Tuesday, November 12

Honesty is the way

I know I’ve already touched on honesty being vital to a healthy relationship with ANYONE. I talk about how honesty is more than not telling lies. It’s also being clear about things that are truths.

Since it’s more than not lying, lets get the definition the dictionary has for lying: 1.To make an untrue statement with intent to deceive. 2. To create a false or misleading impression. Yes, to do this is also to not be honest, but you can still not be honest while insisting you aren’t making untrue statements, not deceiving, or being misleading. Let’s say whether or not you can see or say you are lying, if you aren’t dealing with or speaking what lives as TRUTH, you aren’t being HONEST.

I ended up in an uncomfortable relationship recently (and for those that know me will see this is a pattern) where I called out the person for lying to me not in words and untrue statements, but for misleading and harmful actions. Their later “honesty” seemed forced by situation and their internal storytelling which must have on some level been a voice of reason somewhere inside -pointing out the lying. I’m left saying that it doesn’t matter whether you are lying, insist you aren’t lying, or can’t tell if you are lying, the storytelling is the mark of dishonesty.

When people are unaware of their cognitive distortions (the storytelling to themselves and others) the lack of honesty stops being so much about lying, (meaning with “intent”) and becomes more about an inability to be accurate and truthful with yourself and the world around you. This affects others in your world, because you are literally a walking “storybook of beliefs”…and people around you can see it, or eventually will encounter it and hear it –FROM YOU.

Cognitive distortions are thoughts that cause individuals to perceive reality inaccurately. That’s the definition by psychiatrist Aaron Temkin Beck. I would advise looking up cognitive distortions, and Dr Beck because this information is extremely useful to someone wanting to be more self-aware than the average person. There are 17 main distortions, but the reality is: anything inaccurate that you tell yourself so that you can function in your world -is a cognitive distortion. This absolutely means: you likely use these as your coping mechanisms. And that is not a criticism. It is a statement about Humans. Humans do some pretty awful things to other humans, and in our deep need to feel ok, to be happy, to be comfortable, to be functioning…we have to tell ourselves some kind of story. Either about what happened TO us, or about what we DID to someone else. Most of us do this in some form or another in order to make it through every day.

So, talking about Honesty…I have recently had to be very honest with myself about what I am feeling mid-life as compared to what I felt in my childhood. I’ve had to get very honest with myself and admit that I do not know what it feels like to FEEL SAFE. One of my cognitive distortions is around being “fine” and being “strong” and being capable. While literally refusing to admit that a core wound of mine is a lack of security and safety. My distortion has centered on what I insist I am vs. what I am unwilling to look at about my childhood and what I felt. It was likely in my infancy that I picked up on things being unsafe, because I came into this world and into a home, where the mother trying to keep ME safe, was being shouted at and hit on a regular basis. I don’t think I could possibly guess how early in life I sensed danger, and therefore a lack of safety. Some of my earliest memories are ones that have my father hitting, shouting and throwing things at me.

Another one of the main reasons I’m looking at honesty and cognitive distortions is because of a book someone very kind shared with me: The Mindbody Prescription by John E. Sarno. This book has raised many questions and concerns for me about getting myself healthy, and the further I delve, the more I realize this book is as accurate as they come. No, his thinking is not mainstream, but mainstream thinks we haven’t cured cancer, so I avoid mainstream everywhere I can.

What I’ve already learned at the beginning of this book, is that when we find core wounds and address them, pain lessens or goes away. And this is standard for people who are willing to open their minds to the way he says the body works. Those who don’t understand, believe, or attempt what he says -are the people who remain in physical pain. One of the reasons I believe that is, is because the most negative people who aren’t open to all solutions, would rather stick with their cognitive distortions because they are telling themselves THOSE are the truth. This isn’t conscious, they don’t know they are lying to themselves, or not being honest with themselves, they think they are smart. While not seeing the obvious, that a Dr who spent his career trying to help people in pain, found patterns, addressed those patterns, and started “healing” people by informing them about how their body works, and then asking them to be willing to open their minds to what their TRUE FEELINGS ARE. Ya, it’s almost too easy to work, but like so many things I write about, the solution is usually clarity and communication, and sometimes you have to do that with your own mind and body.

So lets return to how I’m accepting that I have cognitive distortions that I too thought were “truths”.

(If you are willing to indulge me in the only real examples I have, since I don’t live anyone else’s life, keep reading. This gets very personal.)

If you have read or heard very many things I’ve written, you know that I’m not normally afraid to look at my “shit”. I want to gain perspective, get clarity, improve my mental health, and be the best human I can figure out how to be…so to say I do “self-work” is very true.

