times, scribes were devotees of the Word. They were the
bridges between worlds, charged with the sacred task of
painstakingly transcribing the Mysteries into a form
that could be referenced by holy men and women. Many
centuries later, our modern journals give us unlimited
access to the Mysteries of our souls. Through this
column, I hope to offer ways that we can approach our
own lives with the love and devotion of the scribes of
"Scribing the Authentic Self"
This monthís column is adapted
from Mightier Than the Sword: The Journal as a Path
for Menís Self-Discovery, (c) 1994, Kathleen
Adams. The book is out of print, but bound photocopies
are available at www.journaltherapy.com/book.htm.
The room was silent save for the faint hum of the
heating system and the determined scratching of pens on
notebooks. The group was noting observations made in a
guided imagery process. Imagine yourself doing
something you really enjoy. Now imagine that an expert
in human behavior watches you do it. Write the expertís
Midway through the writing time, Jerry drew a
sharp breath and closed his notebook. He glanced over at
me, and I saw that his eyes were filled with pain. He
seemed to shrink inside his crisp white button-down
When the group finished writing, I turned to
Jerry. "Anything you want to share?"
"This is fraudulent!" His voice
shook with an ancient, tired bitterness. "I am
nothing but a fraud!" And he read:
The image is of a "father figure" with all
the correct yuppie atributes. The image is just that, an
image. there is a distinct absence of BEING Ė in
particular, being present to the joy at depth of a
profound relationship with my daughter ... Who or what
is the image being? What motivates the image to appear
or be recognized? What conspiracies influence its
identity? I t would seem that most of them ahve very
little to do with BEING a father and much more to do
with BEING CONSTRUED as a father. Whatís authentic
about this? Well, it seems to be an authentic polarity.
"And whatís fraudulent about this," he
continued, "is that what I write is nothing like
what I feel!"
The discrepancy between image/being,
external/internal, acculturated self/authentic self Ė
"the maintenance of the lie" Ė reverberates
in the journals of men like an echo bouncing of canyon
walls. The search for authenticity is a modern-day grail
quest. It is the beating heart of many menís writings.
In my office hangs a small mirror. To introduce the
concept of authenticity, I ask the members of the group
to look at themselves in the mirror and write down what
they notice. This process is usually punctuated with
some self-conscious joking as the group members wait in
single-file line and then make faces, practice smiling
and reluctantly meet their own eyes in the mirror. The
writings are poignant and telling:
- Iím getting older, but I still look good. I like
my looks. Iíve matured. Maybe I also like how I am
- Gray hair, thinning, "giant economy size"
forehead. At least I didnít break the mirror! Good
thing I couldnít see my paunch!
- This was harder than it sounded. I can barely look
myself in the eye. What do I think Iíll see? Reminds
me of that poem about facing the man in the mirror each
The mirror on my wall reflects the outer man. The
journal, as mirror of the psyche, captures the inner
man. Stay with the journal process for even a little
while and youíll start to see the layers of your life.
Youíll begin to hear the voices inside. Like the
increasingly soft leaves in each layer of an artichoke,
the journal peels off layers of conditioning, habits and
worn-out beliefs and reveals the heart nestled snugly
What is authenticity? The men speak:
...the REAL me. Not the one I show most of the time.
...something I canít sustain for long.
...when who I am on the outside matches who I am on
....living instead of being a robot.
...the real McCoy, natural, no bullshit.
My authentic self...
...is warm, loving, affectionate.
...wants to get out of "jail."
...?? I donít know my authentic self.
...tells the truth even when I donít want to know
...hates my job.
...is my Inner Child.
...is mad at me.
Suggestions for Meeting Your Authentic Self
- Complete these Sentence Stems:
- Authenticity is....
- My authentic self...
- I am....
- I am not....
- Imagine that a newspaper or magazine reporter is
interviewing you for a story. He or she asks you
- What habit would you most like to break?
- How did you meet your best friend?
- Which one year of your life would you live over
- What do you consider your best attribute or feature?
- What did you want to be when you were a kid?
- If you won a lottery that allowed you a comfortable
lifestyle, how would you spend your time?
- What is something very few people know about you?
- As children, we were natural, instinctive, authentic
and intuitive. Children adapt to their environments by
layering over the authentic self, but it is and always
has been there. Look back at your childhood joys and
pleasures. What do you remember?
- Cluster "authenticity" or "my
- Discovering the authentic self involves unraveling
layers of the conditioned or acculturated self. Try a
List of 100 on one of these topics. When youíre
finished, go through and break the list into categories.
- 100 Roles I Play
- 100 Ways I Fake It
- 100 Beliefs I am Challenging
- 100 Fears I Have About Being More Authentic
- 100 Payoffs for Not Changing
- What is one of your secrets? Who knows about this
secret? Who do you wish knew? From whom is it a secret?
What might happen if this secret were known? What good
might come of it?
- Think of somebody who only knows the public you. See
yourself through this personís eyes. How would he or
she describe you?
- Imagine yourself doing something you really, truly
love. Now imagine that an expert in human behavior known
for his or her brilliant powers of observation watches
you. What does he or she write in the report?
- Explore a secret in your journal. When youíre
finished, read it once and tear it up.
- Write about a peak experience Ė a time when you
felt truly alive and authentic.
- Take a walk somewhere in nature. Be on the lookout
for an object or symbol from your walk that represents
your authentic self. Write about it. Stay alert for
serendipities or synchronicities involving your
object/symbol. Keep track of them and write about what
they might mean.
Because authenticity shares a boundary with exposure,
working with authenticity issues can leave you feeling
naked and vulnerable; and because the unmasked self is
not silent, many a notebook is slammed shut when
vulnerability kicks into high gear.
Remember to pace yourself. If you find yourself
reluctant to pick up your journal, you may be going too
fast. Take it easy. Write for shorter periods of time,
or about less challenging topics. Feedback and support
are very helpful. This work is powerful when it is done
in a community of trusted others.
Kathleen Adams LPC, RPT is a
Registered Poetry/Journal Therapist and Director of The
Center for Journal Therapy in Lakewood, Colorado. She is
one of the leading voices on the power of writing to
heal and is the author of four books, including Journal
to the Self and The Write Way to Wellness.
Her upcoming seminars include the annual 5-day womenís
writing retreat in Colorado July 8-13, and a one-day
Journal to the Self workshop in Denver in late July. She
would love your feedback on this column; please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
or stop by her website, www.journaltherapy.com.
Kathleen's Past "Scribing the Soul" Columns:
2000 "Riding the Inky Wave"
2000 "The Good News"
2000 "Soul Food: Exploring Affirmations in
2000 "Diary of a Headache"
2000 "Making Up the Truth"
2000 "Pockets of Joy"
2000 "Five Ways to Scribe Your Intuition"
Kathleen's Feature Article on Dream Journals:
in the Dark: Cracking the Soul's Code Through Dream