Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Emotional authenticity

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Emotional authenticity:
What is emotional authenticity and how can it be developed?

Overview[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Focus questions:
  • What is emotional authenticity?
  • How can emotional authenticity be developed?
  • How can emotional authenticity techniques be applied to receive the positive benefits?

Defining authenticity[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail](Stonehenge, 2019)

When thinking of emotional authenticity, you may think of someone who is honest, true and real. They provide you their honest opinion when you ask, rather than telling you what they think you want to hear. They are not fake or contrived, but instead show their true self.

Emotional authenticity is difficult to define. For example, if your friend tells you some shocking news and you react in an overly dramatic and unhelpful way, you may later come back and apologise and provide your friend with your considered opinion. Is the first display of emotions more authentic as there was no filter applied? Are the secondary emotions less authentic as you may be more considerate about your friends feelings and what they want to hear, rather than your own values and beliefs? (M. Salmela, 2005).

A general definition of authenticity explains that to be authentic your responses must be appropriate to the circumstance and must align with your true feelings, beliefs and values (C. Meyer, 2011).

Psychological definition of authentic emotional responses[edit | edit source]

Researchers studying authenticity recognise its complexity and dynamic nature, across multiple situations and diverse individuals. One definition of authenticity involves comparing emotions, such as sincerity versus spontaneous emotions and managed versus recalcitrant emotions.

Sincerity vs. spontaneous[edit | edit source]

Firstly, we will look at the sincerity versus spontaneous view point of emotional authenticity. Having sincere and spontaneous emotions in a situation from this view point is regarded as genuine, as these emotions must stem from your beliefs and therefore will be based on what you truly feel (Pugmire, 1998, 129). Individuals must be cautious when exercising spontaneous emotions as they usually don't know what they actually feel, for example lust can be mistaken for love (M. Samela, 2005).

Sincerity was traditionally regarded as being true and honest in the position a person held in society, however more recently the definition has changed, now meaning being true to oneself (Stanford, 2019). Sincerity involves being genuine and honestPictogram voting comment.svg about what?.

On the other hand, spontaneous emotions are instant and without filter. An honest response is gained due to lack of time to filter. These emotions are based on the first thought or primal feeling, but do not consider the entire situation (M. Samela, 2005).

Managed vs. recalcitrant[edit | edit source]

Recalcitrant emotions are emotions we experience even though, in our minds, we know better. For example, when suffering from phobias people may think logically that something is not scary, but when faced with a certain situation cannot help but feel scared (M. Samela, 2005).

In comparison, managed emotions involve the individual carefully considering their opinion or emotion before displaying it (M. Samela, 2005).

All these emotional responses can be seen to play a role at various times across a variety of situations.

Background[edit | edit source]

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Early philosophers[edit | edit source]

The roots of emotional authenticity can be traced back to the 1700s with the research of early philosophers. One philosopher Rousseau (1712-78) discussed the pursuit of authenticity. Rousseau explained that external influences impact our natural authenticity, due to social hierarchies, inequality and interdependence, stating inauthenticity stems from external factors. Another theorist Heidegger (1989-1976) theorised that there is a complex relationship between authenticity and inauthenticity; and therefore the two factors shouldn't be viewed as mutually exclusive (Stanford, 2019).

Current environment[edit | edit source]

Following on from the early discussions about what affects authenticity, the contemporary theories suggest that the modern-day environment is fast paced and highly virtual. As a result of being bombarded with volumes of information and with the majority of relationships relying on technology, many people yearn for authenticity (Williams, P.J., et. al. 2007).

Contemporary theories[edit | edit source]

Modern day theorists such as Betzler discuss the importance of emotions for authenticity and change. Explaining that, through self-reflection emotions provide reasoning to commence change to persevere or regain authenticity (Salmela, et. al., 2009). This concept takes into account the adaptability for an individual to change due to experience.

Kraemer has established three criteria that need to be satisfied for an emotion to be authentic:

  1. phenomenal experience
  2. subjective rationality
  3. one's diachronic adherence to their emotional history.

