What it means to be Authentic and Live an Authentic Life

choose-authenticity-in-a-marketing-agency.jpgLife is a journey of exploration and discovery with plenty obstacles to overcome, living one’s full potential in life remains quite elusive. Yet, this is only the first step toward living an authentic life.  Living an authentic life offers an opportunity to discover your goals and objectives. This often manifests by defining a path that is true to who you are and who you are about to become.

Many people who live an inauthentic life, live a life that is incompatible if not inconsistent with their values, abilities and desires. Because of this, they have strayed-off the path to discovering their true selves and real purpose in life. This is what it is like to live life inauthentic. It is a life simply hollow, incomplete and out-of-sync with oneself.

What does it mean to live an authentic life?

According to Brian Goldman, a renowned psychologist, authenticity is the unhindered operation of one’s true self in their daily enterprise. In his understanding, Goldman asserts that authenticity hold within it two very critical aspects:

  • Self-knowledge
  • Self-awareness

Essentially speaking, authentic people accept themselves for who they are. Like everyone else, such people have strengths and weaknesses. What makes them stand out is their ability to identify their strengths and at the same time seek to better their weaknesses. Being authentic is simply about connecting with one’s values, desires and abilities. Being authentic liberates one from the pressures of trying to be someone else; trying to be perfect.

Lame Deer is a Native American philosopher well-known for his work on human psychology. According to Deer, an authentic life is devoid of self-deprecation. He suggests that most people fall-short-of living authentically merely because they can’t stand their natural animal selves. Think of how people wear perfumes and deodorants to conceal their true smell. Or come to think of how people use cosmetic products and procedures to hide their true selves. Together with the various roles we undertake in the unending cycles of production and consumption as humans we remain detached from our true self and with nature itself. That is according to Lame Deer.

Authenticity in life is summarized by these two simple yet critical ingredients. In fact, self-knowledge and self-awareness defines who we are as humans. Understanding these two is just about all you need to live authentically.

Self-knowledge and self-awareness

At its very outset, authenticity begins when we commit our intentions to genuineness. A willingness to act genuine even when it feels most vulnerable. It comes with an ease of decision making in life; freedom to pick and choose on aspects that one relates very well with in as far as values and desires in life are concerned. This is in fact what it means to make unpopular decisions and choices in life. This is what it means to come to terms with some aspects that often people choose to hide away from, but which are integral parts of us. Self-knowledge and self-awareness are the building blocks of an authentic life. They make us live more honest if not engaged lives.

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Definitive characteristics of authentic persons

Living an authentic life never comes easy. In fact, research surveys suggest that most humans across civilizations live inauthentic lives. Of course there are more than enough reasons for the same. That aside, the following are some aspects that may help you single out individuals who are actually living authentic:

  • Resilience: living authentic life comes with an inherent ability to rise up to the challenge whenever one falls.
  • Purposefulness: being authentic implies having an intended purpose in life. In other words having set objectives in life.
  • Being goal-oriented: authentic people have some set goals to accomplish. They have targets in life and strive hard to realize them. In so doing, they remain steadfast and focused throughout their endeavors.

How to live authentic

Living authentic come with sacrifices as well as compromises. It calls for a complete overhaul of the past in favor of a fresh and new perspective to life. The following hints will get you started:

  • Open mindedness
  • Redefinition of values
  • trust your intuition

Open mindedness

Being open minded is the cornerstone of authenticity. Be open to ideas and be sure to experience a whole new perspective of everything this life has to offer. Authenticity never flourishes in closed and rigid minds. In fact, it fades into insignificance. Such minds never hatch brilliant ideas and such people are fated to remain average for life. Well, this is less about an opinion than a fact of life.

Redefinition of values

This is about getting clear on what you dare to care about. Holding tight on the very values we grew up with is common place in most societies. Some of these values and traditions may clash with what we in fact stand for as values. This puts authenticity in jeopardy. In brief, it is impossible to live authentically if one knows not the very values that they stand for and uphold.

Trust your intuition

Whenever one acts inauthentic, intuitively they feel out-of-sync with who they actually are and what values they stand for. Intuition is about those hunches, physical sensations and even the impressions that come alongside the actions we undertake in life. Intuition instinctively shocks us back to our senses whenever we act contrary to what we stand for in life. Intuition guards us from straying far of the true path of authenticity.

Discovering who we actually are is but a continuous process. It is more like a journey than a destination, where we keep unfolding bits and pieces of ourselves as we move along. It is the beginning of being authentic and living authentic.

Communication Breakdown: Why do we listen to reply and not listen to understand?

