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What Is True (or Why I do What I Do

I’ve always felt that the key element of a life that is meaningful is the ability to live in relation to that which feels true. Many of us know what feels true for us and avoid living it or disclosing it because it feels shameful or frightening. Many of us simply don’t give it much thought – we live life as it is given by our surroundings, our authorities, our culture. That is easy and safe. But what allows us to live safely is not the same thing that allows us to feel an actual sense of belonging and being with our world. So, we all have our truths, some which are public, some which are known but private, and some which are not attended to at all. Truths may be about motives, about qualities, about deeds, about needs. Truths may be about the way in which we actually experience ourselves and/or our world. Truths express who we are, affected by our world, but not defined by it. But truths are socialized out of us from an early age. We learn to comply, to lie, in order to gain or maintain some degree of inclusion or acceptance in our families, in our peer groups, and in the schools and churches which help to define our early world. We knowingly, but more often unknowingly, abandon our selves in order to not be abandoned. And we replace our selves with a fabrication, a concept of a self – a “self concept”. Little of this is done to us out of a sense of maliciousness. Our families, our peers, our institutions mostly pass on to us, unexamined, what was similarly passed on to them. And we largely do reap some of the promised pay-off: we become members in good standing with the status quo. And, paradoxically, even the rebel develops a persona which doesn’t actually match his/her full self: s/he may actually feel pain and care deeply about the acceptance that s/he is forgoing, rather than being hard and unaffected. But with this adaptation, this “creative adjustment”, we lose something vital. We lose our truth, our “true self”, our real and immediate connection to the world. We retreat into a world of facades, of concepts, of deceptions of others, and of self deceptions. And this world is characterized by a low level dullness and dis-ease, which at times escalates into more acute symptoms of anxiety and depression. And then some of us are driven to a therapist’s office to try to get rid of these symptoms, so that we can return to our familiar dullness. People say “I just want these feelings to go away!”, and that is understandable – anxiety and depression feel pretty awful! But, I try to direct my patients, (to the degree that they can be open to this) to the possibility that these feelings are actually expressing their truth. That to listen to these feelings with a sense of interest will lead us to a felt sense of what is important to us, yet going unaddressed. And if we are able to understand, accept, and address these needs or concerns, we will emerge as more intact and whole, and perhaps living in a world which knows and meets us more fully.