Authenticity comes from Sharing what You Are Feeling As You Are Feeling It.
“Authenticity” from the book Pillars of Awesome Relationships.
Emotional expression is sharing how we feel with another person, in a good way, as we are feeling it, which leads to authenticity. Great relationships are based on effective emotional communication—in fact, without it, we can’t have true intimacy or true authenticity. The simplest example of communicating an emotion is to say, “I feel ______.” I often challenge couples to only make “feeling” statements for a week, they are amazed at how much closer they feel because of the authenticity they generate. It is amazing how much we can express while only stating our feelings and desires.
Emotional expression is not about what we think, sharing our thoughts can actually block authenticity in a lot of circumstances. “I feel you are insensitive,” is not a feeling statement. That’s stating an opinion. However, “I feel annoyed when I feel like you don’t hear me,” is a feeling statement and a better example of authenticity. To be able to express what we feel, we of course must first be aware of what it is we are feeling—that’s why this is the last step in the Fonzi Method. I will Post later describing the full Fonzi Method, the conflict resolution method and authenticity method outlined in Pillars of Awesome Relationships.
A couple in their mid-30s sat in my office talking about an argument they’d had about money the day before. Shortly after they began talking about the fight, they started fighting again in my office. The husband kept saying, “You shouldn’t spend so much money. You spend too much money.” Because he wasn’t sharing his feelings, the statement was devoid of authenticity and did nothing to get them closer. These statements felt like attacking criticism to his wife, and she felt like he was trying to control her. Both of these feelings struck a nerve, an unhealed hurt, from her childhood, if she had had the emotional and communication resources to share how she felt from a place of authenticity, then things would have gone better.
She did what most people do when they feel attacked: she defended herself – not an act of authenticity. To that end, she began justifying her spending habits, but to her husband, this just discounted all of his arguments about why she shouldn’t spend so much money. In turn, this outraged him because he felt like she didn’t care about their finances, which was something he often worried about. Not surprisingly, the argument got pretty heated, pretty fast. The tragedy is that the entire argument would have never happened with a healthy infusion of authenticity from them both.
When I intervened, I asked him how he was feeling at the exact moment when he realized she had spent money the day before. “She spends too much money,” he replied. I said that he had not expressed a feeling. He did a half eye roll and said, “I feel like she spends too much money.” I sarcastically commended him for using the feeling statement form and again pointed out that he had not expressed a feeling, guiding him towards authenticity. I offered: mad, sad, glad, or afraid. I asked him to take a moment to take a few breaths and check-in with his gut. After he did this, he admitted, “I was scared.” This was a statement of authenticity!
What followed was beautiful. Once he quit trying to win the argument with his wife, he was able to get in touch with the real issue underneath their financial argument, the major element of authenticity. He went on to say that when she spends money, he feels pressure to make more, (a good statement in authenticity). His business is struggling due to a shift in his industry’s technology and he is scared that his business might fail (another feeling statement promoting authenticity). I asked him to make eye contact with his wife and tell her how scared he is (an act of authenticity).
He looked at her and made a sort of apologetic smile and said, “I want you to be able to spend all the money you want. I don’t want you to even have to think about it. And right now, I am so scared that we are going to lose everything. I feel so much pressure to provide for us. I want to provide so much and I am scared our whole business is going to fail. When you spend money, I get mad because it feels like another reminder of how close to losing everything we are.” Then he continued, his voice softening even more, “It feels like just another one of my daily reminders that I am a failure.”
This type of sharing leads to authenticity and spiritual awakening in relationships.
By sharing his feelings at a deeper level, the tone of the conversation shifted from argumentative to compassionate. She immediately warmed up to him and moved to sit closer to him, and then she apologized for spending so much. She acknowledged that she had spent a lot of money that was not necessary and that she didn’t know he felt so much stress. The two had dropped into a place of close emotional connection, the intimacy was palpable, and I found myself smiling for them.
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