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Why We Tend to Listen to Reply and not Listen to Understand

As a skill, listening is very critical in communication. It is the best way to pass across information and, more importantly, knowledge between individuals. Even so, studies suggest that over the years, our listening ability has only deteriorated. We no longer listen to understand. Instead, we listen to reply.

Studies show that we spend close to 60 per cent of everyday listening to others, but only retain a quarter of what we hear. Part of the reason for this could be that the world around us has become louder over time. A careful scrutiny and analysis of issues reveal the real suspects in play; a delicate combination of a pair of aspects within the human brain. These aspects include:

  • The lag time concept
  • The confirmation bias aspect

The lag time concept

Charles Gross, in his study at Princeton University in 2010, discovered what he called lag time in communication. It is the time duration between what you hear and what you understand. Now, according to Gross, lag time is in the range of a few seconds up to a minute. Of course this varies among individuals.

According to Charles Gross, lag time is the reason people listen more to reply than to understand. In fact, this is where real trouble begins. During lag time we shift attention to ourselves. We stop listening to the others. Instead, we listen to ourselves, a perfect recipe for communication breakdown. During the same phase, we tend to figure out a quick response rather than let the message sink in. The whole conversation then ends up into a fierce contest.

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What causes lag time in communication?

The exact cause of lag time is still unclear, though psychotherapists and psychologists believe human emotions holds a center stage and are very critical to it. Thoughts, beliefs, values, perceptions and opinions are also other very vital ingredients of an individual’s lag time.

The confirmation bias aspect

In the words of Grand Eklund, “You are only listening to what you want to hear.” I can’t agree with Eklund more. In all most every communication setting, people tend to pick out facts and other figures they deem fit; what affirms their pre-existing perspectives, values and beliefs. In so doing, they listen with more intent to reply than to understand – a real communication disaster. That is in fact how the confirmation bias concept operates.

Healthy conversation should involve listening to every detail of what is spoken. Confirmation bias however contradicts this. It makes it quite the challenge to listen and acquire knowledge.

How does confirmation bias come about?

Psychologists hint that confirmation bias has some level of connection and link with how slow individuals speaks in comparison to how fast they listen. Studies show that the human brain has the ability to process words at an optimum rate of between 600 and 1000 words per minute. When we speak, individuals communicate roughly 175 to 200 words a minute. Clearly, we aren’t utilizing our brain’s full capacity, especially when listening. Because of this underutilization of potential, the human brain tends to drift off into other aspects that would make up for that deficit; the onset of competitive listening.

Competitive listening is best explained using George Miller’s Law. In order to understand what someone else is saying, one has to first assume that the other person’s position is true and then try to find out what is actually true in it. A negation of Miller’s concept bears what is known as competitive listening; hearing something then reacting negatively to it, in part because of a belief that the other person’s position is false. In this spirit, listening grinds to a halt and communication breaks down.

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Way forward to effective listening

Many years of exploring listening as an art points me in a common direction; that effectiveness in listening can only be achieved through awareness and concentration. Yes, simply allowing yourself to listen better without coercion.

In order to “listen to understand and not just to reply”, we need to concentrate more voluntarily. This way, we acquire more knowledge and also make our conversations more effective.

Making a Strong Support System

Having a support system when you are in recovery from addiction is so important. With a support system you are much more likely to be successful in recovery, and work towards other goals that you have set for yourself. Your support network can be made up of professionals, family members, friends, as well as mentors from places like AA or NA. A good support person is so much more than just helping you maintain a positive attitude. Listed below are some of the other qualities that a good support person should have:

 Stability. People in your support system should also be stable themselves. Your addiction may have had a serious effect on them as well, so it is important that they are seeking out the help that they need. It is also important that they are not currently abusing drugs, and are sure in their own recovery (if they are recovering from their own addiction). Part of stability is also helping you maintain a safe space to live and stay. This means that there should be no drugs and as few triggers as possible while you are working through your recovery.

 Understanding of recovery and relapse prevention. It is very difficult to be supportive of a process that they don’t understand, so it is important that the people in your support network are educated about addiction, recovery, and relapse prevention. The best person to educate them about your needs and triggers is you. It is critical that you explain what sorts of situations/things are triggering for your cravings and what they can do during difficult times in order to help get you through. It is also important that they understand their role in your relapse prevention. It is important that you communicate what you need from them and they need to be comfortable in the role that they are taking on so that they can remain an asset to you and a good support when you need it the most.

