The Process of Authenticity

by Sara Ness

After 3 years of leading communities, and encountering every sort of capital-T bolded-letters you’re-wrong-if-you-don’t-agree TRUTH, I’ve discovered that authenticity – as in, “my TRUTH is paramount for me to bring to the world” – is itself a subjective idea. I love discovering what’s true for me, through my body, emotions, mind, and environment. But I no longer assume that TRUTH is such a permanent state.

What I feel, experience, want, and believe changes moment by moment and day by day. How I communicate it is also a process in flux. There is no Wrong or Right. The most pain I see is when people attach to their TRUTH as an identity, and die a little death every time it’s questioned.

Authenticity and relating are both parts of a wider whole. In this world, there is no definitive Right or Wrong; there is no ground. This is terrifying. No ground? No certainty by which to know even my own subjective TRUTH? But – in an equally personal perspective – I believe this is the case.

To live in the world, I can’t accept the world, or myself, by degrees. I have to accept ALL of it.

  • The society and economics that require me to work a job I might not enjoy
  • The genocides that happen from differing views on love and justice
  • The conflicts within my own field, and the anger and pain that surround them.

Any part of the world that I resist, is a part that I cannot fully participate in, and therefore cannot fully accept. Any part that I can’t accept becomes something even more terrifying – a thing over which, even in my awareness, I have no control. And if I have no control, the world (and my own self) becomes something I’m subject to, rather than something in which I’m privileged to take part.

I’ve tried to break this down a little more, into the steps that I see authenticity take – going from AUTHENTIC RELATING to “authentic relating…?” It’s a light blasphemy to my field, but I hope you’ll enjoy.


Step 1: We discover our truth

For many of us, “truth” is the set of beliefs and values that we’ve been taught – by our parents, schools, religion, and friends. As a first step, we can start getting in touch with the TRUTH that comes from within. We can tune into our somatic experience (what we feel in our bodies), our emotions, watch our thoughts, and even begin to notice the beliefs as they arise. In Authentic Relating, much of this starts with focus on the body, because that’s the most-neglected site in Western upbringing; but any source of input, external or internal, is something that you can begin to distinguish.

Step 2: We start telling our truth

Here is where “Relating” comes in. We start to communicate what’s TRUE for us to others. I like to say that “you know truth by the tingles” – if you’re scared to say something, feel hot in the face after you’ve said it, or feel tingles, it’s probably something true for you. As we begin telling our TRUTH, it sometimes looks like a fire hose that’s been turned on and is soaking everything around. We share all the fears, judgments, hopes, and insecurities that we’ve been holding in for years…and we don’t necessarily do it cleanly, or with a felt sense of our TRUTH-receiver’s reality.

Step 3: People get mad at us

This is where it starts getting fun. When we begin telling TRUTH, the people around us react. They might seem scared, or angry, or even envious. Not only is there a greater possibility that our TRUTH will cause conflict, but the telling also calls them out to identify their own TRUTH (not always a comfortable process), and it changes their familiar image of who we are.

There’s a lot of fear involved in this process. On our side, we might revert to less-resourced patterns of dealing with conflict – fight, flight, or freeze. We may begin to distance from many of the people, communities, jobs, etc. that have until now formed our inner network.

Step 4: We become Transformers

After we get past the initial fight-flight-or-freeze, we tend to open more into empathy. We start being able to see things from others’ point of view, to include different perspectives on the TRUTH and different TRUTHS on perspective. This is like a superpower. Not only can I understand my own perspective, but I can take yours as well! While I tell my TRUTH, I can stay attuned to what you might be thinking or feeling…which will influence what, when, if, and how I decide to speak.

From this place, we can have more empathy for where others are at. As a bonus, me understanding you tends to make you more open to hearing me, so our conversations will probably get less tense.

At this phase, we might start to re-include the parts of life that we’ve distanced, albeit with more discernment about what does and doesn’t fit the people we’re becoming.

Step 5: We develop choice

Our TRUTH becomes something we can witness emerging, but don’t have to be attached to. We become more spacious around conflict and responses. We can see the subjectivity of both our TRUTH and others’, and we can hold our own preferences within that range. If there is no “right” or “wrong”, why not have our own joy as our guide?

We also start seeing larger Truths that feel more true, often Truths that include many perspectives at the same time, and begin trying to live by those while still discovering our own. The discovery begins to feel less like work and more like play.

Step 6: We stop looking

We realize that truth, Truth, and TRUTH are already always here, already always occurring…and we ourselves are both co-creator and witness.

We moderate our grand quests for purpose; we hold our self-examination lightly. We recognize that our bodies, minds, and hearts are not the only source of our wisdom. We begin to take part rather than trying to guide.

truth and relating begin to emerge…

So, what is the matter with authenticity?

Nothing, really. Except that when I hold authenticity as equal to TRUTH and RELATING, I experience pain. The places where the world doesn’t accept my reality, or I don’t accept its, become sources of disconnection and frustration.

When I connect to Truth and Relating, instead of standing opposite to everything, I stand beside it. My authenticity becomes less solid, but also less breakable. I am watching Truth emerge – and I’m doing it with you.

When I rest in truth and relating, “I” don’t even matter. I might not even be able to tell you my TRUTH, because having just one seems laughable! Everything is existing, and that’s all that happens.

Of course, “truth” might be a hard place to live…

And I can’t connect to Truth until I have some idea of my TRUTH

So once again (sorry guys), there’s no hard and fast answer here. There’s just an interplay. All forms of truth, and all forms of relating, arising and co-arising, creating the world in which we come to live.


What a beautiful thing….



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