What often happens when we first start trying to live authentically is that we hear from the people, whom we’ve trained to believe we are always going to do what we’ve always done.  So, for example, if you’ve trained the boss to believe you can always get everything done yesterday with absolute perfection, then when you suddenly stop doing that, the boss is likely to wonder what the heck is going on. And if he’s particularly bully-ish, he might come stomping in your office to confront you with your newfound laziness. Or, if you’ve always played the Victim and suddenly start making your own decisions and taking charge of your own life, your Rescuer is likely to feel displaced and want to turn you into a Victim again. If you’ve always accepted the blame and felt guilty and responsible for others, those others are likely to wonder what you are up to when they can no longer hold you accountable for their choices.

What can you do about this? Well, it helps soften the blow a bit if you give people a heads-up before you start drastically changing your interactions with them. You might tell your boss that you’ve come to realize that you are really overstressed and that you are going to have to back up and reassess the amount of work you are doing. You know that you’ve always had this unspoken agreement that you would carry most of the load, but you need to rethink this and you’d like his or her help. Most bosses will consider this to be an issue that could have some legal ramifications and try to support you. But others will not–in which case you may need to consider looking into other options for a job. If you find another job, however, you will need to take care not to unconsciously set up the same dynamic with the new boss.

If it is a closer relationship a sit down conversation might be in order-one in which you explain what changes you are making and why, and again ask for support. Many relationships will be able to accommodate the shifts, with some complaining and continued boundary making.  But some will not accommodate and will demand–through either verbal or nonverbal means–that you change back. At that point, you may need to reassess the value of this relationship in your life and create whatever new parameters you may need, up to and including, a total abandonment of the relationship.

But there’s another consequence we need to consider to becoming authentic.  We may also experience uncomfortable feelings. For example, if guilt has been your primary motivator for most of your exchanges with others, when you stop doing those things you’ve done for guilt, then guilt is going to speak up loud and clear. The fact is that people who manage their lives by guilt, i.e., people with a Scapegoat identity, have been caving to guilt in order to keep from feeling even more guilt. And just like an addict who caves to the cravings for years, when he stops caving, the cravings start screaming. Likewise, the guilt will start screaming if you’ve always caved to it before.

If rage has been the way I got people to do what I wanted them to do, because I live out of a Bully identity, then rage is going to come up really strongly when I stop using it to manipulate others. If self-pity has been the feeling that has worked most frequently to allow me to avoid taking responsibility for my life and to get others to take over that responsibility, then self-pity may come up again and surprise me when I least expect it, as I begin to take charge of my choices.

These feelings come up to be understood and compassionately placed into appropriate perspective. But since we’ve always obeyed these feelings as if they were a command before, we never really got to the base of them, nor understood why we had them in the first place. Why, for example, would I feel guilty when guilt is not appropriate-that is, when I’ve done nothing about which a reasonable person would feel guilty. When these feelings arise, we may tend to want them to go away rather quickly. We’ve always been able to make them go away quickly in the past, by obeying their commands. But as authentic persons we may also begin to see that we’ve been held hostage to these inner commands that come from the internalized role we’ve played for so long. And we want now, to disobey these commands. Yet the commands seem to be getting louder.

We can’t really ignore these feelings–they simply won’t let us do that. But we can sit beside them as a kind mother might do with a troubled child. We might compassionately ask ourselves what triggered the feeling, and find out what the feeling wants us to do and why. This automatically puts us in the observer position-rather than in the actor position. The actor wants to act on the feeling.  The observer simply wants to observe the feeling-to get to know it, and to have a conversation with it.

Allowing that feeling to speak to the observer, rather than act, gives the feeling room to breathe.  It is a bit like giving a child the attention and room for expression that she needs. Having been heard and attended to, the child eventually gets interested in something else and goes off to take care of the new intrigue.

We tend to want to judge ourselves for “being so stupid,” or “not being able to get it”  when we have these frequent episodes of intense feelings that come about as a result of not obeying their commands. But what we need to understand here is twofold:

1) It took us a while to build the Role, and it will take some time to come to know the authentic Self.

2) When we judge ourselves we are very probably parenting ourselves, as we were parented, instead of birthing the authentic Self in support, compassion and a trust for the process.

If we can learn to be just as compassionate with ourselves as we would a small innocent child, we will get through these periods of intense feelings and in the process come to know ourselves even better.

For more of Andrea’s articles, please visit her blog.

