Series One: Blog Sixty-Nine
“All my friends thought I was a very happy human being. Because that’s how I acted- like a really happy human being. But all that pretending made me tired. If I acted the way I felt, then I doubt my friends would have really hung out with me. So the pretending wasn’t all bad. The pretending made me less lonely. But in another way, it made me more lonely because I felt like a fraud. I’ve always felt like a fake human being.” ― Benjamin Alire Saenz, Last Night I Sang to the Monster.
One of the common disclosures that I hear from addicts is the experience of feeling like a fraud. Living a fraudulent life is exhausting. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde experience of addiction leaves an addict painfully lonely and hollow inside, feeling like an imposter. Of course, this would be true of anyone, not just addicts. The longing to be authentic and true to oneself is a common thirst and hunger among all. As Richard Rohr puts it, “We all would like to find the true shape of our own self.” Being who you are is healing and creates a sense of calm and empowerment within.
There is always a struggle to separate what your True Self is from your False Self. True Self is what you really are, that unrepeatable miracle of the universe. It is that divine DNA about you, the organic wholeness, which is manifested in your destiny. Whereas, the False Self is the image we put forward in impression management. It can be promoted by way of your vocation, what you wear, where you live, who you know and how you live. It falls short of being the real genuine you. Yet, once you are connected with who you are on the inside with acceptance and resolve, how you express yourself on the outside begins to reflect your True Self. It is in our False Self that we identify with the imposters of the world because when we are not our True Self, inside we feel fake.
It has been my experience that when you are real and genuine, you feel and even fit better in your own skin. Like the velveteen rabbit—the “real” never rubs off. A False Self is never truly satisfying. It triggers addiction and the need to keep trying to be more to keep from being less. The False Self makes a person become hyper vigilant from a fear of being caught not measuring up. It triggers people to get stuck with image management. When you ground yourself in your genuine authentic True Self, you can find your true identity.
The greatest challenge to the True Self is living an incongruent life. When what you feel is different from what you say and what you do, you can get stuck with incongruent living. The truth is everyone is incongruent sometime. But, when it happens over and over again this spells trouble as you begin living a double life. This is the dilemma that an addict must unravel in order to establish consistent long-term sobriety. When what an addict thinks and values is in tune with what he feels, this begins to harmonize with what he says and does resulting in sobriety and serenity.
To accomplish this mindset, you will need to manage paradox. While congruent living is the goal, the reality is that everyone is inconsistent, incongruent and hypocritical in some ways. I have not known an addict in recovery who has always been consistent with every recovery task. For many people, confusion and uncertainty often trigger incongruent living and hypocrisy. The footprint of hypocrisy treads through everyone’s life. Sometimes the impact is major or at times less so. It underscores the human condition. You might be thinking, why try?
Coming to terms with our limits, embracing brokenness, and shortcomings is the recipe for cultivating humility. Without humility, it is impossible to go deep into personal brilliance. People can find personal brilliance in the presence of arrogance, but they won’t go deep enough. Embracing the human condition with humility is the key to going deep so you’ll want to enlist some help.
When incongruent, inconsistent or hypocritical behavior appears, you’ll want to have someone or a group to hold you accountable. The strength of accountability keeps human weakness in check and can be humbling when the reality of shortcomings sets in. So, rather than impersonate sobriety or serenity, an addict in recovery can humbly confess their shortcomings knowing that the power of accountability will call them back to a centered, congruent life. To preserve your True Self, it is necessary to practice telling on yourself.
At a Twelve Step meeting, once you tell everyone your deepest dark shameful secret and feel the acceptance of those attending, it is difficult to return and tell the same people that the behavior you committed to not doing— you did again. There is a fear of rejection and embarrassment even though you are in a room full of addicts. Then, if you have had weeks or years of sobriety, have become a sponsor or a trusted servant in the meetings— there is even greater fear of rejection if you need to honestly disclose that you have been acting out against your values. It is difficult to tell on yourself. Yet, it is absolutely necessary in order to establish congruency. Not just the confession, what is required is a commitment to self and to the group that you will do whatever it takes to get re-centered and live a sober life. You need to do this to find your true authentic self.
Although being your True Self takes hard work, it is the only way to establish confidence toward building an authentic foundation for long-term recovery. When you are trying to be centered, remain sober and true to your heart, there are many distractions to pull you away from focused living and back to your addiction. Here are a few suggestions to help address becoming stuck in your false self and anchor yourself to your authentic true self.
This is difficult for an addict who grew up with an upbringing that emphasized conditional love. Having to meet the standards of someone else will keep you stuck in your false self because you won’t know how to love and accept who you are while addressing hurtful, destructive behaviors. You will feel pressure to fake it in the presence of others who you surmise have learned to make it. Maya Angelou once said “I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.” Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. Practice cocooning yourself with acceptance and love even when you feel valueless. It is especially important to treat yourself valuable and to do the next right thing even when you did not meet the standard. It is not about making it ok to act out or to fail a desired standard, rather it is about finding your significance other than from performance. It is about embracing your sense of being and truly loving that. This will bring you back to your true authentic self.
You will not be able to transform yourself from your false self to your true self without reframing your life experience in not meeting other’s expectations. The power of reframe will help you to accept the reality of disappointing behavior while anchoring your reality in your true authentic self. There is no fraud in separating results, success or failure from your true self.
Circularity is a part of the grieving process—languishing/lingering/going back to the dead carcass of what used to be—is all a part of grieving. There is a time to walk away and never turn back. Yet, many entertain an approach of out of sight out of mind and fail to embrace effective grieving. It is important to grieve the loss of your false self (your addictive behavior) in order to move forward in the development of your true authentic self.
Value can be reclaimed from disappointment and irritating, devastating experiences. When a grain of sand penetrates an oyster’s shell, it irritates the oyster, making it distressed and annoyed. The oyster relieves the discomfort by coating the sand with a moist fluid. When the fluid hardens, a pearl is formed. The very process that healed the oyster creates a precious jewel of great value. Your frustration, failed experience does not need to end by remaining stuck in your false self. You can transform your false self into the pearl of being genuinely who you are by practicing telling on yourself and anchoring into your authentic true self. This is the crucible experience which creates the gold from failed attempts.
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