Monday, June 22, 2009
Don't Ask, Don't Tell (yourself): On Honesty
"If a thousand old beliefs were ruined in our march to truth we must still march on." ~Stopford Brooke
"I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth - and truth rewarded me." ~Simone de Beauvoir
I couldn't decide. So I've brought you both quotes. Here is what I have been thinking about lately: Being honest in therapy. Being honest with one's self. Being honest with G-d. And of course, for all the couples I work with, the pros and cons of being honest with each other. Sometimes honesty hurts, or we think it will. And since, I think, honesty does not always come easy or fast, we need to be honest about that too. About the fact that we don't always know what the truth is.
That there are different kinds of honesty. There are the facts, reality, as it is. And then of course, reality as it seems. There is emotional honesty, which sometimes, often times, actually, takes a bit of psychic exploratory surgery to discover what feeling(s) is really present. And there is very real and understandable problem of just not knowing what the truth really is.
So I am thinking about all the layers of the onion. That here, in the therapy room, is the place to say everything. To get curious, to be willing and brave and interested in the truth. Even if the truth is subjective. I suppose we could debate (and many have and do) the use of knowledge of the truth...does it really set you free? Does it really cure your addiction, relieve your rage, send the right message to your spouse? Release you from the trappings of your past? Does knowing how you were shaped and influenced, what effected you, how and why, really lead to progress and better things for your present and future?
Does unpacking your memories, facing your fears, fessing up to angers, resentments and desires really have a benefit? What if you could really get good glimpse of your unconscious? Would it matter? What if you could give yourself permission to really get to know yourself, flaws and assets, bumps and bruises, urges, wishes and secret longings?
The truth? I don't really know? How can we know this? But I think, honestly, from the therapist's chair, that honesty, at least in here, in my office, pays life quality dividends big time.
I am not talking about confession. I welcome it if it helps, but its okay with me if you are drinking a pint on Friday night after your spouse has gone to sleep, and you just can't seem to tell your sponsor. Or you really are spending a lot of time with the guy in the office two doors down, and you promised your partner you don't talk to him anymore. Or that you really watch Oprah when you work from home.
You can confess all you want in my office, I am listening. It helps to unload it, and this is a good place to do it. But. And. What next. Therapists don't have collars. We have mirrors. If you' d like. And hopefully a sense of when and how to use them.
Most people come in to get relief, to understand some things about themselves, about life, about their past, how it affects their present and future. How to have better. Better love, sex, money, serenity, sense of self, direction, self value, connections. Better.
Honesty, honestly, (makes me want to sing that old Billy Joel song), is sometimes a slow riser, like the sun, but I do think it brings light, to dark days, dark moods, dark lives. Even if the ideas are just guesses sometimes, even if we have to live with, or settle for, workable true enough ideas or insights. Even if, and since, in therapy-speak, not knowing the truth, or wanting to know the truth is a defense, and we respect and even protect defenses, unless and until they are no longer needed.
Its just some food for thought, that being open to learning about your own truths can go a long way, in here, out there. Its not always easy, so I tend to go lightly sometimes, but I believe its worth the go. That there is a benefit, and that honesty's close friends forgiveness, engagement, and relief and acceptance are always close by.