Updated: Jul 2, 2021
It's Thanksgiving today. An American tradition that I know very little about as a South African :)
The one thing I can detect though is the challenge that many will have returning to their families. Many old themes may come up and if you peruse social media there are many postings on how to navigate delicate discussions/situations that may arise. And when it's all done you can breathe a sigh of relief that you have another year until the next time.
It brought me to thinking about family and the masks we wear around them (and others) and why we feel we must behave in a certain way when we are around them. I am sure there are many who have good and fairly honest relationships with their family members. Sure, they might not mention certain things that they know will initiate a heated discussion around the dinner table. And then there are others who literally have to keep as much of their personal information as secret as possible.
I spent years being one of those who kept everything as secret as possible, skirting around what I was doing and keeping everything very simple and on a need to know basis (mostly they didn't need to know anything!)
I couldn't bear the raised eyebrows and awkward silences if ever I did divulge some of what I was getting up to. I tried telling them I was a hypnotherapist once. That went down like a ton of bricks. They found out I sang sanskrit mantras and released some spiritual albums a few years later. That ended VERY poorly with a 2 year period of my Mother not talking to me.
And yet this was only the tip of the iceberg.....
The masks we wear
According to Madisyn Taylor's "How to catch a liar", there are four different kinds of lies;
Also, there are 4 different kinds of liars.
1. Occasional liars - they try their best to be honest most of the time, and will lie only when pushed into a corner but definitely feel guilty about it. These folk are terrible liars and tend to give themselves away easily.
2. Frequent liars - they tend to lie more regularly than the first group, and while they are not habitual liars they are possibly a little too comfortable with the lies they tell. They are however still aware how their lies can affect them and the people around them.
3. Compulsive liars - will lie impulsively and effortlessly as being inauthentic has become a bit of an addiction/habit.
4. Sociopathic liars - these folks will lie without flinching, knowing full well it could damage the reputation or well being of another person. In fact they tend to get a rush from knowing their lies will do damage to others.
I've had dealings with all of sorts of people in my life and work, some more authentic than others. As I have progressed on my spiritual path, I have had to grow in compassion for all of them, recognising the true source of their need to be inauthentic.
And mostly the source is fear.
Now that we are clear on the types of lies we tell and the types of liars there are out there, where do you find yourself within that mix?
It wasn't until I looked deeply into myself to see how I have been inauthentic, that I could start to forgive others who have lied to me, and who have lied about me.
Some questions I asked myself were:
Do you believe that you are an authentic person?
What does that even mean?
What masks are you placing over your true nature to survive?
How accurate is your social media profile compared to who you really are?
Another word that walks hand in hand with authenticity is vulnerability. And in this day in age, vulnerability is often perceived as a death sentence (other than by a small group of those on a dedicated spiritual path and all the Brene' Brown fans).
So how would you respond to these questions?
1. Can you speak and live your truth even in the face of adversity/judgement/disapproval?
2. How many times have you compromised yourself in order to maintain a status quo, to fit in, to be perceived as acceptable or lovable? Possibly to be safe or to keep someone else safe?
Sacred plant medicine is a wonderful tool for helping us to see what we have become and also to see who we truly are. Ayahuasca in particular (if done correctly) will first show us all those sad, dark, vengeful and judgemental places within ourselves that we were possibly blind to, or choose not to see. And eventually, it will also show us that even deeper down, we are all pure love. It's a challenging path of self discovery though!
Personally, I've had a profound journey with coming to terms with who I am and my own inauthenticity with sacred plant medicine.
Because accepting who I am, meant I would lose all the people closest to me.
I grew up as a Jehovah's Witness from birth. I would say I know a lot about compromising my essence for the sake of family, friends, community, and security.
Don't get me wrong, I truly loved God and I felt a deep connection to something higher than myself whenever I prayed. But for fear of retribution not only from Jehovah but also from my parents, I kept so much of my inner world hidden and could not reveal who I truly was.
I began to perceive spirits from other realms as a five-year-old, ancestral spirits and the spirits of others, and at this time I became very anxious. I bit my nails down until they bled. I often felt phantom pain in my body and I couldn't sleep at night while these beings touched my forehead and snuggled up to me. I would have the most terrifying nightmares and when I woke up, I often felt them trying to get into my body, feeling their heaviness on top of me. I would beg my mother to let me sleep in her room, crying and banging on her door.
She warned me that she would get rid of all my toys if I continued to behave like this. She believed that my fairytale books and dolls were the cause of these "spirit visits". I couldn't stop being terrified by what I could not understand. Soon after, I watched, distraught as all my beloved toys and cherished books were burnt in the bbq in front of me.
That was when I realized that I could never be my authentic self.
I decided at that moment (as a then six-year-old), to suffer in silence because I was not loveable nor did I deserve to have any toys (and later, pleasure) if I was honest or vulnerable.
That became my revolving inner story.
When was your first moment of realizing you had to hide who you were? I'm sure you have a memory too. And what masks have you put on to hide your fear, your perceived weaknesses, insecurity or feelings of low self-worth?
Who do (or did) you wear them for?
Is it any surprise then, that in this world built on layer upon layer of inauthenticity, that authenticity is something we both value and detest? Something we may fear more than anything else because of the great cost of being honest?
