back arrowUnselfish, The Podcast

On Emotions, Personal Integrity and Being Authentic.

Episode description

What does being authentic mean to you? Where do emotions fit into your picture of authenticity? Is being authentic the same as having personal integrity?

Visit for full show notes and transcript download.


Opening credits and introduction. [00:00 – 0:39]

A personal story about experiencing and expressing emotions, authenticity, and social roles. [00:40 – 05:27]

Aristotle’s concept of cultivating good character through the disciplined practice of emotions. [05:28 – 06:39]

Common sense tells us emotions happen to us, that they are our automatic reactions to the world. [06:40 – 09:01]

Emotions as reactions to our perceptions and beliefs about ourselves and our experiences. [09:02 – 10:30]

Noticing the limitations of the mechanistic metaphors we use to understand ourselves and our emotions. [10:31 – 12:13]

Emotions are reactions to our perceptions and beliefs. Our perceptions and beliefs are influenced by our social roles and relationships. Can we be intentional in our emotions without diminishing our integrity or authenticity? [12:14 – 13:49]

Our beliefs about surface acting, authenticity, and the emotional display demands of our work roles. [13:50 – 18:23]

Authenticity might require more than self-reflection. If we’re interdependent, then being authentic is a collaborative practice. [18:24 – 19:57]

Consumer culture obscures any shared significance for our decisions and actions. Our approach to the world in a constant state of busyness leaves no room for a collaboration towards authenticity. [19:58 – 21:19]

What do we mean when we talk about authenticity? [21:20 – 22:58]

Beyond defining integrity: a conditional test for personal integrity. [22:59 – 24:29]

Satisfying Carter’s three conditions for personal integrity. [24:30 – 27:23]

Practicing integrity takes collaboration, supported by a relational perspective and a mindful disruption of busyness. [27:24 – 29:07]
We might choose to resist a western rational approach to life by elevating intuition. But our common sense assumptions about human nature lead us to an objectified and instrumental understanding of intuition. We rename it emotional and social intelligence and develop these as skills we individuals use to influence the world. [29:08 – 31:49]

Our cultural assumptions lead us to understand ourselves as independent individuals, driven exclusively by our inner lives. When we understand authenticity and integrity as important internal qualities of individuals, we diminish their meaning and lose sight of how we could develop them. [31:50 – 32:40]

Our explanations for pursuing personal integrity and being authentic, based on western rationality and instrumental reasoning, becomes awkward and restricted. It feels incomplete to say that being good is its own reward. But why do we feel the need to point to any reward for being good? [32:41 – 35:02]

If we believe we live in an impersonal world governed by markets, surrounded by other suppliers and consumers pursuing their self-interests, then holding personal goals that ignore personal reward seems soft-headed. [35:03 – 36:01]

The psychological view of human nature suggests we define authenticity as nothing but emotional transparency and we’re ready to equate integrity with consistency across time, across situations, and across roles. [36:02 – 36:42]

If we accept that we are not independent and static but are constantly influenced by every conversation, relationship, and role we adopt, then inviting a shared interpretation of our identities makes sense and opens the possibility of moral dialogue. Being authentic and pursuing personal integrity become collaborative rather than solo pursuits. [36:43 – 38:07]

Closing credits. [38:08 – 39:08]

Quotations and References:

[05:40] “If one cares about anything – and it is virtually impossible to imagine someone not caring at all – one will have emotions.”
Solomon, R. C. (2007). True to our feelings: what our emotions are really telling us. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. (page 10).

[06:20] Aristotle believed that being virtuous included being afraid or angry for the right reasons at the right times, and to the right degree…
Refer to Aristotle. (1999). Nicomachean Ethics (2nd ed.). (T. Irwin, Trans.) Indianapolis: Hackett. “We can be afraid, for instance, or be confident, or have appetites, or get angry, or feel pity… But having these feelings at the right times, about the right things…is proper to virtue.” II.6, 1106b19-24

[07:25] “…when people describe an experience as emotional they imply that it is to an extent beyond the will, passive, a reaction… we accept the idea that to have, to really have, an emotion is to be its passive ‘victim’.”
Sabini, J., & Silver, M. (1998). Emotion, character, and responsibility. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. (page 5).

