Alexander Lowen describes in his book Narcissism how modern society turns us into feeling-less beings, narcissistic creatures that are cut off from our true emotions. In fact, Lowen defines narcissism as the absence of contact with one’s own feelings. Modern capitalist society is focused on competition, results and maximising profit.
People walk around with a poker-face, hiding their true feelings by any means. A man isn’t allowed to cry or show vulnerability and a woman isn’t supposed to show anger or stand up strong for herself. It’s interesting that depression is one of the main mental illnesses of our time, when psychiatrists define depression as the absence of any feelings (many people confuse depression with an intense form of sadness, yet depression is contrary the suppression and absence of any feelings).
The point I’m trying to make is this: Cutting off from our true feelings and emotions, for whatever reason, is neurotic. In this article I’m going to present three steps to being more in touch with your true feelings and becoming more authentic as a person. The suggested tips are based on Wilhelm Reich’s three layers of emotions: Tertiary, secondary and primary emotions.
1. Become aware of your social conditioning
The tertiary layer of emotions can also be described as the mask. Our friends, family and society have a certain image of us, certain expectations and values. And every day becomes a battle to living up to those external standards. As men we try to hold back our sadness and insecurities, because we were taught that it’s not masculine. And as women we are told to be skinny and look good and be soft. Who’s standards are these? They’re not yours. You’ve introjected them and falsely made them yours, but these external standards and expectations didn’t naturally grow from your own self-contact. They’re socially conditioned. It’s your mask.
Become more aware that what you think you are, is partially located in this tertiary level. If you’re trying to act cool, or trying to be a queen, or feeling that you always need to be happy and smiling, maybe it’s not really you. It might be your self-protective mask of emotional and muscular armouring. Start to be more sensitive and listen to your body instead of your head. Is this really you? Where did these ideas come from?
How do you really feel right now?
2. Express your suppressed feelings
Under your tertiary emotions, deeply buried under your mask, there are repelled feelings and emotions. Any emotions or feelings that you suppress aren’t really gone. In fact, they’re just split off from your conscious mind and pushed down into your subconscious mind. In order to become authentic and unleash the “real you”, it’s important to get in touch with, express and re-integrate those suppressed emotions. This means: Allow yourself to feel how you really feel. We all carry a baggage of suppressed past feelings and emotions with us. Wouldn’t it be a relief to let that baggage behind us? The way to do that is to work your way through those repelled emotions and feelings, by giving them room, expressing them and accepting them as a part of who you are today.
The best way (and sometimes the only way) to deal with suppressed feelings is through psychotherapy. Especially if you’ve been through traumatising experiences, getting in touch with those feelings can be quite overwhelming. In order to not “re-live” the past, but have better ways to deal with the past in the present, it’s a good idea to have a psychotherapist who can give your emotional unwinding process some containment
3. Be in touch with how you really feel and embrace it
Underneath the secondary layer of emotions, the repelled and suppressed emotions, is the primary layer of emotions. You might discover a primal joy under your suppressed sadness and a healthy aggression under your shyness. When you’re in this primary layer of emotions, you have what Lowen calls motility. You’re able to feel and express your emotions freely and authentically. You’re neither suppressing nor acting out your emotions. You simply have a healthy and balanced contact with who you are and how you feel. You’re in touch with your true self. And this is the foundation of being an authentic person.
Do you agree or disagree? How do you experience this?
Drop your comment with any questions or comments you might have.
Featured image © lil’_wiz via Flickr.com, licensed under Creative Commons.
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