 Ability to be part of a team. Supporting someone through recovery takes much more than just one person. It is often times a team of people that are supporting and providing different types of support to the person in recovery. The people that you choose to be part of your support system need to be able to work together and be trusted to keep their personal issues out of the way. You may need everyone to come together at one time or another, which is why making sure they can get along and work together is so important. If two or more people in your chosen support system just don’t get along, you personally need to decide whether or not it is worth it having that as a part of your recovery. Needless disagreements and arguing can really take the focus off of you and your recovery, and put that attention on things that are really not worth it. 

People so often forget just how important it is to have a strong support system throughout the recovery process. The individuals that you choose to be part of this support system can make or break you during the very first stages of your recovery, and this is why it is imperative that you think long and hard about what you need and who you think would be able to provide that need to you. A good support person will always be there when you need them, and help keep you on track when you cannot do it yourself

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder is a very serious mental illness that is characterized by a lack of stability in moods, behaviours, and relationships. The name of this disorder was given because it was thought to “border” many different types of mental illness, which has now been found to be quite inaccurate. Though each case is different, there are commonly occurring symptoms that are used to diagnose. (Please keep in mind that a trained professional should be making a diagnosis, as they are equipped to do so.) These symptoms include:

  • Impulsive behaviours: These behaviours are often harmful to themselves and/or others. These behaviours may include promiscuity/unsafe sex, drug abuse, or self-harming behaviours (i.e. Cutting). Spending sprees and binge eating are also known to occur. It is important to note that not all of those who suffer from borderline personality disorder engage in all of these behaviours. It is also important to note that their self-harming behaviours are not usually intended to cause death, but are in an attempt to express their pain, have some control over their bodies, or to punish themselves for their choices/behaviours.
  • Low self-worth: Low self-worth can manifest itself in many different ways. They may speak very critically of themselves (i.e. They are ugly, or unintelligent, or worthless, etc.), or have distorted beliefs of what others think of them (i.e. No one likes them, no one loves them, no one likes spending time with them, etc.). Their low self-worth may also cause them to very rapidly change plans for their future, showing in an unexpected change in career, goals, and romantic partners.
  • Aggressive behaviours: Controlling anger is something that those suffering with borderline personality disorder struggle with. They will often times yell and scream when they are angry, and they may also lash out physically at those around them. Their anger can be incredibly frightening and dangerous.
  • Intense emotions and mood swings: The emotions and moods of a person struggling with borderline personality disorder fluctuate quite quickly and intensely. It is not uncommon for someone to be experiencing a very happy period to only hit a very intense angry and upset period a few hours later. The way that they treat those around them changes along with how they are feeling as well. They can be very loving and caring, switching very quickly to hateful and angry when they are feeling upset.
  • Intense fear of being abandoned: Those suffering from borderline personality disorder constantly worry about those around them leaving them completely. This intense fear manifests itself in “clingy” behaviours towards those around them (i.e. Repeatedly asking them not to leave, attempting to guilt trip people into being around, other manipulative behaviours) when their relationship feels threatened or close to breaking.
  • Tumultuous relationships: Relationships that a person with borderline personality disorder are involved in are incredibly chaotic. Relationships can go from being incredibly close and loving to incredibly distant and hateful in a very short amount of time. Romantic relationships can be especially so, and are often short lived as their partners have a hard time dealing with the mood swings and impulsive behaviours.

Borderline personality disorder is not a death sentence. If your loved one is struggling with borderline personality disorder, it is very important that you help to support them through treatment and encourage them to continue to work through it. Treatment for a personality disorder is often times a combination of therapy as well as medication, which can be very difficult for your loved one to handle, especially on their own. It is important that they stay hopeful and focused on the future. It is also a good idea to educate yourself on their illness. Know what the signs and symptoms are, especially when they are in crisis. Understand that you will need to recognize their signs and symptoms for crisis, not just the ones that are listed in a website or book. It is also essential that you yourself seek treatment. Their illness does affect you, whether you see it or not. Having your own safe place to discuss your feelings and emotions is the best way to be an effective part of their support system.

Concurrent Disorders

Addiction and mental health problems are often seen as two completely separate entities. However, in quite a significant amount of cases, co-occurring addiction and mental health problems can be seen in clients. Does this happen with all mental health problems or addictions? What does this mean for the client’s symptoms? How does it affect treatment? All of these are important questions we will answer. But first we need take a look at the basic concept of concurrent disorders.

CD-webConcurrent disorder is an umbrella term that is used to describe a diagnosed mental health problem co-occurring with an addiction. Diagnosis is difficult, as addiction and mental health symptoms may not be occurring at the same time or in the same intensity as the addiction, and vice versa. This can make treatment very difficult and determining which came first (the addiction or the mental health problem) nearly impossible. This is why it is very important to consider the addiction and the mental health problem two separate entities that interact with each other.

