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Do you always tell the truth? Radical honesty is not welcomed in most environments (at home or at work); we all know someone who “tells it like it is” and doesn’t mince words when doing so…no one really wants to be that person. Yet, we have this misalignment with what truth really is, because it is not radical honesty.
In her book “Getting Our Bodies Back; Recovery, Healing and Transformation through Body-Centered Psychotherapy” Christine Caldwell explores truth in a compassionate and approachable way (pages 110-114). Most of us think we know what it means to tell the truth and that we will recognize the truth when it is present; even so we don’t consistently acknowledge the truth for ourselves (if we did there would be less anxiety and depression in this world). Truth, at its’ most essential point, is what you are experiencing in any given moment. It is about you rather than someone else because the only accurate reference point you have access to, particularly in an interpersonal exchange, is yourself. As an example, if someone has sharply criticized you (or your work) it is human to believe the truth of this other person is “They are a bossy know-it-all who feels insecure when others do good work!” You might even tell him or her that. The difficulty with this statement is that it is not the truth; it is your interpretation of what is happening (and masquerades as truth). The truth in this example is closer to “I am deeply upset by your remarks”; notice the use of an “I” statement rather than a “You” statement when articulating the truth. Truth is simple, it is about describing your experience in that moment (“I”) rather than interpreting someone else’s’ words or actions (“You”).
While simple, the truth can be very difficult to access in a moment of anger or emotional pain, and often the last thing we want to do with someone who has hurt us is to share with them our truth. Yet, this is what we need to acknowledge (for ourselves and others) because interpreting someone’s words or action (or a context or circumstance) is a way to take the emotional upheaval we are experiencing and label it (often via judgment), which side steps our own truth, creating further emotional pain. In essence it means we make assumptions that support how we are interpreting the moment, which prolongs the pain of what is happening. Not acknowledging the truth of what we are experiencing keeps us trapped in a cycle of hurt (ours and others). Can you see how not acknowledging the truth can make a bad situation even worse (hint it usually means judgment is present when the truth is absent)? Yet if we chose to stay in the emotional upheaval and sort out what we are experiencing, finding our truth and then letting someone know that their words have hurt us it allows both parties to move from a place of honesty. How? The truth is non-judgmental and indisputable, and when exercised will not intentionally inflame a situation, creating the opportunity for it to be examined in a new and objective light.
Try it, pay attention to how you are interpreting what is happening to you in your day and see if you can get explicitly in touch with what you are experiencing in that moment, acknowledging the truth you are feeling. Doing so will not solve the problem, but it will make you feel more aware and in control of what is going on, allowing you to be your best self.
"No legacy is so rich as honesty." ~ William Shakespeare