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Honest as compared to indirect

The Fringe Dweller's Guide to the Universe

Honest as compared to indirect


I almost got fired today. This is fun language that therapists sometimes use, although I almost always use it the other way around - as in "I fired a client today." Now, let me be quick to say that I don't fire clients often. The cosmos is kind, and typically provides me with exactly the kind of clients I want to work with. Nonetheless, occasionally one will sneak in that simply wants me to agree with their diagnosis of how screwed up and trapped they are, and have no intention of changing. Since I don't play that game, I fire them. But seldom, in almost 20 years of doing this, do I get fired.

My client has fibromyalgia, and her physician referred her. He thought I might be able to help her to choose to feel better, as the medical interventions - drugs and pain relievers and sleeping pills - weren't doing much.

When she first came in, she let me know that she wasn't sure what I could do for her, or even why she was there. I agreed that I didn't know why she was there either. I also agreed, that there was nothing that I could do for her. I wondered if she'd be interested in learning to do something for herself. He interest piqued, she decided to try a session.

We had a long talk about illness. I indicated that I considered most illness to be psychosomatic in origin. Now, that word simply means, "having bodily symptoms of mental or emotional origin." It doesn't mean "imaginary," nor is it a "mental illness." Most physicians would agree that 95% of all illness or disease begins, somehow, in the mind.

I say that without trying to lay "blame" - you know I wouldn't do that. It's just that people see things a certain way. We get it in our heads that our parents were a certain way, so we have to be. Or, we're told we are frail, or prone to something, and we develop it. Or, we don't listen to the voice of our bodies, and our bodies decide to speak more loudly. I figure that we're simply required to notice, and then change things.

Which, using practical suggestions, is what I've worked on with my client.

She decided to fire me because she really doesn't like the idea that she gave herself fibromyalgia. (Again, that’s not what "psychosomatic" implies. What I suspect she is doing is not dealing with her feelings and emotions, because she is too busy looking after everyone else. Her body decided to get her attention. Think about it – fibromyalgia is a disease whose only symptom is a body screaming, "Pay attention to me!") She can't imagine that "life" works that way. So, because what I said flew in the face of her belief system (which got her to the physical and mental state she's in - but I digress), I had to go.

Except that, prior to her firing me, I said something about self-focus and self-responsibility that she "got," so she decided that I'd earned a reprieve.

I was pleased with her honesty, and told her so. She really wanted to let me know where she was coming from - that she didn't "get" everything I was saying. She figured that, despite her illness and her getting worse instead of better, surely my suggestion that a dose of self-responsibility and self-centeredness (see this topic in two weeks) couldn't make things better.

I allowed that this was precisely what I thought. I also said, "Maybe, just because you've spent your life being "other-centred" as opposed to self centred, your body decided to yell, "pay attention to me!" and did so through the voice of fibromyalgia. Maybe you need to spend as much time working on yourself as you do getting your nose into what everyone else is doing!"

Now, I could have focused on the politically correct language of our age, and congratulated her on her insight and agreed that I'd overstated my case, thus manipulating her into staying around. Or, I could have apologized for saying something she didn't want to hear. Either of these approaches is indirect or deceitful.

No, I went for honesty. I wanted to clearly let her know my perspective - here is where I stand and here is what I believe is going on. To be perfectly blunt, I'm not overly curious about her take on this issue, as her belief system, as far as I can tell, is at least indirectly contributing to her medical and emotional distress. If I listened to her all day, the best she'd be able to do is teach me how to end up with fibromyalgia. I'm not interested in learning how to do that.

Nor am I interested in her teaching me about how to be "other-centred." I want us to focus on her - what she can do, how she can live - in ways that will be substantially different from what she has been doing. I don't want to pussy foot around and be subtle. I want to state what I see, and explain why I see it. Because that's what I do.

The direct approach, while blunt, is best, I think. Let me mention again what therapy is like when I go to see Gloria. Two illustrations. In case one, I was whining about how hard my life was and how things were not working out. Gloria said, "I just got a book that explains how to sort out this kind of stuff. All you have to do is read it and follow the author's suggestions, and you will be fine." She then got up and handed me Living Life in Growing Orbits -- my own book. Gloria provided an amazingly direct piece of therapy.

Illustration two, and I mention this in the dedication to my book, I'll be complaining about something or another that I’ve gotten myself stuck in ever again. Gloria will shake her head and say, "Cute, but stupid." This is honesty in the extreme. I love Gloria (and Ben & Jock) because they don't candy coat the truth. If they think you're being dumb, they'll tell you. Political correctness be damned.

Now, let me say quickly, before some of you, (and you know who you are!) decide this is license to be jerks about this -- that honesty is not the same as being a know-it-all smart-ass. It's not about how to speak the truth so you'll be considered the most sarcastic person in the room. Nor is this about being guru-like. Honesty is simply speaking the truth directly, as opposed to being cute, evasive or obscure.

Oh, and you only speak honestly to people who listen. Others, who aren't interested, can be ignored or fired. Plain and simple.

So, isn't it arrogant to think I might know "the truth?" I think not. Experience tells me a lot, and intuition tells me the rest. And in the end, I'm directly and clearly state that I am only claiming to know "my" truth. This is the world, as I see it. Like Into the Centre. This is my forum. This is a short course in "welcome to Wayne's world." If what I say doesn't ring true for you, fire me. On the other hand, if you want to dialogue, drop me a line.

All too often, we make the choice not to speak the truth, as we think the consequences of not saying what needs to be said are better than the ones that will arise if we are honest. We end up with, "Well, if I say that, she'll leave me," and end up feeling miserable as we stuff what needs to be said. Then, we get to feel like a martyr, which seems somehow noble. Much like whacking oneself repeatedly with a ball-peen hammer is noble.

Thank you, but no. Honesty and integrity go hand in hand. I need to have an internal consistency if I am ever going to live a balanced life. I need to be willing to see and hear anything without judgement, but at the same time be willing to speak honestly about what I see. I speak from the perspective of whether "it" works, not whether "it" is right or wrong. If it doesn't work, the only solution is to change it. That takes both honesty and courage.

This week, think about what needs to be said, both to yourself and to your nearest and dearest. Then, start with yourself, and call a spade a spade. You'll be ahead, in the end, by always opting for honesty.

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