Being genuine and transparent in relationships might sound very attractive and useful but how do we actually go about it? How do we get in touch with our authentic self?
By sheer living on this planet we have accumulated numerous experiences, our family home shaped us to a certain extent, the society had its influence and also ourselves, by creating our personalities, we have added another layer. We might be at a place where our authentic self is quite heavily buried under a mass of conditioning without us even knowing.
Our authentic self is the raw part inside of us, our emotional center that responds almost automatically when our needs are met or not. You can think of your authentic self as “your inner child” - someone who doesn’t pretend, but very instinctively turns to or away from what they desire or dislike.
In order to get in touch with our authentic self, it is necessary to pay attention to and understand our emotions. Depending on our culture and the upbringing we had, our level of comfort with emotions will vary. Especially, if we were judged or ridiculed upon showing them in the past, chances are, we learned to shove them down and pretend they are not there at all.
And are they really all that scary? Let’s talk about the most significant ones.
Fear is the number one emotion that can have an overwhelming effect on us. It can range from mild (excitement) to quit debilitating (panic attack, even freeze response). It is very scary indeed. We feel it in our bodies. When we are afraid, we shake, our heart and body trembles, we know deep down that danger is approaching.
What about if we wanted to tame our fear and listen to the message it is sending us? Maybe we are in physical danger and it is time to move away or maybe we are doing something we have never done before and it is telling us: “hey, I don’t know this situation, what about if we get hurt?” Perhaps it is time to assess the risks versus the gains.
Joy is an emotion we all love experiencing. It is a warm fuzzy feeling, sometimes with a hint of excitement in it too. It is present when all is going well, our needs and wishes are being met. We might be surrounded by our loved ones, in the midst of an activity that fulfills us or maybe spending time in nature - whatever it is that fills our soul, we are feeling light and happy in the moment. It is an inspiring emotion and it makes sense why it is so very sought for.
Sadness is the opposite of joy. It comes about when things are not going our way and it can make our energy drop. It can definitely feel like a dark cloud coming over us. When in it, we probably want to cry. We don’t like sitting in sadness but it inevitably comes from time to time. What is it trying to tell us? Maybe we are missing connection with our close ones? Maybe we are disappointed, we were hoping for a certain outcome and it didn’t happen or maybe we lost something or someone we really cared about.
The fourth big emotion is anger. Our relationship with anger will vary depending on our experiences with it and the messages we got relating to it growing up. For some of us, it will be a dangerous emotion that shouldn’t be felt at all, while for others it might be a natural “to go to” in situations that do not warrant it that much.
Anger always holds a very important message to us as it is trying to protect us from harm. We do not necessarily have to go into full attack mode when we experience it, but perhaps we can breathe into it and ask ourselves: What is going on? Why did I get triggered? Did someone just cross my boundaries? Is it time to assert myself?
In order to get to know our authentic self we need to get acquainted with our emotions. We do not have to sit in them too long, just long enough to name them and be curious of their origin. They are our internal compass that steers us through life. They tell us when we are safe and when we are not.
If we keep listening to those messages, our needs in relationships will become more and more apparent. For example, if we feel on edge with a certain family member but we are not sure why, we can ask ourselves: what is actually going on when we are around this person? If, for example, this family member never asks us how we are feeling, but throughout the conversation continues talking about themselves, it would make sense that, when we talk with them, we would experience annoyance (a mild version of anger protecting us from hurt) or perhaps disappointment or sadness (due to not having genuine connection).
Understanding our emotions connects us with our needs. Our authentic self, by “making us” feel, is steering us towards fulfillment in connection with others. If we attune ourselves to the language of our inner self and are not afraid to act on its messages, we give ourselves a chance to create relationships that satisfy our needs and bring us happiness long term.
Try remembering the last time you were feeling uncomfortable around a certain person. Which of their behaviors contributed to it? What was the emotion you experienced? What was your authentic self trying to tell you there and then?