Speaking Mental Health
Forward Times Mental Health Advisors
We learn about the importance of being honest early in life. Even childhood icebreaker games like “truth or dare,” or “two truths and a lie,” reiterate the importance of transparency. With the slightest hint of deceit, a harmless game such as, “I Spy with my little eye,” can go awry. “Honesty is the best policy,” is not just a cool saying, it’s an idea that’s typically presented during early adolescence with the hope that it endures a lifetime. Most of us, if we’re honest, have also either told someone, “just be honest,” or used the phrase, “If I’m being honest,” at some point in our lives to uncover or reveal some hidden truth; some of us use these statements more often than we should. Whether a “little white lie,” or a “big bold-faced lie,” we all have some experience with needing to know the truth and have likely withheld the truth from others at times. What’s equally important to the idea of telling the truth to others? Being truthful with ourselves. The relationship between our mental health and our honesty with ourselves deserves special attention.
The importance of and need for improvement with our mental health, though increasingly popular in recent years, was brought front and center in early 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. When the various outlets typically used as distractions by people to avoid acknowledging and addressing their innermost feelings and emotions were no longer available, many people immediately found themselves face to face with crisis; one that seized the lives and mental health of so many people. Though many people have not experienced such a disaster as a pandemic in their lifetime, crisis situations will periodically arise in our lives and will test the integrity of our control. The true measure of a crisis, however, is not the magnitude of the calamity at hand, it’s our perspective on our ability to exercise control in and over the situation. Rarely do we have much control over the demanding and overwhelming situations that meet us, but we do have control over our responses to them, even if our response is to forfeit that control. One of the most prevalent ways in which we deny the power we possess to deal effectively with the crises that we experience is by failing to be honest with ourselves, which can sometimes look like denial.
Denial is such a common response during traumatic situations that the first stage of grief is widely identified as denial. If denying the fact that a life threatening, or emotionally perplexing situation is looming or has occurred was an effective strategy, then the push to improve our mental health is unnecessary and we can all go on moving and dealing with life by simply shifting our attention when problems arise. As it stands, however, not being honest about or choosing to ignore the effects of a catastrophe is more harmful than it is helpful, especially since as long as time rolls on, seasons of trials will come.
Peace of mind and desired outcomes are in jeopardy when honesty is not present. When we’re not honest with ourselves about our feelings, worries, stressors, pains, etc., we risk reliving the anxiety that accompany hardships, compromise our mental health, and consequently surrender the benefits associated with getting the help we need. Is being honest with others essential for being happy with others? Absolutely. One who wants to be healthy and trust in their ability to control their responses during uncontrollable situations must first learn to be honest with self.
Michael Dangerfield, LPC, NCC