As one of the more outspoken members of the Radical Honesty cult, this week I got asked to take part in a documentary that’s going to be aired on Radio Canada next Wednesday evening around 9pm. It’s a regular feature in which the show’s host discusses a particular strain of modern thought, this week’s being the idea that lying has become so endemic, that it’s considered kind of ‘the glue that holds our society together’. The show looks at the idea that deception may be part of an evolutionary process, and whether or not being honest is even possible in the 21st century. The showrunner interviewed Brad (as the author and originator of Radical Honesty) and wanted to talk to someone who had done a workshop, and who could talk about how their life had been affected by it. So cue me; chief advocate, general big mouth and apparently ‘9 on the 1–10 scale of enthusiasm’ when it comes to talking about RH.
One of the things that came up during the interview was a question that I’ve been asked before; whether or not the idea that being honest all the time would ultimately cause the destruction of society and our communities as we know it. The interviewer posed the hypothesis that keeping stuff hidden and avoiding conflict was just how we all ‘got along’, and that if this was taken away the result would be constant conflict and an exhausting, never-ending series of confrontations. Her question was a thought-provoking one, and if I had been asked it 12 months ago, I would probably have had a totally different answer. Yes, it’s easier to hide our feelings, and work stuff through in our heads rather than externally with the people it actually concerns, particularly if you are what psychologists likes to term ‘a smart rat’ and can convince yourself 100% that the conclusions you reach in the virtual reality of your mind are the correct ones. It’s easier on everyone else, because they never have to deal with the mess that exists inside your head and heart, and you never have to deal with the consequences of showing it.
But what then are the consequences of that? The consequences of always keeping the internal workings hidden, and always running…running…running simulations and never actually playing anything out in the real world? I believe the consequences are that I never actually make real contact with anyone at all. That my simulations of others and their emotions become my reality, indistinguishable for me from what real people really think and feel. I believe that I will become so completely and utterly contained within the comfortable bubble of my own creation — supplied with my own interpretation of reality — that the idea of straying outside of it and making myself vulnerable in any way becomes too terrifying to comprehend.
I think that there’s a semi see-through membrane that separates us from others when we live this way, and in some lights it probably does look a lot like glue, but it isn’t. I think it’s the thing that holds us apart, not what holds us together. What we tell ourselves is us ‘protecting’ others feelings is actually just us protecting ourselves from being known — completely known — and dealing with the real emotions and real consequences that will bring. And those relationships — the ones based on actually listening and hearing and knowing and feeling the real people in our lives — they are the relationships worth having. The other kind aren’t worth shit.
Law Turley is a qualified integrative counsellor and certified Radical Honesty Trainer living and working in the south west of the UK.