There are two groups of mental health problems that are most commonly co-occurring with addiction; anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Anxiety disorders (i.e. generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder) more commonly co-occur with an alcohol addiction. Mood disorders (i.e. depression, bipolar disorder, etc.) more commonly co-occur with an addiction other than alcohol (i.e. cocaine, heroin, etc.). The addictions do vary from client to client, but the fact of the matter is that a significant number of those diagnosed with mental health problems will also struggle with an addiction or substance abuse problem at some point in their lives. It is important to keep in mind that your loved one is not their mental health problem or addiction, they are still your loved one. Those struggling with concurrent disorders still require love and support, especially through the recovery process. It is important to remain steadfast in your hope for them, while maintaining healthy and appropriate boundaries.

There is a noticeable connection between mental health problems and addiction. Substances are often used to cope with mental health problems when left undiagnosed or unmedicated. An addiction can also mask or mimic the symptoms of a mental health problem, making it significantly harder to diagnose without proper client history. Mental health problems can also be exacerbated by an addiction. Those who choose to self-medicate on top of their prescribed medication run the risk of making their psychiatric medication less effective. They also run the risk of going off of their prescribed medications and having a relapse of mental health symptoms. These interactions between addiction and mental health problems is incredibly problematic. Symptoms can vary greatly for mental health problems when someone is abusing substances. It is also possible for relapse with substance abuse if mental health problems are not being properly treated. It can lead to a vicious cycle of relapse and recovery until the right balance is found.

Part of the reason that diagnosed concurrent disorders are so difficult to treat is that it requires a great deal of coordination within the professional support system for the client. The choice often needs to be made as to what should be treated first, or if treatments should be received at the same time. This can vary greatly from person to person as the severity of both the addiction and the mental health problems needs to be properly assessed and taken into account. What works best for most clients is what is referred to Options-for-the-treatment-of-addiction-imageas integrated treatment. Integrated treatment works on emotional, cognitive, social, and addiction problems all at once. While treatment for these problems can often be provided under one roof, it is important that the client is receiving the best treatment possible. This often involves coordinating agencies and professionals into a care team. The care team leader would be a professional the client trusts who will make plans based on the successes and areas of greatest struggle for their client. By coordinating all those involved in the care process, the client has a much higher chance of having success in treatment of both mental health problems and addiction.

Hope is a very important part of the recovery process. With a diagnosis of a mental health problem coupled with an addiction, it can seem like your loved one will only get worse. However, recovery is more than possible if they are willing to seek treatment and work with people who can help them learn new ways to cope with their struggles. With the research in new medications and methods of therapies, there is a lot of hope for those who are struggling with concurrent disorders. Family and friends can be a great asset in instilling hope. You can help your loved one rediscover the hope in their future. Providing them with support and a safe place to express themselves without judgement is instrumental in a transition from their former instability into the stability of recovery.

Social Media

So many of us are attached to our social media accounts. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram, many people are either checking or posting throughout the day. Photos, milestones, and our thoughts are the marks we leave on social media, but what kind of mark does it leave on us?facebook-addiction-590x202

Social media has a huge impact on many of our everyday interactions. Nowadays, it is hard to find someone who doesn’t engage with their friends and loved ones via some form of social media. It has become the go-to forum for expressing opinions, and sharing our lives with those around us. What we share sends a message to the world about who we are and what we are all about, defining us through our posts. This is why it is so important to be careful about what you share and who you share it with. It is helpful to take a second and think before posting. What would a future employer say about what he/she sees on your Facebook? What would a future partner say about you tweets? We don’t always consider the consequences of our actions on the internet, but it is much more important than it might initially seem.

Too often we see breakups and drama brought to the forefront of forums like Facebook and Twitter. Hurtful messages spewed out for the entire world to see. The unfortunate part is that often times the things that are being said would have never been said if it was a face-to-face conversation. It is hard for people to hold back from behind the keyboard, and it makes many people forget that there is a real person on the other iStock_000016401115XSmallend. There have been so many cases of destroyed relationships because of what has been said online, and much of it could have been prevented.

And what about the younger generations? They are growing up with social media as a central part of their lives. What impact is this going to have on the way that they interact with their peers? We are seeing younger and younger children logging onto places like Facebook, choosing to spend their time socializing with their friends via the internet rather than face-to-face. This also opens up the field to bullies and tormentors alike. Adolescence is such a trying time for any child, and it can be made harder by social media. We hear more and more about adolescents viciously attacking each other on social media, spreading rumours and hateful comments. Educating the younger generations about responsibly using social media is a great way to work on issues like bullying.

