In Search of the Authentic Life
Find the good life by discovering who you are.
Posted Jul 12, 2011
It is the spring of 1971 and I am a 21 year old senior at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in economics. I believe psychology and psychotherapy are about some father or mother figure telling me what to do and how I should live my life. I want nothing to do with this, even though I'm not sure why.
I decide to take an elective education course. I figure it will be a lark and I deserve that, as I'm a senior, for gosh sakes. In this course, I read Freedom to Learn by Carl Rogers, Ph.D.. The book blows me away. It transforms me. Rogers writes that I know what is best for me and my life. In fact, I'm the expert and authority on my own life. Up until then, I've believed that the best choices for my life direction were those told to me by others (parents, friends, professors, etc.). I was other-directed. I didn't know as much about myself as they seemed to. But, being other-directed confused me. Somehow, I knew there was something not right about this, but that was the way life seemed to work. Reading Freedom to Learn allowed me to challenge the other-directed way of being.
Rogers also writes that the primary way to live a good life, the optimally fulfilled life, is to give a central emphasis to your inner experiencing. Rogers advocates for an inner-directed way of being. Opening to this inner-directed way of being is mind-boggling for me and it facilitates a paradigm shift. Through the exploration of who I am internally, I begin to engage with the world in a more authentic way. By engaging with the world in a more authentic way, I discover the goals that truly fit me. I become empowered to achieve them, thus actualizing more in the world. Instead of living from the outside in, (defining my life by what others thought I should be), I begin living from the inside out, trusting my intuition to powerfully guide me.
The next forty years of my life have been about implementing this philosophy to the best of my ability, both personally and professionally. This means personally exploring in the moment who am I and who do I want to be. What is my world and what do I want that to be? How do I access and trust my unique experience of being human? How do I express my humanness as I engage with others in the world? It is attempting to live by Polonius' advice in Shakespeare's Hamlet, "To thine own self be true."
Professionally, I have implemented this philosophy in my career as an existential-humanistic psychotherapist. I am interested in what it means for each of us to be human. I am interested in how people exist, for I believe all of us can live more of the life we want. Thus, I'm interested in the uniqueness of each individual's journey. I facilitate my clients to explore who they are and to bring their newly discovered aspects of themselves into the world. I feel very privileged to co-participate with my clients as they begin to live a more authentic and actualized life.
My aim for this blog is to explore the existential-humanistic perspective and to support the reader to understand what it means to live a more authentic life.
I look forward to our journey together.