I want you to entertain an idea. What if everything in your life has been a lie? From the things you like, to the things you hate, what if you have never told the truth about anything? How would you take this news? You would call bullshit, wouldn’t you? I know I did.
Meet The Doctor
Brad Blanton, Ph.D. in Gestalt Therapy, has been in the field of psychology for the last fifty years. His central message is plain, simple, and can be found on the first page of his “Introduction”chapter for Radical Honesty:
“We all lie like hell. It wears us out. It is the major source of all human stress. Lying kill people. […] The kind of lying that is most deadly is withholding, or keeping back information from someone we think would be affected by it.”
He continues that “the mind is a jail built out of “bullshit.” And our bullshit is all the things we hide or outright lie to ourselves and others about in an effort to control who we are for them and ourselves.
A Time Without Bullshit
There was once a time in our lives when we didn’t suffer from our mind or our bullshit jail of lies. Blanton calls this time without bullshit the psychological “background.” He postulates that all human development arises from a fundamental experience with “unity,” which we all share. This experience is one that he says,
“All religions, gods, metaphysics, theologies, philosophies, and teachings of masters of all faiths are attempts to remember these eternal months past, this lost sense of unity.” [bolded for emphasis]
And where in the world is this unity experienced? Blanton states that it is the womb, and from here he stands on the premise that the fundamental grounds of our lives comes from a time that is indelibly ensconced in our minds.
“The fetus matured until the wiring was complete and suddenly experiencing was.”
Where Did We Get Off Track?
So where does all this lying start?
As children, Blanton explains, our parents start to tell us what is bad and what is good for them, they moralize us. And it isn’t long before we, as children, soon see that we need to start to differentiate our behavior into categories: that things we do, and the things that we don’t do, that make the big people happy or angry towards us.
This capacity to choose our behavior is what allows us to manipulate the people in our world, ourselves included. Who we want to be for others, and ourselves, becomes a game of “hide and seek”. We tell lies and we withhold truth quite simply to appease the moralistic upbringings that we receive from our parents.
“…control is one of the first things children learn they need to learn. That was just one of those things we found our when we grew up: we needed to get control of ourselves.”
The Rest of The Story, Now You Know
From the time we learn to lie, and as we play out different roles we want to try on, we become trapped in the “jail of the mind”. As we are forming our identity, the “who we are” gets in the way of “what we are.” Which, according to Blanton, who and what we are are radically different things:
“Who you are is a unique version of the holy human prototype, with personally included.”
His form of therapy is aimed at resensitizing the body, to feel it, and to escape the mind by untelling the lies and revealing the truths that we have buried in ourselves.
“…we fear that the pain accompanying the act of self-disclosure will literally destroy us, or fundamentally damage our being in some horrible way, rendering us maimed and dysfunctional. In addition , we fear we may destroy others with our truth-telling.”
Blanton eloquently, as eloquently as a self-proclaimed “redneck” can be, offers suggestions for how to express resentments and appreciations to the people that we have been hiding them from. These exercises include meeting up with your family and telling them your secrets, calling friends and scheduling appointments to let go of resentments, and disclosing sexual histories and fantasies to lovers for the purpose of being “free” of the “jail made of bullshit”
My Bullshit Conclusion
I found this book by accident while wanting to read some racy novel titled, The Troubles With Fidelity. In moments after picking it up, I was astounded by the intimacy that the author was able to create about the subject of honesty. And I was absolutely enamoured with Blanton when I read,
“I’m not saying you should tell the truth in order to be a good or better person. This is not meant to be a moral principle, but as a functional role of thumb.”
From there I understood that this book was not meant to serve me as a sacred text or a holy book to follow letter for letter. Quite the contrary, this book honestly shows the rational justifications for which honesty can stand on: that I will feel “free”.
And I would be lying if I said that I didn’t try some of the exercises. I did, and each time I unearthed some unholy secret, or let go of some pent up resentment, I felt Blanton had captured my feelings completely:
“…although greatly relieved, it’s also a little disappointed. There is freedom, a gap, a wider sense of being in charge of life, but also a feeling of being nonplussed, like one would feel after having lost a home of some kind.”
But probably my favorite thing that I want to end on is this, I have shared this quote half a dozen times now with friends and I keep sharing it because I think it is so apt in showing how easy it is to hide behind overused tropes:
“‘Love thy neighbor as yourself,’ doesn’t mean to lie; it means to tell the petty, unreasonable, unjustifiable truth, good and loud and direct. Try treating other people as shitty as you treat yourself. At times, being honest about your anger is the only way you have of sharing who you are. Love is sharing what you have, even if you are having a fit. Telling the truth is loving your neighbor.”
I highly encourage you to read this book. The chapter “How to Deal with Anger” is probably the only thing that you will need out of the whole book, but the book is delightfully hopeful if not incredibly empowering to experiment with.
All quotes are from the book: Radical Honesty