Our pal Pete hasn't written a book. But if he did write a book it would be called The Truth About Everything. And here's why he's going to write it. So here's the book he's thinking about writing.
I hold these truths (among others) to be self-evident: that sexual repression and emotional numbness are the roots of all evil; that neediness and greediness are flip-sides of the same psychological coin; that parents are the least qualified adults to raise children; that all opinions and beliefs are based on a lack of true knowledge; that self-sacrifice and commitment are the ruination of all relationships; that what you eat is less important to your health than how you eat it; that the body never lies; that there is no inherently self-destructive force in human beings; that being in-love is always mutual.
I am going to say some things in this book that some people may find provocative, radical or outlandish at best, offensive, immoral or ludicrous at worst. I will say these things with no claim of moral authority. I will merely claim that the statements I make will be true on the face of it, in and of themselves. Although I have a bachelor’s degree in sociology, a master’s degree in social work, post-graduate clinical training in several different psychotherapies, and I am a board certified, licensed practitioner in my field, this is not going to be a professional book. I am not going to back up anything that I say in this book with scientific research or statistical studies of my own, nor am I going to reference or footnote those of others. You and I do not have time for that, and besides, after having read such studies voluminously myself, all I have encountered are a few “facts,” but rarely any truth.
In this book, I am simply going to tell the truth as I have learned it - as I have learned it not just from the nearly three decades I’ve worked as a psychotherapist exploring the inner lives of other people, people of all ages and backgrounds, not just from the over two decades of personal self-work, self-work of a deeply psychological, emotional and spiritual nature, not just from the five-plus decades of being alive here on Planet Earth. I will be telling the truth as I have learned it from gaining access… to the truth - access available to anyone willing to know it.
That might sound like a surprising statement, but one truth I have learned is that most people don’t want to know the truth. At least not the truth about everything. Indeed, most people hold onto specific lies, or untruths, very tightly. In fact, as incredible as it sounds, many otherwise rational adults would rather die, or kill, than give up certain falsehoods. And many have. And those are just the people running things. The rest of us are living lives hunkered down in unfulfilling jobs or relationships, struggling with poor health, mentally and physically, sunk up to the eyeballs in debt with little or nothing to show for it, taking Zoloft to calm down and Viagra to get it up. And all of this to avoid the truth.
Why would we engaged in such insidious avoidance? Because we’ve arrived to a place where the truth often seems too painful to bear directly, and where the apparent price of facing the truth is often experienced as way too high. Millions of us end up preferring the inhibited actuality of life lived in half-truths and lies until, like the librarian in Stephen King’s, “The Shawshank Redemption,” we become so adapted to life in prison over a long period of time, that freedom starts to look like the life-threatening choice. When the librarian was finally released on parole, he felt so lost he ultimately killed himself. While most of us may not act this out as directly as he did, we do it with methods that are more subtle and slow-acting, but nonetheless just as brutal – stress, disease and the substances we use to torturously destroy our organs one cell a at time.
What is it that we so desperately don’t want to see that we would ruin our lives over it? Well, the answer to that lies both in the present and the past.
In the present, we, of course, don’t want to see that we’re ruining our lives! So, we deny that we are the instruments of our own unhappiness and demise. We believe that our suffering, whether on an individual level or on a global scale, is simply the “way it is” for most people, that nature is randomly cruel or kind, that we are at born at odds to some degree with nature, and that human beings are inherently flawed and have destructive impulses that must be suppressed. In desperation, we believe that following rules, made by man or attributed to a parental deity (but nonetheless made by man) holds some promise for security in an otherwise capricious universe. We must steadfastly adhere to such a belief in salvation by obedience because facing the fallacy of it, and seeing honestly the wreckage it’s causing, would be devastating. We shudder to our core to acknowledge, we resist until our dying breath to see that in truth, many of our most strongly held beliefs are an exactly wrong formula for living well, a totally reversed version of the way things really work in the universe. So, the truth, we fear, will not set us free, but rather cast us into confusion and despair.
In the past, in childhood, facing the truth was another story altogether. It was next to impossible. The truth of our childhoods for so many of us was indeed threatening to our “life” – our emotional and mental life especially. Among other things, we are born helplessly needing and expecting “perfect” love from our imperfect parents, love that is focused on our desperate needs alone, not tainted with the unmet needs of the adults caring for us. We can’t talk, so we totally rely on our parents to somehow know what we need when we are in pain, when we’re hungry, in need of comfort, warmth, cleaning, etc. And often, parents get it wrong. And so, the little child, faced with the reality of experiencing its own unbridled needs in an external environment that cannot possibly meet those needs adequately all of the time, begins to partially disconnect from reality, from the truth, and fabricate an alternative reality, based on constructed beliefs and formula’s, rather than the unbearable truth.
So, what can be done about this disheartening state of affairs, our resistance to pursuing the truth about everything? And why should we do it?
Well, answering the second question first is easier. The truth is all there is. Since the Sixties, we’ve come to glibly refer to truth as if it were a personal possession – “your truth, my truth” – that we could simply alter or trade in according to our current whims or moods or drug of choice. No, those are beliefs, not truths that can be altered. Beliefs can be thrown out and replaced with newer models suited to what’s fashionable in the moment. But the truth is the truth, immutable, irrevocable, there to accept or not, but there nonetheless. So, why we should pursue it is simple and obvious – to do anything else puts us in a state of disharmony with ourselves and with our environment, and that’s what leads to unhappiness, sickness, conflict, and ultimately, insanity.
What we can do to access, or more accurately – re-access – the truth is what this book will be about. That’s a bit of a longer story.