The Whole Truth
One of the many misconceptions about being ‘radically honest’ is the idea that you have to — not only be 100% honest — but also have to divulge every single thing that’s going through your mind, like there is no filter between your brain and your mouth. However, there is a huge difference between being honest and open, and with spewing out an unedited stream of consciousness that has little or no relevance to anyone.
I think lots of thoughts, very fast and in quick succession, often the thoughts are unrelated, contradictory and more often than not transitory. I might, for example, be listening to Philip talk, and be thinking these thoughts (in rapid succession):
- God this is boring
- I wonder how much longer he’s going to go on?
- Oh my God did I remember to pay for my car tax?
- I should really get that tyre sorted out this week
- If was to have an accident and died I wonder who would come to my funeral?
- That man beside me smells awful
- I wonder if that teacher I had at school emotionally scarred me somehow?
None of these thoughts particularly warrant expressing aloud, unless I was feeling particularly resentful about the fact I were being bored by Philip, but even then announcing loudly to the room “I’m bored!” or “This is boring!” wouldn’t be a good example of Radical Honesty. It would however be a good example of being kind of a dick.
The point of Radical Honesty is not to shock or outrage (although this may be the reaction of some when you practise it thoroughly), nor is it “just an excuse for being an asshole”, as is so often suggested. The point of Radical Honesty is to be open about what we feel (inside and out), so everyone around us can stop imagining it, getting it wrong and creating an entirely false mental picture of the people around them. And what’s so wrong with my having a false mental picture of a person instead of a genuine idea of who they really are? Well, I’m so glad you asked…
The problem with my feeling on behalf of other people (“I know she’s angry with me!” “I’m sure he thinks I’m fat” “I know he won’t give me the job”) is that I react to those interpretations as if they were actually words that had been spoken, rather that an illusion I have created. And the sad truth is that I can spend our whole lives reacting to these illusions rather than to actual people, and never have a genuine clue what anyone is really feeling.
‘The whole truth’ is not every single thing you think, it’s just what needs to be said in order for me to get past that place in the road you’re stuck at. It’s what I’m afraid of admitting for fear of looking stupid, or something hurtful that was said that I’ve carried around — word perfect — for years. Or that idea that makes me feel sick inside everytime it arises in you: he thinks I’m stupid, she thinks I’m worthless, they all think I’m boring. They are your truths, they are what you really feel, not what you tell everyone else to protect yourself.
So take those truths out, dust them off, set them out on the table in front of you and the people you care about getting closer to, and start to talk about them. I guarantee that, by the time you’re done, you’ll all have learned some more of the whole truth about yourself and each other.
Law Turley is a qualified integrative counsellor and certified Radical Honesty Trainer living and working in the south west of the UK.