A leading psychotherapist James Bugental (1965) suggested that the goal of therapy was to help someone discover his true nature, to become his most authentic self. He focused on existential therapy and developed a theory and type of therapy that encouraged a type of personal transformation that entails letting go of specific patterns of relating with oneself and others.
Changing personal paradigms and personal expectations within oneself regarding how one is to feel, act, and interact with those in their environment is a difficult process as one take’s for granted the way in which he sees himself. This sense of self feels like it is instinctive because it is second nature and an instantaneous reaction; indeed it’s just a habit.
The work in parenting is to remain connected to the authentic self, to decrease the unconscious habit reactions to the individual’s environment and to increase more instinctive, mindful, present moment responses to the environment.
The greater a parent’s ability to do this, the greater her positive effect upon her children to create this behavior as a way of being in the world. This would result in present moment analysis of situations and interactions, mindful moment-to-moment decision-making.
Over the years those interested in discovering the authentic self have dabbled in Yoga, Qi gong, focused breathing, and meditation to increase their ability to remain in the present and let go of their attachment to specific outcomes to find their true, undiscovered, self.
The integration of Mindfulness and psychotherapy is a rapidly growing field as a way to address stress, anxiety, disease, and various negative coping strategies. There is new evidence that these together can provide real benefit in these health arenas.
So what does it mean one’s true self, one’s authentic self? This refers to a true inner nature that is covered by the roles and expectations layered over each of us as a result of living in society. Unraveling and un-layering these to get to one’s authentic self requires focused, mindful attention and for many is one of the foci of therapy.
Of course if we could teach our children to not cover over their authentic self they could begin to develop it earlier; find their right labor and right action in their lives before Jung’s Individuation period of the 40’s or Freud’s midlife crisis when one usually re-discovers what he has given up to meet the expectations of his environment.
They could directly develop it rather than have to re-discover it.
I encourage you to investigate these various mindful behaviors to see if you have an attraction to any of them: meditation, focused breathing, yoga, Qi (chi) Gong, or you can practice meditative walking, playing music, or singing.
Any focused ritual of quieting the mind to allow an empty space for information to present itself will provide an opportunity to rediscover or discover your authentic self. We built a Native American style Medicine Wheel in our front yard and filled it with treasures from our walks in the mountains near our home. At night we look for the patterns in the sky above as the constellations change, and sit in the moonlight and meditate on the problems of the day. It’s a peaceful experience and my daughter has taken to it like a duck to water so to speak, especially when she feels out of sorts.
Often just paying attention to your senses in a mindful way; how things, taste, feel, sound, and smell can assist in developing a mindful approach to being in the world.
It’s the beginning of identifying our true nature.
See you tomorrow.