What robs us of that feeling of aliveness? In a word — inauthenticity. Which can simply be an antiseptic way to describe the act of hiding secrets. It’s been said that confession is good for the soul. Being honest about mistakes, failures, feelings and fears leads to health and vitality – aliveness. The opposite is the feeling of numbness.
The more honesty I have, the more aliveness I feel.
This involves embracing the past. I’ve discovered that embracing things that happened to you is often easier than embracing things that happened because of you. The natural tendency is to disguise, hide, or camouflage them. It’s self-sabotaging behavior as it drains our vitality.
When the mask is removed and the false image ceases, we discover that the numbness has nowhere to live. So it leaves. When aliveness comes, numbness goes.
When we hide our mistakes our authentic self doesn’t have a chance to grow. Why is there this tendency to deny the truth instead of embracing it? It’s because clinging to distortions seems preferable to losing something perceived to be necessary for living.
In the movie Annie Hall, Woody Allen tells the story of a man entering a psychiatrist’s office and says, “Doc. My brother’s crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken!” The psychiatrist replies, “Why don’t you just have him committed?” The man says, “I can’t! I need the eggs!”
Most aren’t like that deluded chap, but I’ve never met a person who isn’t tempted to hide something because doing so is perceived as preferable. It might be something they did, or something they feel, or a perception about who they are. The secrets are the something we are afraid to tell. They can be hidden behind efficiency and hard work, or sloth and indecision. Big or small – the secrets we hide have a negative, and sometimes devastating, impact on our vitality.
Hiding secrets drives us to lie about who we are. It’s debilitating and draining to present to the world something we are not. Do that long enough and you lose touch with yourself. The masks we wear can eventually begin to feel like our real skin. Aliveness begins to wither, leaving us with a feeling of….numbness.
It’s important to realize that numbness is not a thing. It’s not even a feeling. It’s the lack of feeling – a lack of aliveness. It’s a privation. You can have aliveness without numbness, but not numbness without aliveness. Just as evil is a lack of that which is good – a privation — so also numbness is a lack of aliveness. We say, “the tree is rotting,” as though rottenness was a thing. It’s not. You can have the tree without the rottenness, but not rottenness without the tree. It’s a privation in that which is good.
Gardens are full of aliveness. But if you have a kink in your garden hose, things begin to wilt. The only way to decrease wilting is to increase aliveness. And that won’t happen until you get the kink out of the hose.
We were born to live. “Alive” is an adjective meaning (1) having life; living; not dead or lifeless. As humans, we want this so much that some do risky things to get that alive feeling – from excessive gambling, to risky relationships, to extreme sports, to substance abuse.
Wanting the alive feeling is good! We were created to feel alive. The problem is looking outside ourselves to get that vital fix instead of learning how to generate it from within.
“We are so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value. The rapture that is associated with being alive is what it is all about.” — Joseph Campbell
As kids we were good at this. We’d get up with an excitement, just happy to be alive. As we grew we discovered the masks and the aliveness rush slowly eluded us.
This is what I know. The kink in the hose that prevents aliveness is the denial of any secret being hid. The consequences of keeping it in the vault have a bigger long-term negative effect than revealing it.
Robert Feldman is an expert in human deception. His research shows that when 2 people meet for the first time, they lie an average of 3 times every 10 minutes. That’s 18 times in an hour. The deceptions are often a false impression of who they are. All of us are tempted to lie to some degree, to withhold those secrets. I’m not saying “tell all” when we meet someone for the first time. The relational bridge has to be able to bear the weight of the information. The point is to be moved toward honesty.
When we focus on the truth of who we are and openly take responsibility for what we’ve done, aliveness is energized. Our hearts beat faster and our connections go deeper. Is it risky to share your secrets with those closest to you? Maybe. But on the other side you will experience the rapture of being alive.
*What robs you most of aliveness? Secret anger at a friend? A lie you are withholding from someone close? Some addiction that keeps you from meaningful connection? Write it down, and reveal it soon.