I think when most people define honesty, the concept is composed of truthfulness to other people. So if somebody asks you a question will you provide them an honest answer? Communicating our internal perception of things to others is important of course. I view it as the basis for a meaningful and trusting relationship. I mean pathological liars don’t exactly have the best reputation. If we notice that someone around us isn’t honest the “normal” reaction is to pull away. The interaction becomes inauthentic and therefore what’s the point (unless you find it entertaining of course)? Dishonesty creates a distance between people and a relationship can’t form since there is no foundation for connection.
I think most people perceive themselves to be quite honest though. I mean if someone asks for an opinion you most likely will reply with whatever comes to mind right? But just how honest are you…really?
This is what I find most interesting about honesty. To be able to be honest with those around us, one primary premise must be our ability to be honest with ourselves first. What we think AND feel about certain subjects need conscious internal focus and not only be approached from what’s perceived by our head, to be the appropriate answer (what the mind is telling us). Generating information to our surroundings about our true inner emotional state is not always easy. In fact it can be quite scary and vulnerable. For many people it’s quite effortless to hide behind socially acceptable responses, particular if it involves negative emotions. I mean we don’t want to cause any problems do we? or heaven forbid we make anyone feel uncomfortable due to our dissonance within! What we tend to sacrifice by doing this though, is a close meaningful relationship to ourselves and therefore also to others. So what can we do to prevent this? This is one approach.
Choose any subject and start with how it makes you feel. Do you feel angry? sad? happy? Labeling the emotion is a crucial step number one. Let this part take time and get in touch with the sensations of the emotion. Be aware though, you’re mind will try to jump in and take over. I see this happening all the time with myself and others. We quickly begin to rationalize our feelings instead of just experiencing them (a.k.a accepting them). For example we’ll start saying things such as “it’s not that big of a deal”, “I’m overreacting” or “maybe I misunderstood”. If you are feeling an emotion (especially strong ones) don’t sweep it under the rug, it needs your attention. If you deny your feelings, trust me, it will come back one way or another even stronger.
My experience when observing people is that they’re usually not honest to themselves about their emotions until it’s gone to far. Generally (and I used to do this myself) we tend to deny our negative emotions for too long. I’ll give you an example. An acquaintance of mine used to tell me that he rarely got angry but once he did he blew up, so much that it would scare his girlfriend. I bet that most probably there has been signs of anger prior to his explosions. He just might have been dishonest (for whatever reason) with himself about it until he couldn’t take it anymore.This is why it’s of importance to catch the emotions at an earlier stage, when they’re more subtle so it doesn’t get out of control (and cause any sort of harm).
Once step number one is done, when you’ve acknowledged and labelled your emotion, it’s time for step number two: WHY do you feel this way. If your answer only contains one or two sentences I can almost guarantee that you’re only scratching the surface, keep going! Ask yourself follow up questions such as when do you feel similarly? What’s the common factor between that time and this time? When was the first time you felt this way about the subject? Who was there? What were the circumstances? The answers will hopefully reveal some patterns and insights.
About five years ago I started actively to practise honesty with myself and it’s still ongoing of course. It took some time to get used to it since it didn’t come naturally to me. Especially when I began, I was hesitant to admit to myself what I was feeling, even though whatever was brought up to light wasn’t going any further than to my diary. What helped me get through those blockages was reassuring myself (repeatedly) that nobody would find out about my inner state. With time it was easier and eventually became my natural way of operating.
I dare you to challenge yourself and do the process described above (step 1 and step 2) couple of times a day. Stop yourself whenever and pay attention fully to your inside. Be completely uncencured about your feeling regardless of what the mind is telling you. Then start the digging with curisouty for yourself and observe what’s being exposed to you.
Verbalizing the emotion and then looking at what’s hiding behind it is a good way to clarify and enhance the understanding for yourself. This in turn can improve all kinds of relationships. Once we are comfortable enough it’s time for the final step which is to express our inner world to the outer world. This needs some well practised and develop communicating skills and will be a topic for another time 🙂
Take care of yourself!