I have found the mark of things I need to work on is usually tears. If when talking about something that I feel, and I suddenly want to cry, I know that I still have some healing to do, because the things I’ve worked hard on healing, don’t cause that sensation. Sometimes something just strikes me as sad, and so I feel tears of sadness appear. But those feel different than tears that tear at the back of my throat and take away my voice. Those tears are tethered to the pain, and so the exiting of those tears is not a comfortable sensation, those tears involve my body and spirit.

Have you ever watched a video of someone doing something sweet or nice? And you didn’t even notice until it was over that it made you cry. That you just sat there watching, possibly smiling, and when it was done…your face was wet. Those are the tears I’m NOT talking about. Those are tears of empathy, and they are tears that come from your understanding of what others can feel. They fall with ease.

The tears that are “tethered to the pain” as I put it -can’t go unnoticed. For me, sometimes they feel attached to my throat as though it is being constricted to squeeze out the tears. Which is also why I want to resist those tears, they freaking hurt!

I’m going to be very vulnerable and share my realization of a cognitive distortion I have, that has come about since the end of the aforementioned relationship ending, and the accepting I have always felt a lack of safety. My cognitive distortion has been something I was not being honest with myself about because of a number of things I was using as “proof” in the story I was telling myself. The measure of time I’ve been telling it -is one factor, the comparison of others to myself -a second factor, my disdain for the word as it relates to my personal perspective -yet another factor, and lastly my knowledge of the word as I see others experience it.

I sound very cryptic, but really, it’s still so hard to say because I don’t want to say it. I am still resisting it and it is still tethered to the pain, and therefore tethered to the tears. (When I record this, I will do as many takes as I have to in order to share without crying) I imagine one listening to me is expecting me to reveal a mountain, when the opposite is actually true. And the fact the word is so used every day, means I want to resist it even more because every time I hear it, I tell myself that that is not me. When the reality is, it has been me since I was a child. Since I don’t know when, just as I don’t know when the lack of safety started. The two are likely linked. And when I’m especially honest and willing to look at my history, I can see it’s obvious, and I literally had to LIE to myself and create the cognitive distortion and insist I had “proof” I was not part of this word, and it was not part of me.

The same friend that SHOWED ME I was an enabler is the friend that every few years helps me see something in myself that I resist seeing. She is “in all intents, purposes, and forces” -my sister (except in blood). She knows me like only a sister can. She sees me like only a sister does. And in her most understanding and respectful way, she said to me the other week: “Natalie, I think you have high functioning depression”.

Had anyone else in the world said it, I would have given them all my reasons why I DO NOT. But because it was her, I know better than to pull out my shield and fend it off. I stopped frozen and gave it a minute to be considered.

My mind went to my teens when I used to wish I did not exist. I didn’t want to kill myself, I did not want my family to lose me, I didn’t have any desire to hurt them by disappearing, but I was consumed with the thought “I wish I didn’t exist”. That consumption in conjunction with the love of my mother -put me in counseling. Which is a very poor word for how pathetic it all was. I had to answer hundreds of questions, coloring in the bubbles like a school test to be scanned by a computer and generate a score. Then a woman so big she had to have had more than one chair under her, “told me who I was”, as I sat there crying and feeling like this was the most useless experience I could be put through. And then she put me on prozac. My violent narcissistic father was put on prozac after we ran away 5 years earlier and reports of it helping HIM were in my head. For two weeks I took it and the only change was that my stomach hurt so much that I couldn’t eat and I lost 10 lbs I couldn’t afford to lose.

That’s not “help”, so I stopped taking it. I gave it a chance, but I also felt relieved that that huge woman was wrong, and since it didn’t help me, I was even LESS like my father. Even as a teenager I was collecting proof for my case of how UNlike him I am. As an adult, I have long since won that case, happy to admit my physical structure is very much like him. I didn’t get the body type of my mothers side. Everything internal is from her. Who I am is way more like my mother and her father, and that too was a healthy realization I had late in life.

So, as I break apart my cognitive distortions and get honest with myself, I experience what Dr John E. Sarno worked on into his 90’s teaching his patients…that what you FEEL (emotions) will affect what you FEEL (body pain). Let me shorten that: That what you feel will affect what you feel. This is the furthest thing from rocket science. It’s clear as clear. The proof is in the pain.

I’m not sure if Honesty, Cognitive Distortions, Trauma, and Pain are all linked for everyone since I do not have a childhood without trauma to use as reference. But what I do know is that Honesty is more important than any of us realize. It’s akin to gold. You know about it, it’s valuable, you might have some of it, but if you really want a lot of it, you have to dig, you have to do some work, you have to filter and forge, keep working hard, and definitely keep your eyes open.

Honesty is not a mountain to climb and call good once you do it. Honesty is a paved path you take and either stick to or veer off of. Your whole life can be walked on the path, but some of us just can’t see the paved path is smoother. We all have choice. I hope I keep choosing Honesty. I am not a fan of pain.

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