Kraemer focuses on the importance for the individual to value and care for you[explain?], as this will lead to receiving a more authentic response. He also discusses the impact of self identity, past experience and individual values as strong drivers of authenticity (Kraemer, F. 2009)[Provide more detail].

Authenticity is important to stay true to yourself and avoid internal conflict, as well as enhancing the building and maintenance of relationships[Provide more detail]. Cross-culturally, being true to yourself and having a level of authenticity can be consistently seen within western and eastern cultures (Slabu, L. et. al. 2014)[Provide more detail]. Although variations between cultures and their norms can be seen in regard to [say what?] the standard mean of integrity and what authentic behaviour is generally acceptable (Fine, S. 2013)[for example?].

Pros and cons[edit | edit source]

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The pros[edit | edit source]

Expressing real emotions (positive or negative) will help you flourish (Meyer, 2011). As there is no conflict or dissonance experienced between what an individual is actually feeling compared to what is portrayed[grammar?].

Being emotionally authentic enables you to build meaningful relationships, as it allows understanding and exploration. Situations with phoney emotions can negatively impact both the individual receiving and giving the emotional experience, as there is an internal conflict.

There has been research about the effects of fake smiles on the body, physiologically. Fake smiles can lead to feelings of stress, dissonance and inauthenticity, impacting the person actioning the smile (Scott. B). Some research shows the effects of emotional expressions and how they enhance other emotions. However, this fake smile research reveals the effects of covering emotions with the opposite expression and blocking of authenticity can negatively affect individuals (Scott. B, 2019).

The cons[edit | edit source]

Not all situations will benefit from authenticity. Many of us will relate and understand that some situations require a light polite interaction, such as a friendly compliment or a white lie. The negative effects of being inauthentic may not occur when you are aware of the inconsistency[factual?]. Issues arise when people trick themselves into thinking that they feel a certain way when they do not (Meyer, C. 2011).

Application[edit | edit source]

Now that we have discovered the benefits of authenticity, let's look at how we can develop and apply techniques into our day to day lives. Firstly, you need to identify how authentic you currently are. This will allow you to make changes if necessary.

Through observing their own reactions, (especially in more challenging situations) a person can start to discover feelings that are conscious and authentic and ones which are slightly false. Opening up communication between your authentic and adaptive self can help you find discoveries (Psychology Today, 2019). Adaptive self can be defined as the characteristics portrayed to fit-in to a situation,[grammar?] these characteristics are usually more convenient rather than honest. While the authentic self-portrays honest, open and true characteristics (Psychology Today, 2019)[grammar?].

Below are four statements which you can personally consider and answer. Give yourself a score from 0 to 5 for each question, 0 reflecting you disagree with the statement as it is unlike you and 5 agreeing the statement is very similar to yourself.

I prefer to converse face-to-face compared to using technology?
I frequently enjoy meaningful conversations with friends or family members?
I reveal my true thoughts, feelings or opinions, when someone asks?
I share my thoughts, feelings or opinions, when I have something that needs discussing?

If your score is greater than a total of 15 points you currently show some authentic characteristics. Research has shown that those who connect with others on a meaningful level value face-to-face interactions and converse about personal topics, while providing support and advice and therefore showing more authentic behaviour, which can increase wellbeing[factual?]. A study study conducted on adolescents showed a correlation between being emotionally authentic and depressive symptoms (Theran, S. 2011)[Provide more detail]. Being emotionally authentic creates real and true experiences for all individuals involved[factual?].

Some people who are more reliant on their adaptive self and keep their authentic self-hidden, may require courage and self-love to open up[factual?]. A reflection on your current values, beliefs and doubts is also useful to enable you to get rid of beliefs that no longer serve you and grow into your authentic self.

To be emotionally authentic you need to be true to yourself and your emotions. In other words, you need to be in-tune and have a level of introspection (Han Kim, J. 2012). Having a clear mind and time for reflection will elevate your mind to be clear and open, while training your mind to focus attention. This can be done using mindfulness practices, such as mediation and gratitude diaries[factual?]. Mindfulness has been developed from the field of Positive Psychology focused on enhancing people and their positive characteristics, as more of a proactive approach to psychology, rather than reactive (Han Kim, J. 2012).

