I've mentioned one or twenty times that I'm from Southern California. We invented navel-gazing. In fact, we took it to new levels. Not only would we gaze into our inies or outies looking for dysfunction and abuse, west coasters had the paranormal ability to examine memories we didn't remember having (repressed memory syndrome), and we regressed into previous lives just in case having been a Spanish mistress in 1842 better explained collegiate slutty behavior. You think I'm kidding.
One of the pastors of my church in so. Cal (the only female pastor, btw, who oversaw the prayer ministry) held a meeting for her leadership team of about 75 people to "announce" (I'm still not sure what to call what she did...) that she had been molested as a four-year-old, but that she had repressed the memory. The perpetrator (her dad) denied having abused her.
And then there's the guy my mom dated who dug into his "previous lives" through an elaborate rebirthing process (which looks a lot like an attack of appendicitis) to get past whatever block was preventing him from earning money in this life. (I always thought a job would take care of that...)
Most Californians, though, are more temperate. They cycle through the usual co-dependencies, therapists, dysfunctional families of origin, adult children of divorce, self-help books, Myers-Briggs personality testing, ACA meetings, and sharing of feelings. To me, it's normal to ask questions about why I do what I do, how I came to be where I am and why.
So yeah, I'm pretty used to navel-gazing. Left coasters have turned it into an art-form.
When I moved to the mid-west, no one I met spent time sharing feelings or relational needs, or what I might call, "processing the process." Friendships were based on shared communities, not self-disclosure. I didn't like that at all. How would I ever survive without a friend to explore my psyche with me?
I have survived. I've even adopted a bit of the midwestern reserve. ::Cringe:: if you dive into sexual frustrations with your husband over coffee and bagels. Yes, I see the hazards of the "cut open your spleen" style friendships.
Yet one thing I have appreciated about the legacy of self-examination I inherited from the "I'm okay; You're okay" culture is that it is in my nature to wonder how I am responsible for my life as it is. Can we go too far? I never use words like that. I don't plan to examine lives or memories I can't remember (and didn't have). But somehow, this reexamination of beliefs is all a part of the postmodern condition. It's what we exhausted moderns do. We are taking a long, sober look at all that went before, not liking what we see, and sensing the urge to change.
To me, then, authenticity is not identical with being real (I agree that I have been as honest as I knew how to be, as real as I could be during my previous twenty-five years). To me, authenticity is not only insides and outsides matching. (I've known plenty of fundamentalists whose beliefs match their behavior who lead inauthentic lives.) Authenticity is the result of discovering who we are when we peel back the layers of culture, personal history, pain, controlling systems of belief, and self-deception, and then having the courage to live accordingly.
And since insight is unfolding (not a once for all proposition), it helps to have some idea of how to live and move and have our beings in the midst of all that processing. No need to stop living while processing. That's what I hope to write about tomorrow: how performance can take us beyond the regressive cycle of the postmodern deconstruction of self.