Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Exploring Authenticity

by Miki Kashtan
My mother used to say, 'If you will lie, you will steal; if you will steal, you will kill.’
‘That is a bit harsh don’t you think,’ I said. ‘We all lie a little. Sometimes it is a way of being polite.’
Anger flashed across her face.
‘No, no, no, no, no! A lie is a lie. The grace that is the real oil that eases the frictions of life is truth spoken in love.’

-- from Halloween after Ms Sandy (A Short Story)
by Valerie Elverton-Dixon (at right)

Until some time in my mid twenties, I was unable to lie. Except as a child, and only to my parents. It wasn’t exactly a moral decision, more like a physiological impossibility. To this day, although I have trained myself, in some very exceptional circumstances, to manage to choose to lie, any time I assess that the context I am in cannot tolerate the full authentic self that I am, I disappear into some internal void, paralyzed and shut down. I see it as a limitation of mine, an inability to make choices about what I say or don’t say, to whom, and how. I experience this as dramatically different from simply being a value of mine that I choose to live by. Consequently, I gravitate towards those people and places where I feel free to express the fullness of who I am. 

Like so many of us, I grew up imbibing the implicit dichotomy between authenticity and care, truth and love, honesty and niceness. Whereas many people I know have chosen the polite end of this dichotomy, my internal deep demands on myself always painted me into a corner of being honest to the point of being intimidating and difficult for people to be around. Not that I don’t care. Rather, in the frozenness of struggling to find room to be authentic when I believe I can’t be, I found no access to expressing the care that almost invariably is part of the fuel for the authenticity.

When I discovered Nonviolent Communication (NVC) I learned how to integrate verbally what was in my heart to the point where more and more of the time my expression of self also registers as care in those hearing me. Surprisingly, the main vehicle that brought me to this integration has been the path of vulnerability I’ve been on since 1996. The less of my internal energy is consumed by the attempts to protect myself, the more I find peace and calm in expressing the truth that lives in me, and the more room I have inside to find and express the care, naturally.