Moving to a deeper understanding of existential truth requires a navigational chart to thoroughly explore one of the most important experiences that bring meaning to our personal journey.
To discover the terrain of truth, we begin with the Greek origin of its meaning - Alethia: the process of unforgetting, then to Heidegger’s phenomenology of Dasein: self-in-the-world, and finally landing on my theory of biocognition that focuses on the mindbody effects of living our existential truth.
According to Greek mythology, in the Underworld of Hades, before returning to mortal form it was required to drink water from the Lethe River to forget their earlier life. So, truth was to remember what was lost before re-entering mortality. Heidegger brought the mythology of Alethia back to expand on what he called existential truth - an inquiry into how the inauthentic can be spotted and changed to the authentic. Thus, truth is more than what one believes to be evident. It is rather about discovering what obstructs recalling our authenticity.
In my theory of biocognitive science I propose that mindbody self seeks coherence between what we believe to be evident (truth) and what we enact (live). Without a thorough inquiry into what we believe we are and what we exist, the inauthentic self will remain hidden creating a mindbody confusion with possible psychoneuroimmunological consequences (how our biology reacts to our thoughts and emotions). If we consider that we are a bioinformational hologram expressing self-in-the-world and establishing alterity horizons (otherness), then what we internally determine authentic must be coherent with what we enact in the world. If the inauthentic/authentic balance is off, we exist an incoherence that could have mindbody detriment: confusing what we do in the world with what we believe we are.
For example, to accept a compliment without reservations, causes a release of oxytocin (an immune-enhancing neuropeptide) whereas to deny or diminish the value of the compliment, not only voids the oxytocin, but may trigger inflammatory molecules (tumor necrosis factor) because of the subtle embarrassment for receiving the gift: a potential benefit of gratitude is replaced with self-deprecation.
To further illustrate:
Potential gift: “I love your hair.”
Recipient: “Oh, I haven’t wasted it in three days.”
Now, we can analyze the degree of incoherence from that simple exchange, culturally taught to deflect natural endowment and achievements. So where is the inauthenticity? Does the denier believe the response or is it to avoid cultural admonition of conceit? Authenticity would be either, “I authentically don’t believe my hair is worthy of praise” or “I have to be inauthentic about my looks for fear of disapproval.”
Unfortunately, this pattern of incoherence is supported by most cultures without awareness of how existential truth is negatively affected. And as we learn to perpetuate denial of authenticity, the incoherence grows for self-in-the-world.
One approach to assess inauthenticity is to determine the difference in what is choice (agency) and what are the consequences for choosing.
“I hate my job.”
“Why don’t you find another job?”
“I can’t, I am too close to retirement.”
Here, authenticity requires quitting the job and facing the consequences, or accepting the job as an existential choice that requires shifting from hating what we do to being creative about how our job could be done with satisfaction. I argue that there should be no middle ground to rationalize misery by denying agency. The authentic self-in-the-world uses agency to shape fate into destiny. Moving from existential bitching to living our truth and its consequences.
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