Thursday, March 14, 2013

How authentic are you really? Carl Jung's 'shadows'.

Be brave Steph, be brave. This is what I'm telling myself as I write this post. A nervousness has arisen, a slight increase in heart rate signalling I'm at the edge of all the light I have, about to step into the darkness of the unknown. That's when I know it means something.

So I say that I'm an explorer of authenticity. When it hits me in the face that I'm not so authentic, this is hard to take. Example. I tweet something as if I know so much about the subject, when I know, somewhere in the deep gorges of my soul, this is inauthentic. Why? Probably to get attention or some other childhood hangover. But the point is, discovering and being authentic means coming face to face with those moments when I'm being inauthentic, so that I can make the positive changes I wish to see. It's catching myself stretch the truth to make myself look more knowledgeable, skillful or cooler than I really am. It's pretending to be someone I'm not, in front of someone I admire or want to like me. It's saying one thing, and doing another. If I'm going explore authenticity and live authentically, it's going to take a lot of presence, courage and strength to accept those moments when I'm being inauthentic, and pull the emergency stop. This is hard, ugly work, but it must be done. I must 'do the work', if I say I'm going to.

What I am alluding to here is an example of 'shadow work' by psychologists, yoga philosophers and curious learners. There is an excellent article on shadow work in the Australian Yoga Journal by Sally Kempton. Shadow work is based on the premise that we all have negative tendencies, or what Carl Jung referred to as 'shadows'. Our shadows could be anger, resentment, jealousy, competitiveness or, in my case, inauthenticity. I don't like inauthenticity in others, because I don't like it in myself. The goal is to allow these shadows to enter our consciousness when we feel them, so that we can deal with them and transform them, rather than trying to suppress them. Suppressed shadows can take the form of emotional reactions to a difficult colleague, frustration waiting in a queue, anger at a loved one late home from work, or judgements made about people who are fakes (yes, I do that).

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken. 
Oscar Wilde

Do you claim to be authentic? What moments do you recall when you're being inauthentic? What about moments of bringing your true authenticity? Are there times when it's okay to 'act' out a certain way?