This makes sense considering we exist within a dualistic reality. We as humans have the astounding ability to go from loving something to hating something within minutes. I have witnessed this phenomenon frequently in my own mother.
What is it about the truth that we as humans struggle with?
Is it our inability to accept the truth?
Is it the inability of others to accept the truth?
Is it a deeper knowing that truth is really subjective?
How do we know when a version that we perceive of the truth is universal?
For example, my mother believes that her religion is the truth. The JWs have even lovingly named their faith "The Truth". Such a powerful culture focused around the Truth (still yet a selective Truth, an exclusive Truth) caused me to believe so deeply in my own badness/wrongness.
Even after I had left home at eighteen, I chose to keep who I was a secret from my family. Revealing who and what I was and being fully authentic meant I would lose them forever.
So instead, I donned the mask of the entertainer, of the pacifist and the lost, little sister. I pushed my rage and resentment towards them deep down because I would rather suffer in silence and be perceived as weak than be open about who I was.
It became even worse when I began practicing shamanic healing (!) When I began drinking Ayahuasca, my perceptive and intuitive abilities were pulled right out into the open for me to look at. All those years I had tried to ignore who I was under layers of denial, were pulled off like a thick and crusty band-aid, and underneath was a seeping wound of self loathing. I was pulled onto a destiny path of retrieving my true essence in a not so comfortable way.
I heard once that some secrets are so heavy they change the way we walk. And here I was, working with spirits. Opening up myself to channeling them. Healing with their help. And this is the worst offense anyone who was ever baptized as a JW could ever do! And the longer I kept this secret from my family, the more 'problems' and misunderstandings arose between us.
It took me 36 years to finally disclose who and what I really was to my family. The hypnotherapy and the mantra singing I was chastised for was the least of my worries! Essentially it wasn't even me who confessed at first about my connection to shamanism. A well-known women's magazine in France and then in South Africa too (where my family is) ran an article on my ex-husband's and my shamanic work together in 2014. The publishing of the South African article I was not aware of. And of course, my half-sister in South Africa saw it and shared it with the whole family....
It was terrifying. I finally had to face all my fears of losing my family for good and be honest with them about what I do. I could no longer deny it to them or to myself. I could no longer skirt around it.
And I did lose them. That was the price I had to pay for being authentic and standing in my truth.
Despite my deeply buried fury towards them because I felt I HAD to hide who I was from them for so long, I have also realized that I have lied more to my family than to anyone else. I lied to be seen as "ok" and loveable, giving them the false hope that perhaps I might just come back to their faith someday. I can justify it as much as I want, and yet I can not avoid the fact that I lived a lie out of fear. And I am ashamed of how cowardly I was.
Those who know me would probably say that I seem to be unafraid of anything. And yet here I was, afraid of myself. I was afraid of who I was because that was unacceptable and unlovable. And worst of all, not being honest about who I am, was only extending my own pain and keeping me 'small'.
My family are who they are, and they don't seem like they will change anytime soon. They are honest about that much. "Why should I not be honest", I thought.
Being alone without connection was one of the deepest fears I had and the JWs surely played on that to keep their flock intact. After 41 years on this planet, I have finally healed myself enough to be ok with being alone. I know that my lesson through all this was to learn how to stand on my own two feet. It was a harsh lesson, but I have embraced it as my friend.
And now, I can be a compassionate advocate for authenticity (and understanding of inauthenticity) in all its forms. I feel that by continuing to be inauthentic, we are only reconstituting and strengthening the field of duality. As long as this happens, we will continue to feel separated from each other, and Earth will continue to struggle with 3rd-dimensional issues such as scarcity/poverty and war.
Yet, it is a slow process of spiritual growth for all of us that requires patience.
Even now, I can not say that I am 100% authentic. I still have masks I wear in certain situations. I sometimes smile and laugh when I don't feel like it. I often cast aside my own burdens to lift others up, sometimes to my own detriment. A certain level of inauthenticity, I feel, is unavoidable for all of us at this moment in our development and evolution. We are all on our way to evolving into 5th-dimensional awareness, or at least, if you are still reading this, then my hope is that you are on your way!
Some still cling to the old well-worn paradigms. And even parts of us may still hold on and revert back to the old ways in times of stress.
Remember who you are
Acknowledging who we are to ourselves can be the most painful part of our spiritual growth. Being vulnerable to the judgment of others can be most terrifying!
Perhaps we are just not comfortable with what is hidden beneath our masks yet. Are we really protecting others by being inauthentic about how we feel? Or are we just protecting ourselves?
Just how many times have you thought to yourself, "this is really NOT where I want to be" or "how did I get into THIS situation?" or "why is this happening to ME?"
Well, the concept of boundaries can not be fully actualized until we are honest with ourselves and then with others about what we feel and what we truly need.
The day is coming when our masks will be removed for us. Everyone has a different name for it, but we all have a deep knowing that it's coming.
Who will you be in that time of great disclosure?
Have you remembered who you are yet?
So how do we live authentically in an inauthentic world?
NB: I am not advocating striking out on a "purge" mission to tell people EXACTLY what you think of them. The process of finding your authentic self need not be apocalyptic.