MAKING IT BETTER: The Struggle To Be Authentic In A Deeply Inauthentic World!
I am a member of a seminary of Ordained Ministers who are part of the wider community and I have been shocked, appalled and I daresay even frightened at the recent ferocity of discord that has recently erupted amongst them. We are all part of a face book thread of communication and through our conversations someone expressed some painful and unsatisfactory experiences they had incurred with some staff and faculty in the seminary. What seemingly appeared to be an unusual but lone experience, un leased an avalanche of gripes and fierce exchange between some ministers and the faculty. I was shocked to my core as it was completely unexpected and it unearthed very bitter, painful, hurtful exchanges.
What went through my mind as this situation developed and many other Ministers began to speak their own truths of similar experiences of being silenced and other experiences they felt was tantamount to emotional abuse psychological abuse; was how people go through life and various situations, showing up with their less than authentic selves. Something was released for these ministers and they were able to access their true self’s. It felt very cathartic for many of them, but of course it has created an atmosphere that requires deep healing.
One of the many things I took away from this situation is that there are many storms raging in so many situations around the globe and we all have to find ways to circumvent them, but also we have to be prepared when appropriate to be courageous enough to step in and out of them if required. In order to do this we have to be in touch with our authentic selves, which is getting increasingly difficult to identify and requires great self awareness, in these times of such fakery in just about every sphere of the globe. Politics, business, religion, entertainment, you name it; you will be hard pressed to find genuineness and authenticity.
Your false self could appear normal, intelligent, cultured and polite, but is only a personality veneer that covers the core and authentic self which might have been fragmented or psychically damaged and in agony. In other words the true self has a sense of integrity and wholeness, while the false self is a mark of the false persona that constantly seeks to anticipate the demands of others in order to maintain any relationship.
This is really not a complicated concept, as all we have to do is examine our interpersonal relationships at home and with the wider community on a daily basis to see the evidence for this. For some people if the facade or mask has been in operation for a long time and is firmly fixed, it might take some effort to peel it off to find your true self again. But it is worth the effort in the long run as this is the self that we all should aspire to, the one that will offer the most peace. Some people may think of this in relationship to religion and draw parallels which are fine, but sometimes just looking at things a bit more simply and plainly without attaching moral judgements and religious bias or persecution to it can be refreshing.
Past patterns over time strongly influence present perceptions. Each new person you meet is perceived in terms of patterns of people you have known before. When meeting new sexual partners in a healthy situation, your perceptions of possible partners are strongly influenced by your internalised patterns of your opposite sex parent. In other words if you are a woman, you tend to seek a man who has the positive qualities you admired in your father and the same applies for a man seeking mother patterns.
Many of my female clients have serious ‘daddy’ issues which strongly inform and impact on their choices of men. Likewise I have male clients who are clearly trying to resolve their mother issues through their choice of partners. I have recently been ‘binging’ on American TV reality shows, particularly the ones observing the lives and relationships of hip hop celebrities. My jaws have not left the ground from absolute shock and incredulity at the absolute outrageous behaviour, complete abandonment of any self pride, self care, and self respect, self preservation that the majority of the women in particular exhibit. While I understand a lot of the behaviour is encouraged for TV and the participants seek fame and fortune, the truth of the matter is that this is the reality of their lives. I was intrigued by the attitudes the majority of the women have towards men they attract or chase after and how much of that is influenced or predicated by the dysfunctional relationships they have with their own fathers. The same can be said about the behaviour of many of those in the entertainment world in Nigeria.
In more complex cases there are the negative, damaging experiences gone through with your early or primary care giver that results in you’re identifying with those particular negative familiar traits and further seeking them out in potential partners. For example I have female clients, who are constantly drawn to abusive men, or men who are unavailable to them, or men who are overtly, deeply flawed and damaged, that they have to look after. During therapy we find out that they have had such men in their early lives. Similarly I have male clients who find themselves attracted to smothering and domineering women, or to weak women. Obviously having an understanding and awareness of where your obsessive, repetitious and unhealthy behaviours stem from can hopefully help you to break the cycle and seek more healthy liaisons.
The experts who study psychology and human behaviour, say we carry around inside our central system, patterns representing every significant person in our lives, not only the ones we are close to now but those whom you were once close to and have been separated from. In other words we carry around experiences and events which were significant in our lives and had strong components. We carry around family members who have died, lovers, favourite school teachers (I can remember a few myself who unknowingly played an incredibly significant role in shaping me), childhood friends, and many more.
One of the strongest patterns we carry around is the self-concept which we could also call the self-pattern. This self-pattern is similar to what psychiatrists refer to as ego boundaries. It is the sum total of all the experiences, knowledge and feelings we have about ourselves. We are unconsciously, constantly trying to protect our self-pattern from the invasion of painful data from past experiences. It is a gargantuan effort we undertake to ward off intruding realities in our minds.
This brings us to what is referred to as Ego defences. These ego defences are learned in childhood as a way to protect from and cope with pain. However it can become destructive later in life. They can lead to denial at all cost which can result in the root cause of a lot of mental illness.
A client I worked with for two years who I will refer to as G, came to see me when he had to leave another great job. He seemed unable to maintain good work ethics and though he was a brilliant individual and could get jobs easily, he inevitably would sabotage all his efforts and have to leave or be made redundant.
G is 45, has been married for over 12 years and has three children. He has a very charming and engaging persona and is generally the life of the party where ever he goes. On the surface his life appeared successful and he seemed to be living a great life. G had great interpersonal skills and made friends with men and women easily.
G reached a particular low in his life when he lost his last job and even though he had resigned, he disclosed that he had to, or risk his lies being discovered. G had been living a lie for the best part of his working life. He had been to university and did well. He attended further post graduate studies, but he had not completed his training for one reason or another. As a result he did not have the relevant qualifications he was professing to have.
Somehow G had managed to go under the radar for most of his working career. His charm and gift of the gab had stood him in good staid and he had been able to get good jobs over the years and even advance his career. He usually would come unstuck due to poor performance at some stage or he would convince himself he was no longer enamoured with the position and had to move on. This usually coincided with the time he started feeling he was going to be exposed or in the case of his last job before he came to see me, there was as a new Director at the helm of things who had decided all staff should produce their paper qualifications to go on file in the interest of good practice.
G could not understand why he had not just completed his training and got the relevant qualifications he needed as he was obviously capable of it; so he would not have to constantly feel inferior and on edge in any work environment. It occurred to him there must be a reason (possibly not logical), why he had invested in maintaining himself in a place of deceit and poor self worth. He had had enough of it and wanted a change. This was the beginning of G’s journey to find his true self.
Does this sound at all familiar to you? Are you living your true self or are you living a false self, as a poor representation of something you have constructed to serve you and stop you from looking at who you really are? Go and be the best of who you really are!
Gloria Ogunbadejo writes a weekly column for Punch Newspaper. She is a Psychotherapist, a life coach, a holistic counsellor and an ordained Minister
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