Mindfulness activity[edit | edit source]

Mindfulness Eating - The Strawberry Activity

Many people think of meditation when they think of mindfulness. Meditation is one way to experience mindfulness but is not the only way to practice it. Mindfulness is the focusing of attention and setting your mind on the present. Meditation does this by removing distractions and slowing down your thoughts (Headspace, 2019), see here to try a meditation practice. Mindful eating takes the same concept, by slowing down your thoughts, focusing your mind on the present and being completely mindful of an activity. The steps to practice this are below:

Mindful eating activity:
  1. Source a strawberry or another piece of food
  2. Focus your mind on the look, smell and feel of the strawberry
  3. Take 30 seconds to eat the strawberry, no rushing
  4. With each bite, think about the texture and taste, focusing completely
  5. Now think about the difference between eating a strawberry mindfully and normally, what did you experience?

Mindfulness has many benefits, such as a reduction in stress and emotional reactivity, increase in flexible cognitions and relationship satisfaction (Davis, D.M. et. al. 2012). Being in a present, calm and focused state of mind allows successful relationships to be fostered due to the attention placed on others, the mental space that is created and flow of communication to your authentic self (Davis, D.M. et. al. 2012).

Maintenance of your authentic self[edit | edit source]

To put authenticity into practice, follow the below suggestions as described by Psychology Today’s Tchiki Davis (Psychology Today, 2019).

Steps to becoming more authentic:
  1. Make telling the truth a habit - being honest will tell our subconscious that our imperfections are acceptable.
  2. Make statements and decisions consciously - slow down and make each of our decisions supportive of our authentic self.
  3. Speak your truth - this builds trust with others.
  4. Develop yourself in authentic ways - you don't always have to take the road travelled, if it doesn’t work for you and your authentic self.
  5. Continue to monitor yourself - reflect upon any unauthentic moments.

There are also three important aspects to building and maintaining authenticity, especially within relationships, these are: safety, self-acceptance and self-awareness (Medium, 2019).

  1. Safety: Feeling safe and secure in your environment is important. A person needs to keep themselves away from dangers that could physically or mentally harm them. However, it is also important to recognise that we can put up barriers for protection when they are not needed. Getting out of your comfort zone can be scary but is essential for finding your confidence to be who you are and grow and embrace your identity.
  2. Self-acceptance: Self-love is essential. When you put yourself first, take care of your needs and priorities you become a better friend, parent and/or partner, while attracting good people into your life.
  3. Self-awareness: Being aware of the effect you have on others through any behaviour or lack of, such as actions, language and presence can impact your relationships.

Practicing the above steps of self-love, monitoring your actions and reflecting upon these as well as support from others captures these three elements which are critical to building and maintaining authenticity (Medium, 2019).

Helpful tips[edit | edit source]

Being authentic can be challenging when you are put in uncomfortable situations. For example, delivering difficult news, being busy and not allowing time to consider and reflect, being unaware of the feelings of others or being an extremely private person and not wanting to share your authentic feelings and thoughts with others. These situations can impact how and what you communicate to others. To combat some of these communication barriers the below techniques can be used.

How to manage difficult conversations[edit | edit source]

Difficult conversions require confidence to execute and maintain authenticity. There are many guides on how to deliver these conversations effectively in the workplace and the same principles apply to other situations. It is important to prepare, practice, understand the opposing point of view and to follow the mantra: be hard on the problem but soft on the person (Ringer, J. 2019). Four essential steps when conducting the conversation are:

  1. inquiry, ask the person their point of view about the situation
  2. acknowledgement, showing that you have heard their point of view and understand
  3. advocacy, once the person has said what they need it is your turn to provide your point of view
  4. problem solving, ask the opponent how they think this issue could be solved and work together to create a way forward (Ringer, J. 2019).

