Friday, August 21, 2009

What Is Emotional Authenticity?

Whenever I really want to understand a phrase, I like to look up the words in a dictionary. (A side benefit of my word obsession is that I'm a HOT scrabble player. :-)) So before we get into the practical experience and applications of emotional authenticity in your business, let's look at what it MEANS.

According to the Farlex Free Online Dictionary, "authenticity" is a noun meaning:
the quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine.

Here are two relevant definitions for "authentic:"
1. conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief;
2. having a claimed and verifiable origin or authorship; not counterfeit or copied.

"Emotional" is an adjective meaning:
1. Of or relating to emotion: an emotional illness; emotional crises.
2. Readily affected with or stirred by emotion: an emotional person who often weeps.
3. Arousing or intended to arouse the emotions: an emotional appeal.
4. Marked by or exhibiting emotion: an emotional farewell.

Taken together, "emotional authenticity" could be described as the genuine exhibition of emotion. Emotional authenticity is a common Life Lesson that shows up in people's fingerprints when I do hand analysis sessions. It also happens to be my Life Lesson. As a result, when I sometimes attempt to describe the lesson, my mind goes a bit fuzzy, even blank, since this issue affects me at my core.

Emotional authenticity is the foundation for unconditional love of one's self. If we judge any part of our emotional experience, those emotions get stuck, creating emotional baggage. You then get to haul the emotional baggage around with you. Emotional baggage is heavy and it's exhausting for you and the people around you.

Ideally, emotional authenticity works like this:
1. You have an experience that triggers an emotional response
2. You ask yourself, "What am I feeling?"
3. You acknowledge the feeling with FEELING words: sad, angry, happy, joyful, guilty, anxious
4. You express the feeling by:
  • expressing it to the person you felt triggered by: "George, I feel anxious when..."
  • expressing it fully and completely
  • expressing it appropriately (You learn what "appropriate" is ONLY by practicing emotional authenticity.)
  • doing it AGAIN if you don't succeed the first time
However, what happens for most of us when we're in the "lesson" experience of emotional authenticity is that we don't feel the original authentic emotion but default to another emotion that is an imposter emotion - a mask - for our real feelings. For example, let's say you're afraid people won't like the new product you're rolling out for your business. You fear that if your customers don't like it, they won't buy it. If they don't buy it, you'll go out of business. That's how fear works... right down the rabbit hole to the worst-case scenario.

So, instead of feeling your fear, you get anxious instead. You're not sure why. Maybe you find you're not sleeping well at night or you're obsessively going over the details again and again with your partner - effectively driving them and yourself crazy. Maybe you find yourself wrapped up in activities that have little or nothing to do with your primary work goals ("procrastination") or you're blaming someone for your anxiety. "If so and so hadn't said such and such, I wouldn't be feeling this way. It's their fault I'm feeling this way..." Uh-huh.

NOW... if you'd like to get back to that yummy, scrumptious, at-one-with-yourself feeling called unconditional love, you're going to have to feel the yicky, yucky, gross feelings. You cannot bypass them. I repeat: YOU CANNOT BYPASS YOUR AUTHENTIC FEELINGS.

If you do bypass your authentic feelings, you are apt to do so in the following ways:
1. Stuff 'em (I'll just hold this in and pretend "I'm fine.")
2. Deny 'em (Anxiety? What anxiety? I just feel like working all night tonight, okay???!!!)
3. Blame yourself or someone else for 'em (If I hadn't done that, I wouldn't be feeling this!)
4. Hide out from 'em (I'll just wait 'til this blows over. Nap anyone?)
5. Rationalize, justify and explain 'em (You see, the reason I'm feeling this way is that my mother and father spent too much time correcting me in my youth and blah, blah, blah...)
6. Take responsibility for someone else's feelings (Oh, I wish I hadn't said that. Now George is upset. If only I'd kept my mouth shut.)

How does this apply to your business? Just yesterday, a client emailed me. He was upset. He'd misunderstood our verbal agreement on a proposal. No formal work had been contracted for. At first, I got upset in response to his upset. But when I took a step back, and really felt my feelings of fear and anxiety, it was readily apparent that my client was having a rough day and that his anger had very little to do with our verbal work agreement. When I called him and simply said, "Hey, how are you doing?" He said, "Ah, I'm going through a lot right now." And we worked out the agreement in about three minutes. I didn't take responsibility for his feelings, nor did I blame myself for his upset. My feelings are my feelings and only I am responsible for them.

My client said to me later that day, "I was really impressed by your emotional sensitivity. Your reaction surprised me. You didn't blame me or get upset in response." By honoring MY feelings and expressing appropriately - in this case, realizing I was getting upset over something that had nothing to do with me, I was able to find a calm space to communicate with my client. That calm space held the energy of unconditional love.

What would unconditionally loving yourself and your clients do for your business???

The reason emotional authenticity is a LIFE lesson is that the people who own this lesson,at their core, fear that if they are truly, 100% themselves and "out there" with their feelings, they will be judged, corrected, rejected or at the very worst, found "unlovable." Since that's "unbearable," the hamster wheel spins and spins as the person attempts to outrun their authentic feelings and dives into smokescreen feelings to hide from the source of their emotional unrest.

Here's my Coach's Challenge for you this week:
The next time something or someone causes a strong emotional reaction in you - positive or negative - ask yourself, "What am I really feeling RIGHT NOW?" See if you can stay with your authentic emotions before getting sidetracked into more comfortable modes of behavior.


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