Authentic connection

Pamela J. Reed, MA, LPCC, CCTP

What does it mean to be authentic? Merriam Webster’s definition includes the following: (1) not false or imitation; (2) true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character. What does it mean to have an authentic connection with others? How do we communicate with one another in way that is not false, that is not imitation and is true to our own personality, spirit, and character?

I have come to understand that we experience authentic or inauthentic connection within the subtleties of our communications. How do we know when someone is being their authentic self? We feel it. We know it. Yet, it can be difficult to describe. Sometimes it is easier to describe something not by what it is, but what it isn’t. So, how do we experience someone being inauthentic?

Dissonance, or a lack of harmony is one way to describe this experience. Dissonance within communication can take several forms, all of which have a distinct energetic feel that can cause a negative reaction within the recipient of the communication. Patients of mine who are highly sensitive have a skilled radar for inauthenticity. And some feel heartbroken by it. We all crave authentic connection, wanting others to see us for who we truly are. When we are in the presence of those with more self-absorbed or narcissistic tendencies, communication feels one-sided. We are acutely aware that the conversation involves only one person. The dissonance is in the person’s lack of self-awareness and of others.

Social media can promote inauthentic connection and communication. In all our communications with others, we should ask ourselves, “what does this communication serve?” Many times, specifically with social media, communication serves the ego. Eckhart Tolle, the spiritual teacher and self-help author, describes the ego as “the external image we have of ourselves”. I am not suggesting that all communication through social media is inauthentic. Social media has united and connected us in ways that have brought positive change to our world. I am only suggesting that it can also be used to propagate inauthentic versions of ourselves because of the powerful need for external validation.

Communication through social media is greatly affected by external factors. We can lose ourselves easily due to our inherent need to belong and be accepted by others. However, when we are guided externally, we encourage suffering. When we are guided by internal forces, i.e., being true to who we are and what we value, communications become natural, easy, authentically ours.

Ask yourself, how do you connect with others? Are you being true to yourself in your communications? If not, what would it take to live a more authentic life?