By in Other Therapies

What Does Authenticity Feel Like?

Betsy Polatin, one of my most valued mentors, was the person that first drew my attention to the idea of Authenticity as a goal in life. It is a frequent word in her vocabulary and of course Authenticity sounds wonderful and like something that would be great to have more of, right? Yet I never asked her “What do you mean by Authenticity?” and so, I admit, for some time it remained kind of a mystery to me what Authenticity really was and how it would feel to embody it. 

The strange thing is that over time the question of what Authenticity is got answered for me as I learned more and began to also experience it as a by-product of my exploration of Somatic Experiencing.

So what is Authenticity?

The Cambridge English Dictionary describes it as being “real or true”, which reminds me of Psychoanalyst Dr. Winnicott, who in the 1960’s came up with the idea of the true and false self. He proposed that we act as our true self when we follow our spontaneous impulses without inhibition. When we are conditioned to behave in certain ways, for example in school, we take on a false self, which then tends to inhibit our true self. He suggested that being freer to follow the impulses of our true self makes us healthier and feel more alive. 

I personally believe that this may be a bit of a simplistic idea, since humans are pack animals and it is in our nature to behave in a way that allows us to stay part of the group. If the answer to health and joy was to egotistically follow our impulses we would probably not even survive in the long run. 

But I believe there is something to what Winnicott says. For example, a common precursor to chronic fatigue is many years of forcing oneself to push past or ignore the body’s messages and impulses. Trauma also alters our relationship with our instinctive brain and we become held captive by confusing reactions of our nervous system. We no longer know what is true and what is a malfunction so to speak. Trauma makes it very difficult for us to even know what our true or false self is.

Having experienced my own multiple micro traumas and chronic fatigue, I am very aware of the inhibitions that stop me from fully embracing all my potential and enjoy being truly me, not a fake me but me with all my flaws. There are feelings, beliefs and behaviours in me that make me want to avoid or override my true self and leave me  with patterns of contraction, tension and freeze as my true self and my false self are at war.  And I see this in my clients too. 

It is so easy from the outside to see how amazing a person is and what they are capable of. However, if they have a firm belief that they are not good enough or that they should be ashamed for ever thinking it would be okay for them to take what they want, if they are held captive by fear or just can’t allow themselves to be seen by others, they will not be able to simply move past those inhibitions. Their Authentic Self is being held back and suppressed and while we can live our lives like that it certainly is not as fulfilling as it could be if we felt expansive and free to comfortably be ourselves. 

So what does Authenticity feel like?

Of course I can only speak from my own experience but here is a list of Authenticity discoveries I have made over the years, thanks to somatic therapies:

  • Feeling truly present, centred, stable, grounded, expanded and awake, here in the moment with a sense of my right to be here.
  • I am able to look others in the eye and allow them to see me without the need to contract, recoil or deflect. I can let them see me with all my darkness and lightness because it feels okay to be me.
  • I enjoy being myself. I feel empowered and proud of my talents and achievements and I lovingly embrace my weaknesses and mistakes as part of me without judgement.
  • I can speak my truths without shame or fear.
  • I can follow my impulses and curiosities easily and when I choose not to that also feels uncomplicatedly right. 
  • I like being me and I do not need to hide who I am.
  • It is okay for me to not be good at some things and to have flaws. I am still lovable and I am good at other things. 
  • It is okay for me to ask for help. 
  • I can feel my body expand into the environment I am in. It is okay for me to take up space. 
  • I can say “no” and still stay in contact.
  • I am free.
  • I feel safe and alive and at peace.

Perhaps you realise that you also have had experiences of Authenticity? I would love to hear how you would describe your experience. 

Somatic Experiencing is a body-oriented approach to resolving trauma. If you want help with feeling your Authenticity simply contact Kristin at The Body Matters on 01702 714968.

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