Appearances are not everything. In fact keeping up a superficial front causes more mental illness and dysfunction in families than anything else…even drugs and alcohol. Ask any therapist. We are only as sick as our secrets.
Reading Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf reminded me of the complexities and contradictions we all carry around. The cool thing about Herman Hesse is how honest he was. That’s the kind of person with whom I love to hang out: someone who has quit lying to themselves about who they are and quit trying to “market” and compare their ideal self to others.
Only when we quit the hype and/or hiding will there be real energy to improve.
And, this is the truest freedom.
Which is worse:
- Getting a divorce or secretly wishing your spouse would die?
- Leaving a boss that really needs you or incessantly talking bad behind that boss’s back?
- Telling the truth or leading someone to believe you love them when you don’t?
- Disappointing someone by not following their advice or secretly hating them for ruining your life?
Sometimes, we lie to ourselves and to others to protect what is un-protectable. Sometimes our fear of violating mores prevents us from seeing the forest for the trees. Sometimes our judgment has been seriously compromised and we don’t know it. Sometimes we have valued appearances more than real wisdom.
When our lives feel too complicated, they usually are. Changing the question from what looks right to what is right is the first step to simplicity.
And, sometimes, changing the question yields a third, and better, option.
Pretending, defending, denying, deflecting, accusing, projecting, and blaming are frequently what we do instead.
I have never experienced such freedom as when I finally owned my fears and doubts for what they really were.
It “sounded” like this:
“I am angry because I fear rejection.”
“I am depressed because I feel small.”
“I am opinionated or untruthful because I am scared.”
“I am jealous because I doubt my own self-worth.”
“I am procrastinating because I don’t want to look like a failure.”
Now, when I accept myself as being human, and laugh at my own vulnerability, all my energy isn’t tied up on marketing an image.
Then, I can really become that person I wanted to be.
Recently a teenager told me that she was afraid her sister was going to kill herself. She was emotionally distraught and expressed great love for her sister. When I asked her if her sister knew how much she loved her, she said, “Our family doesn’t say things like that to each other.”
I suggested she tell her sister what she told me with the following qualifier (to help her ease into unknown territory): “We don’t usually say these things to each other, and it is scary for me to do so, but I really want you to know…”
Frequently we don’t say, and are afraid to say, what we need to say.
Telling people why is a gentle way to start…
That’s exactly what I said after I got on the scales and found that I hadn’t gained that much weight over the holidays…But then…
One week later my weight skyrocketed! It was like it all caught up with me and I hadn’t gotten away with anything after all!
It seems there is a price for everything and no way to avoid paying. It’s a royal delusion when we think we got away with anything. What we have done, really, is signed for and set up a payment plan…with interest.
All dishonesty (regardless of how small), oversights, indulgences, compromises of our own principles, etc. will be collected down the road.
And, repayment may hit us where it hurts.