Facebook addictionSocial media is a very useful tool when used properly. It is great for networking and keeping in touch with those that may not be as close to us. But it is also a very powerful tool. It can make or break us in many important situations. We need to think about being respectful and sharing appropriately. It takes not more than a few moments to consider how our words could hurt someone on the other side. Remembering to treat those around us with love, respect and understanding, is an easy way to make social media more enjoyable for everyone.  

Psychopathy and Relationships

shutterstock_119478667  We strive for internal balance each and every day. It is a constant struggle to maintain some sort of harmony between our beliefs, ideas, values, and the behaviours related to them. An example of this is someone who continues to smoke despite believing that it is unhealthy. Although they hold the belief that smoking is not beneficial to their health, the smoker will continue to smoke because they may enjoy smoking, or perhaps because they believe that the chances of a decline in their health are not as serious as others make them up to be. This is cognitive dissonance. Explained simply, cognitive dissonance is psychological distress when two or more beliefs are contradictory. Those with cognitive dissonance often have a hard time differentiating reality from their internal fantasy and dream world. They will often justify their behaviours and contradicting beliefs with truly ridiculous notions. Returning to the example of the smoker, how is it possible that their health would not be at equal risk to other smokers? It is this fantasy thinking that makes the contradictions stick. The discrepancy in beliefs and actions can cause a vast amount of psychological distress, including but not limited to depression, anxiety, and negative self-image. With these contradictions comes a certain amount of denial within, though it is not always known to us. This denial allows us to hold these beliefs at the same time, while still maintaining the behaviour.

A more extreme example of cognitive dissonance is the denial shutterstock_90072907and beliefs that are often seen with those who are in a relationship with a psychopath. Once we become aware we begin to see things for what they are, outside of the fantasy.  A whole slew of inconsistencies that we never saw before flows through to our consciousness such as manipulations, criticism, emotional abuse, lies, and deviance. Almost everyone involved with a psychopath goes through a phase (and form) of denial.  The result is a contradictory experience: a kind of internal battle between clinging to denial and accepting the truth.  It’s a tough reality to accept the sad truth when you come to realize that the person who claimed to be your best friend or the love of your life is actually completely emotionally unavailable on all levels.

To understand pathology, psychopathic and sociopathic relationships see the link below. Now it is important to not assume that the person you are involved with is a psychopath, because it can have deep and lasting effects on that person. A qualified professional should be sought out to make a diagnosis, not the internet or a personal diagnosis. The questions that often come up after a psychopath shutterstock_40397620is found out often include “How could I not have known?”, “Were there ever signs that something was going on beneath the surface?”, or even “Was there something that could have been done to help/stop the psychopath?”. The answer to these questions is never truly black and white, and this is because of cognitive dissonance. There comes a time when denial is just no longer going to protect us from the truth, and there is an internal struggle because they care deeply for the psychopath. There are contradictions left, right, and center about their lies, manipulations, criticisms, and emotional abuse, and the victim will often times find ways to justify the psychopaths behaviours through the “good times” they might have had. It needs to be noted that more often than not, the victim will choose to cling to the denial, rather than accept the truth.

What can happen when the victim is suddenly brought to the realization that their significant other is a psychopath? More often than not, they will go into shock or experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In these cases it is so important that they seek help, because the symptoms will persist and worsen until they are handled under the care of a trained professional. The therapist or counsellor will work to empower the victim, working on reminding them that they are not a victim but a survivor. Cognitive dissonance is something that can be overcome, but it is not just a simple step process. The contradicting beliefs need to be consciously acknowledged, breaking the cycle to return to reality instead of fantasy. With the help of an experienced therapist it is possible to create an action plan and set goals for the future. Recovery will take a lot of inner work and acknowledgement of the contradictions. Once the acknowledgement happens, we can begin to work towards feeding the healthy beliefs and behaviours, rather than the more negative ones. It is important to focus on the more supportive beliefs, rather than the dissonant belief and behaviour, reducing its importance. When the importance is reduced, it will be easier to change this belief into one that is more consistent with your other beliefs. The journey for balance in the connection of mind-body-soul is one that is life-long and challenging. It is important to note that change does not happen overnight. Changing beliefs and working towards an internal harmony is something that can take months, and possibly even years. This does not mean that we should not still strive for inner peace. Having a good support system and being committed to change will keep you motivated, as well as promote change.

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