  1. shereen says:

    Amazing piece,,, I really need it  especially now,,,,bless you Ian

  2. Courtney says:

    The connections always seem to happen like this… I’m curently reading a book titled “Self-Compassion” (by Kristin Neff)…  so timely for what I’m ‘working on’ right now… thank you Ian.

  3. Tara says:

    Really great, simple examples of how in-authenticity shows up in our lives and behaviors.  I used to play victim or sufferer and when I broke free of that I saw multiple rescuer friends not know what to do.  It’s been some time since I got authentic and now everything has smoothed out.  One even commented on my growth.  I became independent and connected all in the same period, and all authentically.  There’s a lot more power over here these days. 
    Thanks for the article.  Reminds me to be loving when those around me do the same.

  4. Chris Gordon says:

    http://www.sandrawalter.com/items/escaping-time-polarization-and-money

    Another brilliant article from Sandra Walter about how we, as creatives, can use our collective creative power to push back at the pervasive influences of fear-based constructs and break free to choose our own creative lives and share those lives with those who espouse a new paradigm founded on pure love, unconditionally given — unconditional love.

    What Sandra says about the role of creatives in a new society, a new world, is spot on. It is up to us to bring it about. Nobody is going to do it for us. We will start small, obviously, but our capacity to love will sustain us and draw ever more like-minded souls into our circles, growing outwards like ripples spreading across on a pool.

    Please give this some thought. It is really important for there are many, many people who are ‘stuck’ in the old world of fear, greed — money-values. There is now a chance to break down ALL hierarchical constructs wherein so many dwell and cleave to out of fear. Tear them all down and look at all with whom you have contact with compassion, love and gratefulness that they are there. Don’t judge. Don’t analyse. Just love and connect as much and as many times as you can. If you do, the old world of fear, manipulation, greed and control will crumble before your eyes.  

  5. A great reminder of how we are so used to place others in first place, that when it’s our time to receive support, we are the last ones to provide it to ourselves. 

  6. Just what I NEEDED to read today-thanks!

  7. Lance says:

    I like it!  Great advice!

  8. Lisa Kaplin says:

    Wow, this is amazing.  I needed this today (and every day).  Thank you.

  9. [...] leía el artículo de una coach norteamericana sobre la autenticidad y la importancia de permitirnos ser, reinventarnos, darnos tregua, comunicar a [...]

  10. Ruth says:

    A really wonderful article!  I love how you clearly explain how people can talk to what comes up and resolve it forever.

  11. Excellent piece. I am always saying that there is nothing harder than being true to yourself and I believe that, really, that is our life’s work!

  12. GREAT post – THANK YOU for posting on Twitter!

  13. Sidney Peck says:

    Well said.  I especially liked the actor versus observer, analogy.  Keep them coming!

  14. Wow thank you!…. all of it, esp the part about being an observer, resonated big time.

  15. Angel Rae says:

    My need for safety has been my primary interation with the world. In deciding that I am “safe enough”, the risks are alternately exhilarating and terrifying. The messages I get are both “change back!” and “Wow! Look at you go!” It will be interesting to observe. Very timely, very well written piece.  Namaste’

  16. Well written and a great piece about how things use to be. 

  17. Learner says:

    Earlier i kept mum upon the small  but frequent criticisms that were’nt true; now that I speak my mind, not only are people adamant that their criticism was right, but also say that I argue a lot nowadays.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Amazing amazing article. Thank you I agree with you completely. 

  19. Steven West says:

    Alot of what was stated in your article, “was stated by Man, “and since Man has made lots of mistakes, “and isn’t perfect.  I don’t put alot of stock in, “what others tell me to believe or not to believe, “most of it is just designed to sell you something or sell you down the road to a belief.  I really don’t understand ? “why others can’t just do themselves.  You don’t have to be married /around/with/communicate/or have a relationship of any type to Love other.  Love is limitless and boundless,”so I really hate it when others try and stuff it in a box and try and shape it or mold it or use it” “whenever it is to their liking/ Or of their time.  But I am an openhearted type of person, “and I am a Man, “so I have and had made mistakes in the past, “and I am A MAN , “And always will.  But to light ones life and put it under a microscope, “then judge that life, “is wrong, wrong, wrong.  This is why I do ME.  To keep others out of the trap of judging, “and to keep me out of it also.  Hate me , dislike me, judge me, refuse to believe me, stalk me,  I don’t care!!!  Please Father forgive them, “for they know not, “what they do.  Love Steven