6 Steps to Discover the Authentic Self

Idealizations keep us from the deeper wells of creativity and keep us locked in our current modality. They are the expectations we place upon ourselves or others, or believe that others have placed upon us. They keep us imprisoned by false belief and criticism, denying access to our authenticity. Similar to unquestioned gender identifiers, idealizations do not have a basis in truth or reality, but in bias.

Bruce Lee, master martial artist, was asked to teach everything he knew about martial arts.

Bruce held up two cups, both filled with liquid. “The first cup,” said Bruce, “represents all of your knowledge about martial arts. The second cup represents all of my knowledge about martial arts. If you want to fill your cup with my knowledge, you must first empty your cup of your knowledge.”

In this emptying process of letting go, the ego mind needs to learn how to be unattached.

The following exercise helps us in getting to the core of where we might be stuck in resolving a particular issue. This exercise may seem very simple, but the effects of practicing it can be profound. Because the exercise helps deflate our bias, it taps into our unconscious — the voice of the authentic self. Once this voice or “inner knowing” becomes available to you, a greater and more spontaneous range of emotional responses will become apparent. Just as important, since our idealizations keep us locked in our primary modality, the habit of this exercise will begin the process of re-balancing.

Please be aware that some experiences are best identified and worked through with the help of a trained professional. Please use common sense in following the information you receive for doing this exercise. The following is an example which many people may be able to do on their own.

Step One: Notice, and be empathic with any feeling you may have that is part of your mood now or is a habitually troublesome one that you would like to try and change, such as frustration, anger, sadness, or despair. Suppose, for example, that you have a general feeling of disappointment. Though you may not know why you have it, acknowledge and name it. Just naming it may help you understand why you are disappointed. For example, you might realize you feel disappointed because you have not been promoted. With or without this new knowledge, proceed to Step Two.

Step Two: Ask yourself what idealizations (or expectations) may be creating your feelings. Negative feelings often occur because of the disparity between reality and our imagined fantasies: the authentic self and the imagined self. Because idealizations are so habitual, you may not see them as idealizations when starting to do these exercises. If this is the case, instead of trying to figure out what your idealization may be, allow yourself to free associate.

Relax. Sometimes it helps to shut your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Notice what comes to mind. It may be, for instance, the first line of a song, an image or a simple wish. The unconscious mind usually offers what you need to know. Following our example again, after thinking of your disappointment, you may get an image of yourself as a company executive sitting in a large office at the top of your building.

Step Three: Imagine your idealization inside an inflated balloon — now pop it. You could write or draw the idealization on a piece of wood or paper — now throw it in an imaginary fire. It is important to use images with which you are comfortable as you access your unconscious and relinquish any attachments, some of which you may not even be aware. Thus, following our example, in your mind’s eye you would place the image of being a company executive in a balloon and pop it, or throw it in a fire and see it burn up.

Step Four: Immediately after you have popped or burned the idealization, an image or thought will emerge intuitively. Wait for it without expectation of what it will be. Explore and reflect on the meaning of this image in your life. For example, after your idealization of being an executive vanishes, an image of playing with your children might flash into your mind. Gradually, you may become aware that in fact you were ambivalent all along about the promotion that you didn’t get, and you were worried that the obligations of this particular job might not allow you to spend the valued time with your family at this point in your life.

Step Five: Take action inspired by your new insight. In this example, you might talk with your spouse about how the promotion would have negatively affected your family relationships. Many programs for self-healing and growth recommend speaking frankly of new insights with a loved one or a friend. Ask them to witness you as you move forward with an intent of acting on what you’ve discovered. For instance, you might begin to make practical plans for activities with your children, or to spend more time with your friends or spouse.

Step Six: Recognize how this particular idealization blocked your authenticity and creativity. Anything, including an insight reached by intuition, can evolve into an idealization once it becomes a rigid belief. Therefore, step seven is to continue to stay in touch with the voice of your authentic self. Repeating the first five steps can help you access full consciousness whenever you feel stuck.