[09:02] “When we react with an emotion, especially a strong one, every fiber of our being is likely to be engaged – our attention and thoughts, our needs and desires, and even our bodies. The reaction tells us that an important value or goal has been engaged and is being harmed, placed at risk, or advanced.”
Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Emotion and Adaptation. New York: Oxford University Press. (pp. 6-7).

[14:04] Such thinking is also supported by research that identifies a link between surface acting and well-being…
Refer to Grandey, A. A., & Gabriel, A. S. (2015). Emotional labor at a crossroads: Where do we go from here? Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 2(1), 323-349 for a review of studies identifying a link between surface acting and well-being within the context of employees performing emotion work (in particular, see pp. 333-335).

[14:50] Consider the emotional display demands placed on a correctional officer in a prison compared with those on an assistant cruise director on a family-themed cruise ship…
For insights into the emotional demands of these two vocations, refer to Tracey, S. J. (2008). Power, Paradox, Social Support, and Prestige: A Critical Approach to Addressing Correctional Officer Burnout. In S. Fineman (Ed.), The Emotional Organization: Passions and Power. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

[19:45] Cultivating such a relational perspective can help us reclaim a larger meaning, a horizon of significance, for our decisions and actions…
For a discussion of self-defeating soft relativism – and the need for a horizon of significance which cannot be self-defined if we seek a non-trivial meaning in our personal choices – refer to Taylor, C. (1992). The Ethics of Authenticity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. (pp. 37-41).

[21:49] We want to consume authentic products. Whether we’re in the supermarket selecting a jar of pasta sauce or choosing an Italian restaurant for a night out, we seek the authentic taste of Tuscany…
Inspired by Kernis, M. H. & Goldman B.M. (2005). From Thought and Experience to Behavior and Interpersonal Relationships: A Multicomponent Conceptualization of Authenticity. In Tesser, A., Wood, J. V., Stapel, D. A. (Ed.) On building, defending and regulating the self: A psychological perspective. New York; Ipswich: Routledge (pp. 31-52). “We want our chocolate to be authentic (“made with real milk chocolate”). We want our pasta to be authentic (“authentic Italian recipe”). We want our leather to be authentic (“100% cowhide leather”). But, do we want our “selves” to be authentic?” (page 31).

[22:59] As Stephen Carter noted, defining integrity in terms of completeness and perfection can imply purity…
Refer to Carter, S. L. (1997). Integrity. New York: Harper Perennial. (page 17).

[24:03] To move us beyond thin definitions, Stephen Carter formulated a three-part conditional test for personal integrity.
Refer to Carter, S. L. (1997). Integrity. New York: Harper Perennial. (page 7).

[24:30] The first of these conditions echo Aristotle’s concept that expressing our good character begins with what we see, not with our decisions or actions…
Refer to Sherman, N. (1989). The fabric of character: Aristotle’s theory of virtue. New York: Clarendon Press. “Pursuing the ends of virtue does not begin with making choices, but with recognizing the circumstances… In this sense, character is expressed in what one sees as much as what one does. Knowing how to discern the particulars, Aristotle stresses, is a mark of virtue.” (pp. 3-4).

[35:54] We hear the echoes of Ayn Rand telling us that altruism is for suckers…
For Ayn Rand’s preposterous attempt to elevate selfishness to a moral ideal, refer to Rand, A. (1964). The Virtue of Selfishness. New York, New York: Signet. For example, “…if civilization is to survive, it is the altruist morality that men have to reject…” (page 39) and “Only individual men have the right to decide when or whether they wish to help others…” (page 93).

Disclaimer, copyright, and image and music credits:

While this document, and the recorded audio podcast episode it describes, includes published peer-reviewed psychological research and therapy papers, it is not therapy and no therapeutic benefits are offered or implied. If you have concerns about your physical or psychological health, please seek medical advice. If you have concerns about the health of your most important relationships, please seek professional relationship counselling services.

This document, and the recorded audio podcast episode it describes are © 2018, James David Thomas.

The image for this episode was modified by the author in Adobe Illustrator CC using Adobe Stock # 115357757 © ojogabonitoo under a standard license. Visit

Music used in this episode was mixed by the author in Adobe Audition CC 2018 from a public domain recording of the Piano Sonata no. 17 in D minor “The Tempest” Op. 31 by Ludwig van Beethoven, performed by Paul Pitman. The recording was sourced from

The post On Emotions, Personal Integrity and Being Authentic. appeared first on Lead Team Culture Development.

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