I have been training intensively in Non-Violent Communication (NVC) for 4 years now. One of the most powerful things that NVC teaches is authenticity. If you don’t know what authenticity is, you may not be able to understand what I am going to write about in this blog post, but it may give you a taste.
The power of authenticity is so profound, it is like nothing I have ever experienced in my life.
Many of us grow up in this culture learning to become the person that others want us to be. This is the opposite of authenticity and in the literature of psychology is often referred to a co-dependence. Our sense of self and identity, instead of being authentic, self-referential, grounded, centered, and integrated, becomes other-referential, off-centered, inauthentic, ungrounded, disintegrated or fragmented, and based primarily on projections.
Instead of owning ourselves – our light and shadow, or strengths and weaknesses — we end up projecting these qualities and traits outside of ourselves and onto others. Other people become idealized and put on a pedestal, or demonized, depending on whether we are projecting our light or our shadow.
Through the training and practice of NVC over the past 4 years, I began to own myself and reclaim my authenticity. I learned how to observe without the interpretation, evaluation, and judgement of my stories (projections). I learned how to identify my feelings and needs. I developed a vocabulary of feelings and needs so that I could identify them within myself and express them to others. And I learned how to make requests of myself and others so that my needs would have a better chance of getting met.
Over time, I began to see how my stories, my beliefs, my projections shape my reality and become self-fulfilling prophecies. I saw how, instead of communicating my “reality” in an authentic way, I would do the exact opposite. I would reflect back the “reality” I thought others wanted to see in me, but it was only partly to be “pleasing.” Really it was a way of manipulating others in the subconscious hope that by being what they wanted me to be, by being “pleasing,” I would ultimately be able to get my needs met.
Manipulation and passive-aggression are two sides of the same coin.
Subjugating one’s authenticity (the truth about what one thinks, believes, feels, needs, and values) in order to please others is a form of manipulation. It may appear to be working when others like what they see and respond to it, but in the end 95% of the time only their needs are being met by pleasing them. Unfortunately our own truth and our own needs are still getting subjugated, repressed, and ignored.
So we end up feeling anger, frustration, and resentment. Over time these feelings build up pressure until we explode — either violently or in a passive-aggressive way. Passive-aggression in many ways is actually more violent than the obvious expressions of violence because it can’t be seen. It’s a violence that hides itself, and when you can’t see it, you can’t meet it. So it clobbers you in a way that feels completely obliterating. You didn’t see it coming and you have this feeling like you don’t know what just happened.
It’s more powerful than head-on aggression because it’s “invisible.” It comes out of nowhere, obliterates you, and then disappears again.
But even more enlightening, liberating, and empowering than the realization of how I have subjugated my authenticity behind the “pleasing” masks of manipulation and passive-aggression was the realization that it went even deeper than that.
For most of my life, only up until the past year, I have unconsciously been letting other people “obliterate” my reality. I have noticed that some people I interact with (starting with my mother and father) who each have a very strong sense of their own reality are able to dominate, crush, bulldoze, and obliterate my sense of reality, replacing it with their own.
In other words, I become their projections of me, even if it’s not really who I am.
It’s only been in the past year that I have begun to have glimpses of this truth. But each time it happened, the window through which awareness and the light of consciousness could shine grew larger… until this week when the illumination exploded so vividly in my mind it was like a nuclear bomb. It blew my mind.
For the past 4 years I have been relating to a specific person in my life as his projection of me.
I have been thinking and saying for a very long time, “He doesn’t SEE me.” And to him, I have said more times than I can remember, “You don’t SEE me.”
One morning this week we woke up and had a conversation in which everything converged in my consciousness, and I finally understood. It all became so clear to me. Not only the realization that he doesn’t really SEE me, but that his projection of me has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it’s not even who I am!
That morning I tried to tell him who I am and what I want. He said, “I don’t believe that. I only know one woman who’s like that.”
Well, guess what buddy. You now know two women like that. I realized that if he would actually listen to me, he might find out who I really am. My Authentic Self could emerge in such a way that he could actually SEE me instead of his projections of me.
But even more important than that, I finally saw so clearly how I have allowed other people to dominate and distort my authentic experience of reality, my authentic expression of who I am.
The realization probably wouldn’t have come to me in that moment if it hadn’t been for a number of things all converging at once, starting with the fact that I have become aware of this experience in which another person who believes something (especially about me) so strongly that they press their reality upon me like the way a steamroller presses asphalt down to form a hardened surface.
Up until last summer (2014), I had no awareness that this was even happening to me. Their reality became my reality so seamlessly that I thought it was my own.
Yet, once I had been training in NVC for 3 years, developing the capacity to identify my own authentic experience of reality and who I am, and express it to others, I began to see the incongruity when another person would begin to dominate and press their reality upon me. The part of me that was becoming more aware would say, “Hey wait a minute. What you are saying… the assumptions you’re making… especially about me… they’re just not true!”
What has amazed me even more than this awareness emerging in my consciousness over the past year, is that it doesn’t even require that they speak. It happens on an energetic, subconscious level. Just being in their energetic presence, whether in person, on the phone, or through email, is enough. Like a powerful wave of energy, like a tsunami, it obliterates and reshapes my reality before they have even spoken a word. I take on their projection of me before they have even told me what they believe about me.
Obviously my own authentic identity has fought to exist in spite of this phenomenon. And because I have only begun to get glimpses of this truth in the past year, and because I have only this week come to realize that, yes, this is what has been happening to me my whole life, and I know that from this point on I will not allow it to happen any longer, I feel a bit “wiped out.” This has been the battle to end all battles.
I have had to fight the battle of my life… literally. I have spent my whole life fighting for this moment when I could finally give myself permission to be who I truly am, my Authentic Self.
The battle isn’t over yet, but for now, it’s time to rest… breathe… and be… me.