Whole Being -- Honest as compared to indirect

Whole Being  —  Honest as Compared to Indirect

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Whole Being

Whole Being  —  Hon­est as com­pared to indi­rect  —  we think that hedg­ing or being polite is polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect. What we end up with is a dis­hon­est life.

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Here’s what I real­ly think

Here’s a client story from back a ways:

I had a client with fibromyal­gia; her physi­cian referred her. 

He thought I might be able to help her to choose to feel bet­ter, as all the the med­ical inter­ven­tions he’d tried  —  drugs and pain reliev­ing salves and sleep­ing pills  —  weren’t doing much.

When she first came in, she let me know quite clear­ly that she was­n’t sure I could do any­thing for her; she was­n’t even sure why she was there. 

I agreed that I did­n’t know why she was there either. I also agreed that there was absolute­ly noth­ing that I could do for her.

I wondered if she’d be interested in learning to do something for herself. Her interest piqued, and she decided to stay and try a session.

We had a long talk about ill­ness. I said that I thought that most ill­ness was psy­cho­so­mat­ic in ori­gin. Now, psy­cho­so­mat­ic sim­ply means, “hav­ing bod­i­ly symp­toms that are of men­tal or emo­tion­al ori­gin.”

It doesn’t mean “imaginary,” nor is it a “mental illness.”

I was not lay­ing “blame”  —  not blam­ing her for giv­ing her­self fibromyal­gia. It’s just that peo­ple are rigid thinkers.

  • We get it in our heads that since our par­ents were a cer­tain way, we have to be the same. 
  • Or, we’re told we are frail, or prone to some­thing, and we devel­op it.
  • Or, we don’t lis­ten to the voice of our bod­ies, so our bod­ies have no oth­er choice than to speak loud­er. And the chief voice of an unheard body is pain.

Zen guy that I am, I figure that first we “simply notice”, and then we shift behaviours.

Toward the end of the first ses­sion my client told me she was about to fire me  —  because she real­ly did­n’t like the idea that she gave her­self fibromyalgia. 

Again, that’s not what “psy­cho­so­mat­ic” implies, nor was it what I said.

I explained that I thought she’d been ignor­ing her body  —  not deal­ing with her feel­ings and emo­tions  —  because she was “too busy look­ing after every­one else.”

So, her body decid­ed to get her attention.

Think about it  —  fibromyalgia is a disease whose only symptom is pain  —  one’s body screams, “Pay attention to me!”

She could­n’t imag­ine that this was what was going on. So, because what I said flew in the face of her belief sys­tem, I had to go.

Except that, pri­or to her actu­al­ly fir­ing me, I said some­thing about self-focus and self-respon­si­bil­i­ty that she “got,” so she decid­ed that I’d earned a one ses­sion reprieve.

I was pleased with her honesty, (about her process, her intention to fire me, everything…) and told her so.

She real­ly want­ed to let me know where she was com­ing from  —  and that she did­n’t “get” every­thing I was say­ing. She fig­ured that, despite her ill­ness get­ting worse instead of bet­ter, sure­ly my sug­ges­tion that a dose of self-respon­si­bil­i­ty and self-cen­tered­ness (see this top­ic here) could­n’t make things better.

I said that this was precisely what I thought.

I also said, “Maybe, just because you’ve spent your life being “oth­er-cen­tred” as opposed to self cen­tred, your body decid­ed to yell, “pay atten­tion to me!” and did so through the voice of fibromyal­gia. Maybe you need to spend as much time work­ing on your­self as you do stick­ing your nose into what every­one else is doing!”

Now, I could have focused on polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect lan­guage  —  con­grat­u­lat­ed her on her insight and agreed that I’d over­stat­ed my case. Or, I could have apol­o­gized for say­ing some­thing she did­n’t want to hear.

Either of these approaches would have been indirect or deceitful. Instead, I went for honesty.

I want­ed to clear­ly state my per­spec­tive  —  here is where I stand and here is what I believe is going on.

To be per­fect­ly blunt, when oth­ers have issues, I am nev­er curi­ous about how they set up their lives  —  or what they believe  —  because their belief sys­tems con­tribute to their med­ical and emo­tion­al distress.

If I’d lis­tened to my clien­t’s beliefs, all she would have been able to “teach me” was how to end up with fibromyal­gia. I was not inter­est­ed in learn­ing how to do that.

Nor am I inter­est­ed in oth­ers teach­ing me about how to be “oth­er-cen­tred.” I focus on the per­son in front of me. I teach self-respon­si­bil­i­ty  —  what the per­son in front of me can do, how they might live their lives differently.

I focus on help­ing oth­ers find ways that will be sub­stan­tial­ly dif­fer­ent from what they’ve been doing. I don’t want to pussy foot around and be sub­tle.
I state what I see, and explain that what I see is a prob­lem with their approach.

This direct approach, while blunt, is never cruel.

I learned this approach from Glo­ria Tay­lor, who was my ther­a­pist and super­vi­sor. Two illus­tra­tions of her straight to the mark approach.

  1. I was whin­ing about how hard my life was and how things were not work­ing out. Glo­ria said, “I just got a book that explains how to sort out this kind of stuff. All you have to do is read it and fol­low the author’s sug­ges­tions, and you will be fine.” She then hand­ed me Liv­ing Life in Grow­ing Orbitsmy own book. That was an amaz­ing­ly direct piece of therapy.
  2. I’d be end­less­ly com­plain­ing about some­thing or anoth­er that I’d got­ten myself stuck in. Glo­ria would shake her head and say, “Cute, but stupid.”

This is hon­esty in the extreme. 

Now, let me say quick­ly, before some of you, (and you know who you are!) decide this is license to be jerks about this  —  that hon­esty is not the same as being a know-it-all smart-ass. It’s not about how to speak the truth so you’ll be con­sid­ered the most sar­cas­tic per­son in the room. Nor is this about being guru-like.

Hon­esty is sim­ply speak­ing the truth direct­ly, as opposed to being cute, eva­sive or obscure.

Oh, and you only speak hon­est­ly to peo­ple who will lis­ten. Oth­ers, who aren’t inter­est­ed in your truth, can be ignored or fired. Plain and simple.

So, isn’t it arrogant to think I might know “the truth?”

I think not. Expe­ri­ence tells me a lot, and intu­ition tells me the rest. And in the end, I’m direct­ly and clear­ly stat­ing that I am only stat­ing “my” truth. This is the world, as I see it.

Like these arti­cles. This is my forum. This is a short course in “wel­come to Wayne’s world.” If what I say does­n’t ring true for you, fire me. On the oth­er hand, if you want to dia­logue, drop me a line.

All too often, we make the choice not to speak the truth, as we think the con­se­quences of not say­ing what needs to be said are bet­ter than the ones that will arise if we are hon­est. We end up feel­ing mis­er­able as we stuff what needs to be said. 

Then, we get to feel like a mar­tyr, which seems some­how noble. Much like whack­ing one­self repeat­ed­ly with a ball-peen ham­mer is noble.

Thank you, but no. Hon­esty and integri­ty go hand in hand. I need to have inter­nal con­sis­ten­cy if I am ever going to live a bal­anced life.

I need to be will­ing to see and hear any­thing with­out judge­ment, but at the same time be will­ing to speak hon­est­ly about what I see. I speak from the per­spec­tive of whether “what­ev­er it is” works, not whether “it” is right or wrong.

If it doesn’t work, the only solution is to change it. That takes both honesty and courage.

This week, think about what needs to be said, both to your­self and to your near­est and dear­est. Then, start with your­self, and call a spade a spade. You’ll be ahead, in the end, by always opt­ing for honesty.

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