How do we know what our truth is? How do we know that what we sense is our intuition or instinct is actually that, rather than deep fears rooted in our distant past? How do we navigate our way through the swamp of old patterns of thinking, feeling and reacting to understand our feelings today?
I say swamp because it often feels like that – like wading through a green, sticky mass, through a sea of gloop that wants to keep pulling me under, sucking me down just when I’m coming up for air.
In the past, my answer to not knowing my truth was to ask somebody else. And I got pretty good at it over the years – either directly asking for advice or tuning in to another person’s words with such concentration to see if I could interpret what they said. I’ve learned over the years that nobody else can know my truth, but that doesn’t stop me from asking, even today.
But when I ask for people to tell me my truth, or at least to help me find it, I also have to remember that they’re hearing and responding to my interpretation of reality, along with all the baggage I’ve attached to that reality when I’ve shared it. And inevitably, they’ll also have their own filter or lens through which they see my reality, shaped by their own past experiences, fears and hurts.
I love reaching out to friends, support groups and therapists. I love sharing my stuff. And I cherish the love, understanding and empathy that I receive – and that I give in return.
But I’m also learning that only I can know my truth. And I’m accepting it might take me a long time to get there – much longer than I would have liked – and there might be a lot of pain, struggle and wrong turns along the way. I might have to sit in uncertainty for a good while, which I find excruciating, but I’m getting a lot better at.
Having understood this, I was heartened to read a meditation this morning that reminded me I’m not the only one on this difficult path.
It’s from The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie, a book I cherish, that often speaks to me and that I highly recommend to anyone who’s on a journey of self discovery, self-love and self-care. Today’s reading is called Finding Our Own Truth and I’ve copied a few extracts below:
We must each discover our own truth. It does not help us if those we love find their truth. They cannot give it to us. It does not help if someone we love knows a particular truth in our life. We must discover our truth for ourselves … We often need to struggle, fail, and be confused and frustrated. That’s how we break through our struggle; that’s how we learn what is true and right for ourselves. We can share information with others. Others can tell us what may predictably happen if we pursue a particular course. But it will not mean anything until we integrate the message and it becomes our truth, our discovery, our knowledge … We may want to make it easier. We may nervously run to friends, asking them to give us their truth or make our discovery easier. They cannot. Light will shed itself it its own time … Each experience, each frustration, each situation, has its own truth waiting to be revealed. Don’t give up until you find it – for yourself.
Today, I will search for my own truth, and I will allow others to do the same. I will place value on my vision and the vision of others. We are each on the journey, making our own discoveries – the ones that are right for us today.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
There are many truths I’m trying to uncover right now, but one truth I’m becoming more aware of than ever before is how my first experience of love and closeness with a man – my Dad – affects my romantic relationships today.
As much as I can do the ‘strong, independent, knows what she wants’ woman thing really well and despite the fact I’ve been feeling extraordinarily content and emotionally stable in recent months, there’s a deep wound inside when it comes to men. That wound, which formed not because my Dad did anything terrible but simply because he didn’t or couldn’t give me the kind of love, affirmation and emotional closeness I needed and wanted as a little girl, opens every time I get close to a man today.
My functional adult knows all about boundaries, respecting each other’s space, taking things slowly and the importance of making rational decisions around relationships based on good information, shared values and so forth.
But the child inside, who sometimes gets in the driving seat, just wants to be loved – wholly loved, loved 500 percent (despite knowing from my financial journalism days that 100 percent is as high as you can go).
I know nobody can give me that amount of love, fill the deep hole or completely heal the wound. I know that the wound can lead me down a path of craving and wanting something so badly that inevitably I’ll push it away. And I know the wound at times feels so painful that the prospect of exposing myself to any further hurt by engaging with a man who might be offering love feels so scary that I’ll walk or perhaps run as fast as I can in the opposite direction.
The presence of this wound makes me hypersensitive to any hint of abandonment, rejection or not being wholly, 500 percent wanted. It makes it incredibly difficult to know my truth or to trust what I think is my instinct. It clouds my intuition and judgement. It leads to me to conclusions that may or may not be correct. And it drives me nuts.
I’ve done a fair bit of healing of this wound over the years – self-love, self-care, meditation and prayer all help – but it’s still there, lurking under the surface.
So what’s the answer? Awareness comes first, awareness of this particular truth, even if I’m still struggling to work out all my other truths. With that awareness, I can then continue to self-soothe, self-love, self-nurture and connect with my faith so the wound isn’t quite so deep or exposed. I can talk to the child inside who didn’t feel loved enough and doesn’t feel loved enough today. I can reassure her that she is – at least by me. And I can find the courage to allow my adult rather than my hurt child to make my decisions in the here and now, based on the truth of today, not on my past experiences.
Psychotherapists say that our hurt happens in relationship and so it follows that our healing happens in relationship too. But of course it doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it feels absolutely terrifying and so much easier to stay away.
But I know the answer is to engage, to walk the wobbly tightrope between my past and present, to take chances, to expose myself to potential hurt as well as to love and healing. And to keep searching for my truth.