Speak the Truth Out Loud
Truth dispells illusions. It sounds like a great idea until you realize that speaking the truth, dispelling illusions, cutting to the heart of the matter, means the loss of comfort. Illusions are comfortable, desirable in that they shelter us from responsibility. It’s easier to accept that I am not happy in my relationship than it is to pay the penalties for changing it. It is easier to skip sex with my partner than it is to acknowledge that I don’t like sex or sex with them. It’s easier to acquiesce to sex I don’t want than to disappoint. All of these scenarios are familiar to me, because I have lived them and because my clients live them every day. It’s easier to accept the truth than to speak it.
Why? Truth is a champion of change. Speaking it loudly means that the status quo must shift to a newer reality that incorporates the information just shared. Saying, “I’m not happy in my marriage,” means that everyone must stop pretending this is happiness. Saying, “I am not content with a sexless marriage,” means that sex is suddenly front and center when before it was ignored. Saying, “I’m not in love with you,” means that love has a chance to breath, free from the stifling fantasy that everything is alright.
Many of my clients don’t know how to speak the truth because they do not acknowledge their own truths. They’ve become so disconnected from what they feel that they’ve lost the ability to ask themselves for clarity. “I don’t know how I feel” is an all too common refrain, an American mantra. We’re bombarded with all kinds of input asking us to feel something other than what we do; it’s easier to submit to the constant pull away from ourselves than change everything by acknowledging our truth and centering ourselves on it.
The truth is most of us are hurting in some form or another. We often suffer in silence, because we think it’s normal. Or we convince ourselves that it’s not pain but “stress,” or anxiety, or depression, things over which we have no control. But when we take some time to consider our pain, to ask ourselves what we feel, “What is the truth?” we can change everything with the answer.
The truth can be communicated simply: “I feel unhappy.” “I was sexually abused.” “I am not good at emotional intimacy.” “I feel constantly disconnected from you.” “I want a marriage with passionate, intimate love.” Finding the truth doesn’t mean that you must unlock all the mysteries of the cosmos and your inner psyche. It just means that you must know the truth of your experience in this moment. It may change in subsequent moments, but speaking the truth of this moment will allow you to move to the next. It will free your mind from constantly trying to make sense of what you feel and allow you to understand what must be done. Speaking what you feel now enables you to change how you feel later. The truth is often hard to say and harder to hear, but truth does not harm or destroy anything. It can only reveal what is already hurting or already dead. And when we accept the truth, we can feel the illusions falling away from us like shackles broken, allowing us to confront the realities of our relationships with understanding and compassion.
Sex therapy and relationship counseling are founded on the ideas that looking at your partner and telling them the truth of your own experience not only changes the equation but it creates a foundation from which to work. That foundation is connection; there is no connection without truth, and connection is the root of change.
Currently, we’re seeing the power of truth-telling in stories of sexual harassment and assault. It is painful to hear and painful to see what unfolds, but these stories and the courageous people who tell them offer a reminder. Speaking the truth really can set us free from the pain of the past and transform us from victims to agents of change. The process is often painful but with each telling, it brings us closer to a greater understanding of who we are and what we need from ourselves and eachother - a little more truth, a little more kindness, a little more love.