Following these steps will allow you to navigate any difficult conversation successfully, while maintaining a calm, polite and authentic manner.

Opening up and sharing[edit | edit source]

Learning to say how you feel and what you think is an important step in creating meaningful relationships and having authentic interactions. But for some people communicating inner thoughts and feelings is difficult, scary and nerve racking. Some steps to open up and build confidence include:

  1. making your outside feelings congruent with your internal ones
  2. focusing on your feelings
  3. saying what you mean without hiding the meaning
  4. communicating in the first person.

These steps assist in building confidence and becoming a more open person (HealthyPlace, 2019).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Emotional authenticity is essential to the well-being and happiness of individuals. It fosters productive and healthy interactions with others, leading to meaningful and supportive relationships. Emotional authenticity also builds confidence and contributes to the creation of a strong identity[factual?]. More research is needed to deepen our understanding and application. However, implementing interpersonal techniques to build emotional intelligence and personal expression assists in reaching the positive effects of emotional authenticity.

Quiz[edit | edit source]

Choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

1 What is the best way to be authentic and support your friend?

provide your honest opinion without thinking
provide your honest opinion with an appropriate delivery method
provide the response your friend is looking for

2 From the following, which option is NOT a way to enhance authenticity?

apply active listening and focus on what people say
have a level of introspection, to know what you belief and feel
only rely on your adaptive self

3 Which is NOT an example of mindfulness?

mindful eating
actively focusing on multiple tasks

4 What is NOT an example of an emotional response explained by researches  in this field?

real vs. phoney emotions
spontaneous vs. sincerity
managed vs. recalcitrant}

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Davis, D. M., & Hayes. J. A. (2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness. American Psychological Association, Washington. Retrieved from

Fine, S. (2013). A look at cross-cultural integrity testing in three banks. Personal Review, 42(3), 266-280.

Han Kim, J., Miller, P., Miller. D., & Gonzalez. R. (2012). Introduction to positive psychology: Overview and controversies. Journal of Asia Pacific Counselling, 2(1) 45-60.

Headspace. (2019). What is Meditation? What is Mindfulness? Headspace Inc. Site:

Healthy Place. (2019). How to Open Up and Reveal Yourself to Others. Healthy Place. Retrieved from

Kabir. H (2019). How to train your emotions. Happily Daily. Retrieved from

Kraemer, U. A. F. (2009). Picturing the authenticity of emotions. In M. Salmela, & V. Mayer (Eds.), Emotions, ethics, and authenticity (pp. 71-90). (Consciousness and Emotions Book Series). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Meyer. C. (2011). Emotional Authenticity. The Emotional Detective. Retrieved from

Psychology Today. (2019). Develop Authenticity: 20 Ways to Be a More Authentic Person. Psychology Today. Retrieved from

Ringer, J. (2019). We have to talk: A step-by-step checklist for difficult conversations. Judy Ringer. Retrieved from

Salmela, M. (2005). What is emotional authenticity? Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 35(3), 209-230.

Salmela, M., & Mayer, V. (2009). Emotions, Ethics and Authenticity. John Benjamin Publishing Company, Amsterdam. Retrieved from

Scott, B. (2019). Don’t grin and bear it: Fake smile at work could lead to unethical behaviour, study finds. Research @ MSU, Michigan University. Retrieved from

Slabu, L., Lenton, A.P,. & Sedikides, C. (2014). Trait and state authenticity across cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45 , 1347-1373.

Standford University. (2014). Authenticity. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. The Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, Stanford USA. Retrieved from

Theran, S.A. (2011). Authenticity in relationships and depressive symptoms: A gender analysis. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(4) 423-428.

Vision Source Stonehenge. (2019). Our Emotions and the Colours we see. Stonehenge, Raleigh. Retrieved from

Williams, P. J., & Vannini, P. (2007). Authenticity in Culture, Self and Society. Taylor and Francis Group.

Ziogas, G. J. (2019). Authentic connections: How to build intimate relationships. Medium. Retrieved from

External links[edit | edit source]