‘Beyond our ideas of right doing and wrongdoing there is a field I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, each other don’t make sense anymore.” RUMI, a 13th century Sufi mystic.
A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. Winston Churchill
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. Buddha
Why do humans have difficulty facing things head on? The answer is that it is complicated! In our society today our inclination is to dispense with complicated explanations and believe absolutes, black or white, good or evil. It is much easier avoiding the truth. Also there are people and institutions that seek to hide the truth from us to serve their own interests. Trying to untangle the truth is like “nailing jelly to a wall.” Untangling the truth is in part acceptance of what is. Buddhist wisdom suggests that the avoidance of suffering is suffering.
For one thing as Margaret Atwood points out “reality simply consists of different points of view”. In part that is true. We can create our own reality and live by it whether it creates conflict or not. The Christian bible has a phrase about truth: the truth shall set you free. There is a clarity when truth is discerned, we are better able to act in our own interests and the interests of society. There is a caveat though, truth changes with awareness and certain truths are subjective. My personal truth and your personal truth are not always the same. It has to do with our life experiences and what we value. I may value independence and my truth is that it is important and essential to me, but you may value interdependence and your truth is that being in a relationship is the most important thing to you. As Rumi states in the above quote there is right and wrong and a place in between.
What I am writing about is the myriad ways that we conspire to deny the truth of our own lives. We use techniques to skirt around issues and, if possible, we never confront the truth. Why? It is easier to deny it, but it is a trap. We avoid, blame the victim, use substances, project it on others, live in the past, live in the future, deny that the truth is what is, use shopping therapy, use work as an avoidance, and believe in outlandish and bizarre conspiracy theories.
The reason is that the truth is difficult! It is sometimes gut wrenching, horrific and almost impossible to wrap your head around. What does that say about us? That we are uncaring, cruel, horrible people. I don’t think so, I think it says we are deeply caring, and cognizant people and the truth is very hard to bear at times. It is so hard to come to grips with it that our brain is wired to find elaborate ways to avoid dealing with it. Another thing to remember that it is really hard to see clearly when we are in the depth of an experience, especially a difficult one. Our brain dysregulates to manage the intensity and relies on our instinct for survival. That is why long after the experience has passed we can be triggered and revert to survival mode again where insight and understanding are suppressed.
In the event of a traumatic experience we are wired to protect ourselves by running away, fighting or freezing. It is a primitive defence, but it keeps us alive. Sometimes though our response becomes prolonged and no longer useful or functional in our present life. That is when we have difficulty grieving a loss, discerning and facing the truth and taking action, and/or learning, and understanding. Running away (flight) equates to avoidance behaviors, substance use, fighting equates to causing conflict and blaming, and freezing is becoming immobilized by shock, denial and depression.
In stating that we have elaborate strategies for avoiding the truth, we also have a very strong place of Knowing within ourselves. We are not always aware of it because we grow up trusting the people who are responsible for our very survival, our parents or caregivers. We are also taught to trust teachers, institutions and government. We defer to their wisdom and direction however, many times though, this goes counter to our best interests and brings confusion and hide what is true. As we grow up and, depending on our life experience, and emotional development, we can and do learn to trust ourselves. The place of Knowing becomes stronger and the truth of who we are and what we need becomes clearer. We then can make better choices about our life and our relationships with others. Trusting ourselves is paramount to living an authentic life.
For some people this Knowing voice is God, the Buddha, Allah, a higher power, the Great Spirit, or inner knowing. However we conceive of it, the voice lets us know the truth, but I think we have to nurture it and honor it for it to be available when we need it. Ways to allow this voice to speak are a quiet or peaceful environment and letting go of busyness and outside distractions. The phone should be put away for a moment or two or 10. Walking in nature and away from cars and noise and chatter really helps. Awareness of the voices in our head and the messages that influence us is essential to finding our truth.
Getting in touch with ourselves and our truth takes effort, but it is immensely rewarding. We can also do this in the midst of everything by going to a quiet place, even if it’s the bathroom, focus on our breathing and connect with ourselves. By doing this we are honoring ourselves and the ones we love by knowing and living our truth. In connecting with others, we can be fully authentic when we are clear about how we think and feel rather than being seduced by the busyness of life and the myriad distractions that sew confusion, distress, and judgement. We put aside the shoulds, the competing voices in our heads, media influences and just be who we really are. The truth of our life and the knowing who we are will set us free. It might be hard to confront but entirely necessary.
Charles Bukowski: It was his simple ability to be completely, unflinchingly honest with himself— especially the worst parts of himself— and to share his feelings without hesitation or doubt. P3 The Subtle Art of Not Giving A f Mark Manson.