my space tracker

Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Don't Ask, Don't Tell (yourself): On Honesty

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.


Lisa Marie said...

Thank you so much for this post. This is specifically something I am struggling with a lot right now.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

Hi Lisa Marie,

You're welcome. Glad you stopped by.


Shen said...

Wow, I loved the line about therapists being mirrors. It really is like that. I hadn't looked at it that way, but I can see that very often when I talk to my therapist I do see myself.

I am painfully honest with her, and it has been so hard sometimes, especially when I started talking about some abuse that I had never spoken of before. I am just, today, coming out of a five month long bout of anger/grief/anxiety about my disclosures in January -- just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think it's all been worth it. Two years of hard work, but I really think it's going to be okay.

Just Be Real said...

Melissa, appreciate your whole blog and sharing. I can so relate and honesty is the ONLY way to go and be Real!! I am on my way to freedom! Blessings.

Sandy,PhD said...

I think people need to get out some shameful truths in therapy (or in the telling to a confidante) as a way of hearing a different interpretation, a more acceptable, palatable, or forgiving understanding of the events. To shake loose the negative, shame inducing messages one spins in one's own head, over and over like a broken record. And it's a great thing to be a part of that process, when permitted.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I love your blog. Thank you for this post. You're right, of course, that honesty is important, particularly in the therapeutic context... but why does it have to be so hard? And what happens when you start being honest and don't like what you find? That big void inside is a dark and scary place.

Jennifer said...

Off-topic: This falls in the category of "small world." JustBeReal started following my blog, so I clicked back through to her, and found your picture in her list of followers. I recognized you right away.

Hope all is well, Melissa. How are things? (I haven't moved very far on my writing project; it fell to the backburner after I took a job as a writing instructor at a nearby college).

Now, "on topic" -- your blog is great. You're really giving people a safe place to come clean.

Shen said...

I am passing on an award that I recieved yesterday - the
"One Lovely Blog" award - to you!

Please come to my blog:

to accept it.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

Jennifer! What a nice surprise, and what a great blog you have!!! So glad you stopped by!!!!! Will visit you again!!!! I love your writing! Hope you will move the project back to the front burner....My own is coming along, sending it out and getting good feedback but no "yes" yet....still writing!

Stay in touch!

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

And you all for the good words, honestly!!! :)

Will stop by to visit you all as well.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...


love the award, will pass it along and thanks!