Thursday, June 5, 2008

Truth of Self

Truth. It’s a fascinating thing, actually…

In the “Aspie Culture” it is keenly understood that NTs (neurotypicals) say things they don’t exactly mean. (And vice-versa.) Now is this being untruthful? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I’d say “not exactly…”

I, personally, believe that it’s more important to say what you think, while being as tactful as possible. If I don’t like my friend’s short haircut, I’d say, “Like it? Well, I really liked you with long hair.” It’s not lying, it’s making a positive remark out of a negative situation?

“Do those jeans make you look fat? Actually, I thought the skirt was very flattering.”

“Did I like your painting? Well, I can say I’ve never seen color used that way. And your strokes seem very well-thought out.”

“Do I think he’s handsome? No one can compare to you in my eyes.”

“Do I like your poetry? …Uh…”

(Well, I don’t know how I’d answer that one. Maybe something like, “It’s the most interesting poem about carpet lint that I’ve ever read.”

You get the idea.

Now, these aren’t lies. Not even little white lies. They are all 100% completely honest responses. It’s a simple matter of directing the information down a different path. It “saves feelings” without dishonesty.

But my blog today is not about dishonesty, lies or deceit. It’s not even about “honesty”, really. It’s about TRUTH. Specifically, Truth of Self.

Truth is something which can not be altered. Regardless of how one presents it, truth is truth. If a friend asks me if I like her buzz cut, the truth is that I do not like it. I preferred to look at her hair when it was longer than 1/8th of an inch. Regardless of how I present the information to her, the truth is that I do not like her hair. A typical example of honesty vs. “little white lies”. (Sort of typical, anyway.)

Truth is that which exists, without regard to subjectivity. Truth is unequivocal and simple. Honesty is the expression of that which is true. Hence, my comment about the skirt being very flattering is an honest response. Why is this confusing? It doesn’t need to be, but it is for some reason.

Let’s extrapolate the ideas of honesty, dishonesty and truth. And we can’t talk about the three without tossing in trust, of course. But quite possibly not in the way that one might imagine…

If truth is what exists, regardless of its reference, and honesty is the expression of that which is true, and naturally dishonesty is the expression of that which contradicts the truth. Notice that I did not say “that which is untrue”. I’m going to intentionally digress here for just a minute. There’s something I want to say about that:

We have all heard, for example, the (not very colloquial) colloquialism: Innocent until proven guilty. Most of us seem to believe that the reason for this is “fairness”, but that’s not accurate. True, that it is “fair”, but it is only fair because it is not possible to provide evidence of a negative. You can not prove that a person is “un-innocent”. When a person is on trial, it is their innocence that is in question. If someone is proven “guilty”, it has been demonstrated that it has been proven that innocence is not possible. (If, for instance, it would not be possible for a person to be innocent if they were seen killing someone.) Let’s take this a step further:

If one is expressing a truth, it is the truth which is demonstrated. Not the lack of truth. Another example is as follows: How does one prove a lack of pay? By providing check stubs? I have seen this in governmental agencies. (God, please help them…!) The issue was that the lack of income needed to be “proven”. How can one “prove” that they have no pay by showing check stubs? That is contradictory of the truth. If there were stubs, there would be pay, now wouldn’t there? When I was recently diagnosed, the initial phone-intake person told me that they could not diagnose adult Aspergers if the person had not been in special education in their childhood. A diagnosis is the first formal admittance of a [disability, disorder, whatever]. How can one have previously had a diagnosis (putting them in special education) when the first diagnosis has not yet occurred? A similar theme is when I heard that they needed to prove that I “have always had Aspergers”. (That’s like asking a person from China if they have always been Chinese!) If you have it, you have it. Period.

So we’ve established that untruths do not really exist. Deceit, yes. But nothing can be “untrue”. Something can be false. False is not the same as untrue. This goes back to my original point.

Truth exists, no matter how we try to cover, sugar-coat, conceal or mutilate it. The expression of that which contradicts the truth (“No, I LOVE your new almost-bald haircut!”) is a lie, or a false statement. But didn’t I say something about trust? Ah yes…!

Trust is not only about whether or not you believe a person is being truthful or not. Like faith, trust has to be given willingly and without doubt, even in the appearance of that which contradicts one’s belief. If that came out confusing, try this on: Trust is about choosing your belief, despite your perception. In this example, one might say they “trust” that their child is not sneaking out, but if there is any doubt that they are, the person has not shifted their belief. Trust is not in place. Trust, real trust, would be if you find the windows unlocked and dead grass on the carpet in a trail from the window to your kid’s bed, and you try to figure out what happened, because you “believe” that s/he did not sneak out. Now, if the kid did, then the parent may not trust the child. (Either again, or anymore. Whichever would apply.) But the decision (whether conscious or unconscious) to trust is in the hands of the parent. A child can not take away trust. S/he can only do something which causes the parent to experience a lack of trust.

But this is not what I’m talking about. The trust that I like best is different. The trust I’m talking about is that between two people which creates an environment where the truth may be openly expressed. This is where the beauty of relationships comes in. This is the crux of love. Love is intimacy, in its purest form. (No, we’re not talking about sex, although sexual trust is important, too.) There can be intimacy without love, but without intimacy, love is “inhibited.” (At best.) Intimacy is what cultivates love, and the lack of it erodes love. And intimacy is born out of trust. The core of love is this kind of trust, intimate trust.

