getting a working image of the authentic Self. What are some of the other ways that we can begin to recognize the authentic Self, or, as they say, hear its voice? What does the authentic Self sound like when it speaks? Generally speaking, it sounds like peace. But there's far more to it than that.

If we are tuned in, that is, paying attention to what's going on in the inner world as we walk through our daily activities, we might first begin to hear the voice of authenticity through such emotions as resentment and anger--feelings typically thought to come from anything but peace and also considered to be more or less "negative" or "dark." So, for example, if I'm spending a lot of time doing things that I feel obligated to do, but which also cause me to feel a subliminal and slow-building sense of a grinding resentment; that resentment is one of the voices of the authentic Self used to tell me that I am doing things that are not authentic. Of course, there are many other ways to begin to listen, but let's stay with that example for a moment.

Many times, instead of hearing this kind of resentment as a voice of the authentic Self telling us a truth about our lives, we lump it into the "negative" or "bad" category and attempt to make it go away by telling ourselves that we shouldn't feel this way. Essentially such attempts only mean that we are repressing these feelings and they will erupt from the unconscious later--typically in ways that are not very pretty. But obligations are not authentic. I know, I know, I've just smacked truth, justice and the American way in the face--for that ethic insists that obligations and duties well done make us into "good" people. If you do what you "should" do then you are doing the "right" thing. But I say that we can "should" ourselves right into an early grave, at worst, and into more misery at best, if we continue to deny the voice of the authentic Self. Obligations and duties are internalized external rules for living. And we all have learned that when we follow those rules we are "good" people. But what if the rules are wrong--then what? We'll talk more about this as we go, but for now, all we need know is that resentments come from obeying the obligations and shoulds in our lives.

Of course, we can also resent the behavior of other people as they consistently disrespect our rights; we can build years of resentment regarding the bad parenting of our first caregivers; we can even have resentments about our own misperceptions regarding the actions and thoughts of others. Nevertheless, when we look into these kinds of feelings, we will generally find underneath them, some kernel of truth. And anytime we get to truth we are closer to authenticity. And the more we ignore our own internal messages, the further we are from authenticity.

It is interesting to observe someone in the throes of trying to figure out his own motivations. Very often he will ask others what they think is going on. "Do you think I'm...?" And if they answer, he will frequently responde with, "Yeah, you're probably right, I'm ...." Or, if he doesn't ask another, he'll just make assumptions about what's going on within, based on the worst case scenario: "I guess I just ...." These conclusions lead us away from the authentic Self. They are often based solely in the role we've played for so long that those who give us feedback can only give that which they see as presented by the role, and our own assumptions are based in our experience of ourselves as the role we play.

But if we tune in to something like resentment, asking it some real questions as to what that resentment really wants, we may have a real encounter with the authentic Self. So, if the resentment says, "I want more freedom, more time to do the things that I never get a chance to do, things that I love," then honoring that desire with a plan of action and the carrying out of that plan, will bring us to the peace of the authentic Self.

That peace is calling us home to ourselves, through that resentment. We have the choice, of course, regarding what we are going to do with that calling. We can ignore it, continuing on with the same actions that create the resentment, and eventually, over many years, building resentment into bitterness. We can partially ignore it, and partially listen to it, leaving ourselves sitting perpetually on the fence as to what we are going to do, giving in to the obligations halfheartedly, but also complaining bitterly that we "have to." Or, we can listen to ourselves, honor our deepest truth and begin to do it differently.

Once we do, of course, we are going to hear not only from the deep inner peace of the authentic Self, but also from the role. It's going to speak up through guilt, or through the nagging voices of others who insist that we return to the mask, costume and its role. And then what do we do? Next blog...wait for it.

Photo credit: copyright by Aleksandar Todorovic

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