Thursday, August 09, 2007

Trust without a truth serum

I stumbled across this and since trust is an issue that often comes up in relationships, I decided to share it.

After 50, 'openness' shouldn't require a truth serum

By Dr. Joel Block via McClatchy-Tribune News Services

Some time ago, I was riffling through The New York Times Book Review and something caught my eye. It was a work of fiction, a fascinating account of openness between a man and a woman.

Here's the story: A married man of 30 years spots a woman, who is also married, at a party. He writes her a letter proposing an affair. It is not to be the usual affair in that they will never meet, nor have any contact outside of correspondence.

They will not even hear each other's voices, because as the man states in his letter, "even a voice is too real for the hallucination I want to have with you." Their written contact will also be quite out of the norm. The relationship he is suggesting is one that will be fully and uninhibitedly open.
His letter suggests that, "We could be like two people who inject themselves with truth serum and at long last have to tell it, the truth. I want to be able to say to myself, 'I bled truth with her,' yes, that's what I want. Be a knife for me, and I, I swear, will be a knife for you."

It occurs to me that it would be extraordinary if the man had proposed the "truth serum" approach to his wife. Now there's an idea that sounds both exciting and terrifying. I suspect that many of us have, somewhere in our psyche, the hunger to be fully known and accepted -- even those, especially those, that hold up their hand in protest.

The secret wish we have is to have one more chance to be like that small child who puts it all out there without self-consciousness; to have nothing significant to defend, no secrets to hide, no tension about "being found out." It would be wonderful to feel secure enough to be able shout, "This is who I am, and I can embrace all of me!"

This desire is probably a hidden reason behind going into therapy for many people. The obvious reason is to deal with a presenting problem. The less obvious reason is to be known, to oneself and to another.

Of course, seeing a psychologist is relatively safe. It is like the affair proposed above. The disclosures occur between two people (although in the case of psychotherapy, it is mostly one-way) whose lives do not intersect outside of a limited context.

To even the most casual observer of couples it is apparent that the kind of experience that occurs in the affair described above is not one that most married people have with each other -- not even close.

We've all heard of the man or woman who "spills their guts" to an anonymous stranger on a plane, or in some other situation where the contact is temporary and the listener is not part of our day-to-day life. And that is the point, after giving the other person a glimpse into your soul you don't have to see them or worry about some lasting judgment they have made.

In the fantasy account, the man is taking special precautions to make the experience as impersonal as possible while he shares the most personal aspects of himself.

Loving without reservation, letting another person -- someone who you have to face the next day and everyday -- view you emotionally naked takes a degree of faith, self-awareness and, perhaps more than anything, courage. It is the courage to believe in yourself enough to be revealing and to tolerate how naked and unsettled the intensity of the experience leaves us feeling.

It requires that you accept yourself, your humanness, including shortcomings; that with your imperfections you are still worthwhile. You have to take responsibility for your feelings and regard yourself enough to express them.

It is a refusal to tolerate your own self-deceptions and to face your deepest truths. Doing this with your love partner is like walking a razor's edge. It is not for the faint of heart and it doesn't make life easier or painless. It just makes life sweeter and the pain more meaningful.

Do you dare to look into yourself and without reservation share what you find with the person you sleep with regularly? Are you willing to face yourself and your lover each day? Like anything that is worthwhile, it is not without risks.

Nowhere is more gained or lost, more lessons learned or energy squandered than in love relationships. And nothing teaches us so much about others and ourselves as living authentically with another person.


Anonymous said...

It takes courage to tell the truth... and it takes courage to hear it. It's not that we are never judged--ALL people have a unique point of view and personal opinions. The point is to be able to feel safe enough to express them and still have your friend or loved one say "that bothers me, but I'm still cool with *you*."

I may be tough to love sometimes--but my husband and family members (including tough-talking siblings) still value my place in their lives. If they think I've been rude, or judgemental, or selfish, they'll tell me. And you know what? Sometimes they're RIGHT, and I need to be reminded to be more thoughtful, ethical, apologetic, etc. It's a painful thing to hear. But at least it's real.

What is most important to you? To be right? To feel safe in a cloak of superficial acceptance? Or to be completely authentic, warts and all?

Plus, we all can say whatever we want to our therapists because 1) they are paid to be nonjudgmental; and 2) we will rarely put our therapists in a situation to judge us, b/c the setting is not "the real world" with real,dynamic stressors impacting our interaction.

Trust is related to forgiveness, and you'll never know if you can give or receive forgiveness until you've screwed up in front of those who matter most. The hardest thing is loving someone who has shown you their ugly side.

Anonymous said...

Posting someone else's stuff again? Please. Stop.