Chris Byers, MA, LMHC
The TRUTH: Liberator or Tormentor?
An Important First Step of Recovery
Is truth a liberator or tormentor? The answer might surprise you, I think it's both. However, I do consider it a profound privilege to bear witness to truth telling. We unfortunately still live in a world where so many keep their pain and suffering locked away, shrouded in silence, secrecy and judgment. It takes extreme courage and vulnerability just to reach out to a therapist, let alone do the work. I can still remember my own resistance to seeking therapy and all that was running through my mind when I first sat down on the couch. I did not yet have words for all of what was going on inside of me, but over time, I learned to tell the truth of my own feelings, my own story, and my own pain.
While there are many reasons I absolutely adore the Apple TV hit-show, Ted Lasso, the unique relationship between Coach Lasso and Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, UFC Richmond's team Psychologist, ranks pretty high on my list. Both personally and professionally, these two characters deeply resonate with me, and I loved watching their unique relationship evolve. Like Ted, I know what it is like to walk into therapy holding all my cards close to my chest and with a deep sense of distrust. I, too, am also familiar with Dr. Fieldstone's experience and know what it is like to wait patiently for a client to come to terms with sharing their own truth(s), and only when they are ready to do so.
Without spoiling too much of the show's plot (I highly encourage you check out the show), there is a pivotal moment in Ted's story arc when he realizes that not telling the truth about the pain and torment of his past was actually preventing him from thriving in the present. With steady patience and presence, Dr. Fieldstone responds to Ted's reluctance by illuminating an important paradox of the therapeutic journey. She states, "Ted, the truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off." In reality, this is true for all seeking healing, growth, and change. The truth is, addiction, trauma, tragedy, hurt, harm, neglect and abuse, torments innumerous souls around the world. However, there is liberating power in telling these hard truths if we can somehow access the bravery to break our silence, and not do it alone.
At Grey Sky Counseling, we believe there are three essentials for therapy and recovery that works. A focus on feelings, a focus on needs, and a focus on story. When we learn to tell the truth about our feelings, needs, and story, our pain and suffering can begin to transform into a profound experience of liberation. Unfortunately, many of us will suffer in silence and never get the help we deserve because of a powerful emotion known as shame. Dr. Brené Brown defines shame as,“the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” In our therapeutic work, we have seen the gross and deceptive ways this emotion operates and how it deceives, distorts, and divides. Informed by our therapeutic mantra, one way we help our clients bridge the gap between torment and liberation is to first understand the unique relationship between emotions and needs. Feelings illuminate needs, and needs require action.
Ironically, shame illuminates our need for truth. Actually, shame illuminates our need to tell the WHOLE truth, and nothing but the truth—all of it! This is often a huge obstacle for many and not for reasons you might expect. Most clients have less of a problem talking about their mistakes, failures, and the laundry list of ways they believe they are unworthy. This includes confessions around addiction, infidelity, self-harm, and/or thoughts of suicide/homicide. Sadly, what is most difficult for many to acknowledge as truth, is the story of one's own goodness. Shame creates a devious amnesia that not only forces us to forget our own goodness, but also, we forget all the pain, trauma, hurt, harm, neglect and abuse that informed our shame pain in the first place. It is here that we must adopt an important first, and sometimes new, truth-telling step of therapy and recovery. Regardless of what you have done or not done, what you have said or not said, I hope you can hear and take in this truth. You are worth fighting for, you are profoundly good, and EVERYONE of us deserves to experience healing, growth, and change!