On a simple level, we might talk about some “truths” truth of conversation. Here is an example:

A man and woman are in a relationship. This relationship is healthy… There is trust. (Intimate trust.) In order for one to share intimacies, to talk about one’s beliefs, thoughts, feelings, dreams, desires, concerns and all the rest, the person doing the talking must trust the other. Intimate trust, that the other will still accept them after the “sharing”. Consider: If a man wants, very badly, to quit his day job to become a famous pop star, it takes a serious amount of trust (and courage) to share something so, well, intimate. “What if she laughs? What if she thinks I don’t have enough talent? What if I frighten her, thinking that we are about to be broke?” Before words ever make it into sentences, the speaker is judging the response. If there is intimate trust, he is likely to share with her. If there isn’t, he won’t. Or, if he does, he will likely feel comfortably (or uncomfortably) guarded. It is this phenomenon which I think is the second to the saddest in relationships. And unfortunately, most of us fall “victim” to it at one point or another.

Consider both sides: How sad is it that one must hide his or her innermost feelings, because that person feels like their partner will not be accepting. But there is another side of that coin…

If I am in a relationship, and my partner is “afraid” to share thoughts and feelings, it doesn’t give me the opportunity to demonstrate that I am accepting of those expressions. It’s the old “afraid to be vulnerable” cliché. But it is real. Vulnerability is the exposure of parts easily hurt. The person, let’s say the male counterpart, may have many reasons to be afraid. This that had happened in his past. Possibly he has been conditioned since childhood by his parents, ridiculed on almost every occasion that he shared his dreams. Or, maybe his parents were supportive, and one day he walked into his high school composition class, and when he reads aloud his essay on his ultimate dream of being a costume designer for a ballet, the head cheerleader sneered. Because he happened to have a huge crush on her, he is traumatized. Say he made it through adolescence ok, and married his first wife, the woman of his dreams. If she was less than tactful when he shared with her, his confidence would subsequently be eroded over time. Or maybe one big fight ruined things in an instant. Or maybe, if my partner is afraid to share, maybe it’s because of what I said or did. Let’s say this was the case. (Hypothetically, of course…)

So in this situation, I realize the error of my ways, and vow to be supportive whenever possible, because I love my partner. By that time he has already been withholding things that he thinks could trigger a reaction. How does one convince another that they can be trusted with the truth, if the opportunity to demonstrate the trust isn’t forthcoming? A dilemma, to be certain.

There is another kind of truth in relationships. It’s the “truth of self”. This is the biggest truth, the greatest contributor to intimacy with regard to “honesty”. Truth of self is when a person can be genuine and not fear the consequences. Not a completely novel concept, of course. But…

When one person does not need to think about how they are acting, that whatever they say or do, whether it is received well or not, will not alter their loved one’s (or ones’) acceptance. I think it is this truth of self which contributes to, and rebuilds, truth of conversation. This is sometimes called “unconditional love”. But definitions of that phrase tossed about don’t adequately describe the truth of self, in my opinion. “Love” is vague. As in my previous post, love is defined so many ways that it’s almost useless as a noun. (Or verb, for that matter.) It’s not clear. Add to that, that “unconditional love” is a phrase so over utilized that it has lost it’s meaning in the lack of sanctity. “Truth of self” is what we want to foster.

“Truth of self” is when a person can fart and not worry that they will be shooed out of the room. It is when you have your loved one over even though the house is a disaster, and you don’t feel the need to make apologies. It’s walking around completely naked, without a second thought. (Regardless of body shape and/or size.) It’s knowing that all your ideas are great ones (honestly) in his or her eyes. It’s knowing that no one else compares to you. “Honesty of self” is that which emanates at night, when you reach over to your partner and cuddle, even though you are half asleep, and they respond, unconsciously. The truth exists even when we are sleeping. It’s not being afraid of our performance in bed, it’s not wondering if we kiss good, it’s not being afraid to be unattractive.

Now, keep in mind, that truth is truth. Honesty of self is an internal thing. When it can be shared, it doesn’t alter truth. Remember, truth can not be altered. If I weigh 374 lbs and I walk around the house naked, my partner might not think about how skinny I am. But that I can do that and not be afraid of the consequences… That is what matters. I am not the most beautiful person in the world. I am not the smartest and I am not always the sweetest. But I am myself, regardless of what I might try to change myself into. (That is not to say that one can’t change as a person… Another topic for another day!) The truth is not as important as I feel about my personal truth. My Truth of Self. And it is when that truth can be shared between two, that there is true intimacy.

Someone said something to me yesterday. It came out in a way that perked up my ears. I wasn’t sure of how to take it. Then I realized he was being honest. Not mean, cruel or even unkind. Honest. What he said was irrelevant, and if I mentioned it, it may not seem to make sense, but it was important to me. He risked my response by being honest. And I had the responsibility of being sensitive, if not verbal, in my response. What I was responsible for was accepting his words as the truth, as well as his Truth of Self.

Einstein says (essentially) that the measure of something is directly based on your vantage point, your perspective as you gaze upon it. Then again, measurement is not the truth either. It is always faulty, as nothing can be measured precisely. But as long as we feel ok with what we are measuring in the first place… That is when Truth of Self becomes Life.

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