Discovering the Authentic Self

Successful women

Counsellors sometimes tell young people to simply be themselves. Sometimes the response to this is on the lines of — ‘If I’m myself I simply sit in the corner and don’t say anything’.

It’s not that this is bad advice, it’s that discovering the authentic self is a lifetime journey. If it was so simple as just being yourself most counsellors would be out of a job. Someone said that all depression can be linked back to a lack of appreciation of the authentic self. I think there’s a lot of truth in this. I’ve written before about the difference between males and females in their association with their authenticity.

Women enjoy a camaraderie, a sense of belonging with their group. The downside of this is that it suppresses their own inner feelings when these go against the group. There’s a desire to conform.

Men on the other hand are ashamed of their authenticity, and the feminisation of our society serves to increase this. Women, it seems, should be proud to be women. On the other hand, many aspects of masculinity are perceived to be destructive. When men have natural sexual desires, aggressive feelings etc they are told that these are ‘bad’ so instead of learning to understand these feelings they are suppressed, sometimes with catastrophic consequences.

So when the counsellor tells the inhibited young man to simply be themselves and the man makes clumsy and misconceived sexual advances to a women, is that what the counsellor meant? Presumably not. As someone said — you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge, but in Western societies we don’t acknowledge these feelings.

The pressures are not just on men however. Women are expected to be ‘strong’ without any real understanding of what real strength is. Women who are simply spoken to in inappropriate ways complain that they have been harassed. In previous times (say, 20 or 30 years ago) such behaviour would have been normal. Women now consider that they are being strong because they complain. In reality, real strength would be to walk away unbothered by the encounter. When I wrote that women should do self defence courses I was told that I was blaming the victim and men should not harass women. Ironically, in some respects women have been reduced to a parody of the 1950’s housewife — completely helpless and dependant on men to change for their own own happiness.

Many traits previously seen as masculine, such as assertiveness or ambition, are now considered ‘bad’ when exhibited by men but healthy in women. So men become ashamed of themselves and women are expected to conform to a standard that they may not be comfortable with. Of course, in the past some women were not comfortable with conforming the idea of having children and some men were not comfortable with the idea of being the breadwinner, but replacing one set of stereotyped ideals with another is not progress, and the result has been to disseminate unhappiness as people get cut off from their true feelings.

By Philip Braham on .



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