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Scribing the Soul
January 2001

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Kathleen's Current Column

by Kathleen Adams, LPC, RPT

In ancient 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 old.

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 observations.

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 shirt.

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 inside.
  • 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 day. Spooky.

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 inside.

What is authenticity? The men speak:

Authenticity is.....

...being real.

...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 the inside.


....living instead of being a robot.

...the real McCoy, natural, no bullshit.

My authentic self...

...is hidden.

...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 it.

...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 questions like:
  • 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 again? Why?
  • 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 authentic self."
  • 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 kay@journaltherapy.com or stop by her website, www.journaltherapy.com.


Read Kathleen's Past "Scribing the Soul" Columns:

December 2000 "Riding the Inky Wave"

November 2000 "The Good News"

October 2000 "Soul Food: Exploring Affirmations in Writing"

September 2000 "Diary of a Headache"

August 2000 "Making Up the Truth"

July 2000 "Pockets of Joy"

June 2000 "Five Ways to Scribe Your Intuition"


Read Kathleen's Feature Article on Dream Journals:

Writing in the Dark: Cracking the Soul's Code Through Dream Journals



Visit Kathleen at her Website:



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