Thistles Have Thorns, and Flowers

Mixed Signals, part 2

Thistles Collage

“Thistle” could be a cute way of saying “this li’l.” I want to talk about this li’l topic of mixed signals a bit more.

My therapist assured me that I don’t have to censor anything for her, and I don’t have to worry about saying it in the most polite way. Just get it out. Ok, that only took 8 years to establish.

A few weeks ago I was asking her over and over, “WHY IS THIS TAKING ME SO LONG?” I suspected her of purposely dragging it out so she gets more money, but I didn’t say that. I just handed her my innocent li’l pink question, and tried to keep the prickers hidden. Whose mixed signals are we talking about?

I started lying about my feelings young. My whole goal in life became to look like a good girl, a normal girl, untroubled. I figured out pretty easily what adults wanted me to be doing, and then just did it, or at least tried to look like I was doing it. I was able to fool every single adult, because they all wanted to be fooled. What a good girl — I presented no trouble to them. Other kids seemed to see through me pretty easily. I was popular with teachers, but not so much with my peers. Dogs didn’t like me either — you can’t fool a dog. I was always scared of being sniffed out.

It seems ludicrous that someone would keep going to therapy for years and years and still be afraid of the therapist. I worried she was like a dog, with a good sniffer. I worried that she could see right through me, but wasn’t telling me that she could see all my deceptions.

I got mad at her because I believed she was hiding things from me, her real opinions. I thought she might secretly despise me, and if so she ought to admit it. I got mad because I thought she was hinting that I wasn’t as innocent as I present myself to be. I thought she was seeing through me when I didn’t want her to — because I needed her to actually like me.

So that explains the 8 years. SO AFRAID I was. To let anyone see me, no matter how often she insisted she wasn’t there to judge me. I figured that, like me, she just kept all the snark hidden, so she could make money. I keep my despair and anger hidden so I can appear normal, and be approved of.

This week I decided it was time to actually read the book, Radical Honesty, upon which the personal growth workshop was based, the workshop my friend and I attended that ended our friendship twenty years ago. I wrote about this in part 1.

About half way through the book I feel very excited, as I often do when I find a new self-help book, so maybe nothing will change. Maybe I’m just getting a momentary whiff of fresh air in my mental prison, but at this moment it FEELS LIKE this book is telling me exactly what I needed to hear to get the courage to clip the barbed wire.

Already, see? I don’t feel I have to clean the outside of the teacup to sanitize this photo to make it more presentable…

Language makes a jail but language is also the cake with the file in it.

Tell the truth, says Brad Blanton, that’s the file.

What dies in telling the truth is the false self, the image projection we have presented to the world, and come to believe as a result of our own press releases.

Except I don’t really believe my own press releases any more. At least I’ve gotten that far — I know I’m a faker. And I hate myself for it. But wouldn’t telling the truth expose everyone to the MONSTER? Is that really fair?

We are against politeness as a substitute for the truth because that politeness kills. Politeness and diplomacy are responsible for more suffering and death than all the crimes of passion in history.

That goes against all my waspy training. But maybe I’ll experiment with this idea once again. It’s really not fun to be a faker. I doubt I’ll lose any more friends. There’s a technique to this honesty that I hadn’t mastered when I alienated my friends. Maybe it would have happened no matter how careful I was — who knows? But Radical Honesty isn’t about going totally out of control and just blasting people. There are some rules for how to begin to tell the truth, rules that I didn’t fully grasp back then. I’m not going to be able to explain them all in this post, so don’t experiment this this dynamite until you’ve read the book, if you’re curious.

Blanton proposes three levels of truth-telling, but I’m only going to list the first two here, because the third is beyond me:

The first level of this process is revealing deceptions and withholds. You have been maintaining an image in the eyes of others to sell yourself to them in a certain way. Now you have to untell those lies. If you never have told your mother and father that you stole the car at 1:00 am to visit your boyfriend when you were 16, go tell them and face the consequences even if you are 40.

I think I’ve done most of that, but maybe not, maybe more lies will surface if I start to tell the truth more often. But right now I’m more interested in the second level.

The second level of telling the truth is to begin to speak forth the emotional truth and the truth of one’s judgments to reveal one’s constantly active, secret mind. You begin here the practice of admitting how you feel when you feel it, speaking your secret judgments of others out loud, and constantly revealing your own petty and condescending ways.

I’m going to begin in therapy, so I don’t accidentally ruin any more relationships. I think I need some practice before I go fully public with this. I experience lots of things, little things, maybe they are big things, in-the-moment feelings and reactions, that I don’t tell her about. Because surely she would hate me if I did.

The kind of lying that is most deadly is withholding, or keeping back information from someone we think would be affected by it.

I think it’s time to test out her assertion that I don’t have to censor anything for her sake, and I don’t have to worry about saying it in the most polite way. If she starts to hate me, then I don’t think I should be in therapy with her anyway. Therapy has felt stuck. I keep thinking I should be done. Am I throwing good money after a dead horse, as they say? Why am I still suffering so much after all this “help”? But I don’t want to quit. I really want to win at the game called healing. So let’s keep going, try a new experiment in the laboratory.

Fuck politeness. Fuck diplomacy. Tell the truth.

― Brad Blanton, Radical Honesty: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth

Mixed Signals, part 3:



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Sarah Mohan

Sarah Mohan

I’m probably just making it up