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On Authenticity-You Are Not Your Emotions

What is authenticity? Authenticity means to be honest with yourself and with others about who you are, and what you want. It means that you express yourself honestly, rather than hiding your intentions and beliefs. It does not however, give you an excuse to be emotionally impulsive.

You are not your emotions. Your emotions are feelings that you perceive. They are innate truths so to speak. Arguably, they are the only truths that you can know with absolute certainty, as they bridge the gap between the internal and the external world by existing within you, but being dependent upon your beliefs about the state of the world. They have to be this way in order to be emotive, to motivate you to act.

However, just because they give you the impulse to do something, does not mean you must act on that impulse. We as rational, self-aware beings can override our basic instincts and act according to higher order reasoning. This is not to say that we should completely ignore or fight our emotions or pretend they don’t exist. That would be self-defeating, because our emotions are innate truths about what we feel and perceive.

Thus, it is far better to accept and tolerate our emotions, to allow them to pass through us and be a part of our mental environment. But that is different than embracing our emotions wholeheartedly and acting automatically and impulsively on them. Sometimes it is good to be spontaneous when it is safe to do so, because this often allows for more pleasant experiences. But we should always be aware of the long-term consequences of our actions.

Emotions are by their nature, transient and temporary. They are the result of a series of neural activations in our brain. These states of mind change constantly with the changing circumstances, and so, they do not make a good representation of the self, because they lack the consistency and stability to form our true identity.

So who are you? You are your mind, which is made up of associations learned from experiences.

Your mind does not change as quickly as circumstances do. Rather, over time, we add more experiences and more memories of those experiences to ourselves. A person without experiences of anything essentially has never been conscious or sentient. The essence of who we are then is in our mind, which is found in the long-term neural connections in our brain.

Our mind is a vast store of information, aggregated from past experiences, and using the knowledge obtained from those experiences to form beliefs. From those beliefs we determine what we value, and from what we value we determine how we judge particular states of the world. This leads us to having emotional states dependent on our values and how they relate to the current state of the world.

Dreams are what we hope to experience in a future state of the world. A person without dreams is a person without a direction, without purpose. Our dreams are profoundly influenced by our values, as they determine what we desire.

What does this mean for authenticity? It means that we should be true to our minds, and our experiences of ourselves and others and the dreams of ourselves and others. It means we should be honest about what we believe, what we think we know and understand, and how we feel. It means we should be honest about our dreams, our intentions and desires for the future, and especially about our values.

Emotions are still an important part of this equation, because they influence what it is we experience and how we experience it. If our memories are our past, and our dreams are our future, then our emotions are a significant part of the immediate, transient present that helps to form our past and enable our future.

Nevertheless, because of their salience there is a tendency among most to overemphasize those immediate, short-term feelings at the expense of our overall self and identity. To be truly authentic is to be true not only then to what we are experiencing now, but also to what we have experienced in the past, and will or want to experience in the future.

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Page last modified on January 09, 2016, at 04:56 PM