The problem of authentism is discussed by Kazimierz Dąbrowski in the book The Dynamics of Concepts. This concept is much more difficult than it might seem at first glance. Dąbrowski notes: Our notion of authentism is not strictly bound to such uses of the concept of authenticity. We do not consider authentic such forms of behavior, conduct, experiencing or thinking, which may find expression in the so-called sincerity and straightforwardness without inhibition, in uncontrolled manifestations of one’s inborn inclinations in “being natural” without reflection and inner psychic transformation (Dąbrowski, 1973, p. 91).
To understand authenticity, it is worth distinguishing it from the naturalness that results from the psychological type of person. It manifests in spontaneous human behavior with no external pressure, i.e. the expression of the natural tendencies of the individual. This spontaneity and naturalness usually mean being yourself, not pretending to be someone else, being in harmony with your own nature. Unfortunately, this is often a thoughtless attitude that results from the need to manifest one’s presence and separateness as an individual or forced originality.
Between Authentism and Sincerity
Another term related to authentism is sincerity. It can be an expression of both positive and negative emotions and it can become destructive if it is a misleading or even degrading message from another person. This type of sincerity has more to do with rudeness than sensitivity.
Dabrowski distinguishes sincerity from straightforwardness. What is the difference between these two concepts? Sincerity refers to the content of the message, which is consistent with the internal beliefs of the person. Straightforwardness, however, concerns the form of the message, i.e. the ability to say something in a transparent and communicative way, without unnecessary digressions and metaphors.
Authentism as Space of Reflection
According to Dąbrowski: It seems that sincerity and straightforwardness have real value, if they result from many conscious and elaborated inhibitions (Dąbrowski, 1973, p. 91). The question arises: what are these overworked inhibitions? Presumably, these are the processes of detention or suspension of court, reaction or decision. This delay in interaction with others, in specific situations, serves to deepen the knowledge of reality. It results from doubts that arise in the human psyche. It opens the possibility of looking from different many points of view and understanding others. In this way, with more advanced development, problems cease to have a bipolar nature corresponding to one-level disintegration, which is the lowest form of disintegration in Dąbrowski’s concept.
Following this line of reasoning, the sincerity of an authentic person is not only telling the truth but telling it in a way that opens another person to new possibilities. Therefore, empathy is the foundation of authentism. An authentic sincerity is not about formulating your own judgment, but about saying what is constructive, which can help solve a problem or keep it in silence. So it’s about intentional rather than impulsive sincerity. Without reflection it can even deepen trauma, even become an expression of hidden cruelty. Dabrowski notices:
Be greeted psychoneurotics!
[…] For your subtlety in not telling others what you see in them (Dabrowski, 1972, p. XVI).
Authentism in Personality
Authentism also has an influence on the shaping of the personality. Dąbrowski notes: If the concept of authentism or authentic existence is to have the normative connotation associated with it by leading existential philosophers, it has to be related to mental development toward autonomous personality – that is to say, toward the highest level of mental structure and human functions (Dąbrowski, 1973, p. 91-92).
The mature authentism understood in this way is very difficult, because a man will follow his impulsive reaction many times, he will be ashamed and will ponder many times before he experiences true authentism.
It also follows that authentism is based on a distance view. Only by keeping distance can a person transcend the understanding of sincerity as an impulsive emotional response. According to Dąbrowski, what is more, authentic is what is more autonomous and empathic, what is more self-conscious. The more authentic has a richer history of development, a richer history of internal conflicts, self-consciousness, empathy, and a stronger and more complicated sense of existence and own essence and the essence of others (Cf. Dabrowski, 1973).
Authentism as Dynamism
Authentism is a multilevel concept, i.e. it appears on an individual, social and spiritual level, which shows the individual’s struggle for the realization of their own values - their own truth. They often lead through many inner conflicts, when people often give up what seems easier, more reliable in the name of their own values. In Dabrowski’s theory, authentism is not only a human psychic quality, like authenticity. It is dynamism that structures the human psyche and also allows us to differentiate reality into higher and lower aspects of reality in the development process.
According to Dabrowski, autonomy is a component of authenticity. This means that in order for authentism to become developmental dynamism, man has to deal with autonomous behavior many times. Only this repeated experience of autonomy allows him to understand the truth of his own unique nature, i.e. to gain authentism. Therefore, authentism is a synthesis of many experiences. Dabrowski talks: Authentism is acquired through deep and grave life experiences, inner conflicts and unceasing efforts (Dabrowski 1973, p. 93).
Authentism as Attitude
These contents are reflected in the definition of Dąbrowski one is authentic if one develops an authentic attitude towards oneself, one’s milieu and his own ideal. All these elements transform into a higher form of development. This process has an influence on one’s self-consciousness empathy, the hierarchy of values, and a strong sense of his essential existence (Cf. Dabrowski, 1973).
An important feature of authentism is consciousness of the essence of personality, and at the same time, it is its manifestation. In this way, one discovers himself by experiencing authentism which carries a note of modesty. It means that an authentic attitude appears when one forgets about it, and when one does not try to be authentic. Just trying to be authentic makes a person move away from this idea (Cf. Dabrowski, 1973). Authentism understood in this way also sheds new light on the concept of naturalness.
If naturalness is associated with self-acceptance, it gains a deeper content. One has one’s true self because one has accepted oneself and is conscious of one’s weaknesses. One’s attitude is not just a rebellion against the milieu and it is not based only on external conflict. Naturalness becomes authentism when a person needs to remain true to oneself. Of course, this applies to the advanced level of personality development in Dabrowski’s concept.
The Spiritual Aspect of Authentism
A similar theme appears in the concept of personality development according to Carl Gustav Jung. Jung talks about the need to make a moral decision, i.e. to define principles and values with which man remains faithful. Of course, the realization of these values condemns one to internal conflict, when one begins to realize that the price of fidelity to one’s own values can be high. Dąbrowski emphasizes this by referring to Søren Kierkeegard: Kierkegaard thought that authentism did not contain utilitarian elements, did not manifest the need for aggression or victory in this world, and even elements of success; for a genuine attitude, it is only important to demonstrate the truth (Dabrowski, 1989, p. 130).
In Elements of Philosophy of Development, Dąbrowski states that authentism is an expression of identification with his own personality. It is referred to as actual flow, unlike the transcendental structure, which is the ideal of personality. Personality from the moment it appears in the development process is not subject to significant qualitative changes, only quantitative. Their expression is the individual’s authentic behavior that strengthens and confirms the personality as a stable mental structure. The tendency to authentic behavior increases with the level of development (Dabrowski, 1989).
Authentism is a concept related to naturalness, sincerity, and directness, but it is not identical with any of them. Authentism is not simply a spontaneous expression of one’s own nature. It is based on inhibition, i.e. the tendency to stop and withdraw into your own interior, which creates a space of reflection. Authentism carries an element of empathy. Its foundation is intentional sincerity, not impulsive, as in the case of naturalness. According to Dabrowski, authentism is a dynamism of personality development and not just a mental trait. It is manifested in human behavior through autonomy. As a consequence, it leads to the crystallization and consolidation of personality in the essential sense. The higher the level of development, the higher the level of authentism. It is also a form of demonstrating own truth in an existential sense.
Dabrowski K. (1972). Psychoneurosis is not an illness, London: Gryf,
Dabrowski K. (1973). The Dynamics of Concepts, London: Gryf,
Dabrowski K. (1989). Elementy filozofii rozwoju [The Elements of Philosophy of the Development], Warsaw: PTHP.