I picked up this book, “To Thine Own Self be True” by Lewis M. Andrews , Ph.D. , (1989 edition;222 pages) to search the answer to these questions: What does it mean to be true to oneself? Is it possible to be unethical and still claim that one is true to oneself? Why should we be true to ourselves? I am happy that this book has been able to provide the answer. The book quotes somewhere near the end:
· “This above all: to thine own self be true,
· And it must follow, as the night the day,
· Thou canst not then be false to any man.” . . . . . . Shakespeare (Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3).
There is a connection between spiritual values and emotional health. Emotional problems/ bad mental health include negative emotions like depression , guilt , feelings of worthlessness, indecision , boredom , fear , frustration , loneliness and anxiety. There is a connection between the most common negative emotions and particular unethical behaviours which cause them. Spiritual values are the elevating ethical beliefs what Alduous Huxley called “the highest common denominator”. Deliberating reforming our characters is the essence of effective self-help. Basic truths we have always known are in our hearts. Listen to these and be true to your deepest selves. In other words , if you are not true to your self , you are likely to have a poor emotional health. You cannot and should not reject inner values and manipulate the overt behaviour of self and others.
The approach of Dale Carnegie in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is manipulative. It advocates using a technique on your friends. It is a real trap where social success is existential failure. Habitual role-playing (going through the motions) is also a kind of sickness. Appearing to be a kind of person we think others expect –more amusing , more attractive, more competent- is role playing. There is an emotional cost of hiding your true self. Avoid needless role –playing. Be responsive to your innermost self. Express consciously who you are. Reveal your true personality. Only then you have any chance of achieving genuine intimacy with another person. What is called for is a conscious effort to change the ethical quality of our every day interactions. If you are a writer, write out your thoughts without catering to some rigid standards fixed by a professor .The awareness that being true to one’s self liberates qualities which by their spontaneous nature, are far easier to sustain over the long run , becomes a powerful force for conscious and unconscious change.
To be able to be true to oneself, one has to be free from grudges, resentment and hostility against others. To carry a grudge is a very crippling mental condition. Cleanse yourself of all malicious thoughts. Never allow yourselves to entertain malicious thoughts , under any circumstances no matter what the provocation. By carrying a grudge , you are hurting yourself .It is better to forgive people deliberately. It is in our own interest. Passing some malicious gossip is also an act of resentment. Resentment is the process of being stepped on , allowing some one else to push us around. It does not matter that you are doing exactly the opposite of what a person wants. If you were really free ,you won’t do that . Resentment leads to despair and depression. Let no one live in your head rent free.
Never ignore guilt through arbitrary self acceptance. It is better to face guilt and repent and atone .
Each time you attempt to mislead others or to rationalize a decision you don’t really believe in , an actual breakdown of consciousness occurs .Don’t be evasive to small threats. Face them. Speak truthfully so that people can depend on your word. Even in the tough world of labour and management conflict resolution , don’t play a negotiating game. Forsake manipulation. Manipulators attract only counter-manipulators. Betraying confidences is an excellent indicator that our intention is manipulative.
To overcome your hyper-anxiety , share your disturbing thoughts with another person.”Writing about your anxieties for brief periods appears to have the same healthful effect as confiding the thought to a real person”. Alcoholism and other addictions are primarily a response to unfulfilled spiritual potential.
This book , written by a qualified psychologist, clarifies many ethical issues which we face in our lives. It can change your life and make your emotional health better. I recommend you to read it.