Caring for your nervous system when everything is falling apart

by Sara Ness

The world has, by all accounts, gotten more polarized in the last few years. Polls by More in Common and the Pew Research center show that since the 90s, people have gotten steadily more identified with strict party lines and sweeping, identity group-based beliefs. This means that even within families or friends, we run into fights about what is RIGHT, what is WRONG, and - worse - WHO is right and wrong. Every conversation about gender or vaccination or Trump turns into a fight.

Why does this happen? I’ve been reading Peter T. Coleman’s marvelous book I, in preparation for a course I’ll be teaching for Rebel Wisdom on having hard conversations (look out for the link next week!). Coleman talks about the idea of ATTRACTOR PATTERNS, self-reinforcing systems that only get more entrenched over time. Think of the fights you and your partner or you and your family get into, that always feel like they end the same way. We tend to think of these problems like...

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The 3 Most Important Books for Authentic Relating

Very few things emerge completely out of nothing.

There's a process of mapping the territory, experimenting, documenting and cataloging, and always always continuing to learn.

The practice of Authentic Relating was born from a cocktail of personal experience, studies, social experimentation, and of course: some amazing books.

So if you want to dig in to the more theoretical and intellectual side of Authentic Relating, here are a few books we think are just plain foundational!

Getting Real: 10 Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life. Susan Campbell

According to Authentic Relating teacher Jason Digges, "This was the original book that we all used as source material before AR had anything written down. Susan Campbell is a gem of a teacher." If you're familiar with Authentic Relating in any capacity, a lot of Campbell's core concepts might feel familiar. The ten truth skills include Letting Yourself Be Seen, Taking Back Projections, Saying No, Welcoming...

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Life and Death: A Games Night Plan

authentic relating Oct 19, 2021

I planned to write, this week, about the Authentic Leadership and Facilitation Training. Of anything I've created that is the most involved and Sara-esq program, a synthesis of 3 years of facilitation experience. My underlying hope was that some of you might even want to attend. We were meant to do two trainings this month - one in Austin Nov. 21-23, one in Baton Rouge Nov. 14-16. Then, two nights ago, the woman who was organizing the Baton Rouge training called to tell me her son (a core and much-loved member of the Austin authentic and Ecstatic Dance communities) had been killed in Houston, on his way to Louisiana's first Games Night.

Writing this, I feel a cold, spacious depth in my chest. A heaviness in my eyes. Tired, resigned, and sad.

I went to Burning Man, a few months ago, with the intent of experiencing and accepting the cycle of life and death. I wanted to be surrounded by an explosion of exquisite creativity. I wanted to know that all that beauty was going to end. When...

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The Relating Languages Part 2: Stress and Safety in Connection

by Sara Ness

Why is it that sometimes we can be our “best selves” — grounded, connected, and aware — and sometimes, we’re a total relational mess?

Personality typing systems give us a general concept of who we are. I’m an “Enneagram 7” — enthusiastic, scattered, and adventuresome. I’m an “ENFP” — extroverted, intuitive, feeling, and prospecting. These systems have helped me understand myself, but they sometimes break down in relationship to other humans. Then, I seem to be not one type but many.

Why do I sometimes feel extroverted, and other times want to hide? Why am I intuitive when I feel clear on my role, and totally blocked when the situation feels chaotic or unclear?

I think we need a new system to complement those we have. A system that deals specifically with communication types, and how they change, and how they interact. A system that I call the Relating Languages.

In this article, I’ll talk...

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The Relating Languages Part 1, or Why We Don’t All Just Get Along


by Sara Ness

Hi, I’m Sara, and I am an awkwardvert.

An awkwardvert (self-titled) is a mix of extrovert tendencies with a lot of social anxiety. I want to meet you, but I also want to run away. I have always struggled with, and searched for, answers to the following questions:

What are the rules for relating? The unspoken social norms that everyone seems to understand? The right words to use? The right activities to offer? The amount I should speak, or listen?

These constant curiosities led me to become a connection teacher. Who better to teach communication than someone who has parsed it out of need? I teach mostly through facilitation, leading others to discover their own norms and way of being. Over the last decade, I’ve found something interesting.

I tried to come up with universal “rules” of behavior. Yet, people are different (profound realization, I know). Some like small talk, some judge it. Some ask questions, some never do. Some don’t seem...

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What does “Authentic” mean?

by Sara Ness


“It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.” — Abraham Harold Maslow


What does authentic mean?

Is authenticity total honesty in all your words and actions? Is it following your impulses, your emotions, or your beliefs? Is it integrity? Is it a popular word that writers use to get more hits on Google?

I’ve spent the past seven years teaching authentic connection. I’ve worked with thousands of students across multiple countries, and one constant issue participants run into is “finding their authentic truth.” 


What Does Authentic Mean, And Why Is It So Hard To Find?

So really, what does authentic mean? Why does it seem so difficult to find “true authenticity”?

Imagine a city. 

It’s huge, sprawling, filled with alleyways and shops that you could never explore in a year of looking. The city has many entrances. It belongs to you,...

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Learning How to Fuck Up

authentic relating Feb 13, 2019

by Sara Ness


What if “you did it wrong!” could be a compliment?

Our culture tends to penalize mistakes. When someone does a “wrong thing” – hits on a woman who doesn’t want it, lies, fails to keep a commitment – they are likely to end up in trouble. Our system is far more interested in retributive (punishment) than restorative (learning and repairing) solutions to people-problems.

The only problem with this is that it isn’t actually how people learn.

Around 350 BCE, Aristotle wrote: “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them”. We learn by reading and researching, by seeing examples, but most of all by TRYING things, and often getting them wrong.

Imagine a woman who has repressed her sexuality all her life. Growing up, she got the model that “flaunting” herself through fancy clothes or flirtation was wrong, maybe even immoral. She saw her parents dress conservatively....

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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...

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The Pain of Presence

authentic relating May 27, 2014

by Sara Ness

I never know how to start an article.

I have practiced authenticity and transformational work for years now, and I still don’t know how to begin a sentence that will touch people to their bones.  I don’t know what to say when a friend tells me that their parents have passed away, or when somebody I love tells me that they don’t feel the same.

I started doing Authentic Relating – like so many people do – looking for a “solution”. I didn’t feel broken, but… there were things in my life that I knew could be improved.  I was in a fairly dysfunctional relationship.  I felt uncertain about my major in college, and my life beyond that.  I didn’t have much connection with my body or the physical experience of being me.  I wanted to fix all of that.

Well, two years later, I can successfully say that nothing about me has been fixed.

Some days it drives me crazy.  After all the work...

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