“You can’t handle the truth!”
This famous quote from the movie A Few Good Men may be true. To some degree we all manage the truth. Often this management is not conscious and happens out of habit. Managing the truth may look like being distracted, suddenly deciding to clean a closet, smoking a cigarette, yelling at someone, cracking a joke or out right lying. There are many ways we manage the current truth of reality.
Why does it matter? It only matters if that management of the truth is getting in the way of happiness. When management of the truth is a problem, it often looks like frustration with relationships, work or some other area in which a person is feeling limited or unsatisfied. It can also look like illness, addiction or other physical issues. In short, managing the truth was once an answer to a problem and now it is the problem.
“To alcohol, the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.”- Homer Simpson
We learn to manage at a young age and it is called being adaptive. We are all born into an environment that we have to adjust to in some way. There is not another option when we are children. We adapt to stay safe and/or to stay attached to our caregivers. This becomes a way of life and a reflection of the way we perceive the world as “reality”. The problem is, it is much easier for us to see the way other people manage the truth than it is to see the way we manage the truth and that is less helpful. When we are looking at ourselves it feels like it is just simply “the truth”. Bringing awareness to how we manage also brings an opportunity for choice and more freedom.
So if managing the truth is getting in the way of your happiness, what is the best way to bring it to awareness? We can actually get a lot of information by looking at our greatest strengths. What are you most proud of? What characteristics are very strong for you?
“Your first step toward awareness of how you manage is by looking at your strengths.”
Are you proud of your ability to bust through a problem and make things happen? Or maybe the opposite it true for you, you have an ability to really slow down and take a problem apart, piece by piece, analyzing it and then solving it. Or maybe you are able to talk others into helping you by being nice, cute or extra convincing. It can even be a strength to avoid problems at all cost and hope they go away on their own. All of these ways of addressing a problem can tell you something about a strength, which was likely an answer that worked for you in the past.
“Does that strength ever get in the way now?”
This is an important question to ask and to answer honestly. Are there times that your strength actually get in the way or stops you from getting what you want? Maybe busting through a problem doesn’t work so well when it comes to relationship issues. Or maybe analyzing the problem piece by piece takes too long in some cases and you have missed opportunities. Relying on others to help or avoiding problems may have some unwanted consequences. By looking at how your strength can also at times be a problem gives us the reason for looking in the first place.
“What is under-developed?”
As you look at your strength and how it sometimes gets in the way of happiness, we can begin to see what is needed to create balance, what is under-developed. If busting through a problem is a strength, patience and detail are likely under-developed. The opposite is also true, if analyzing and detail are the strength, being able to just move forward may be under-developed. If finding the answer outside of you or avoiding the problem all together are the answer, then being able to take appropriate responsibility and action may be under-developed.
“How was your strength helpful in your childhood?”
As you think back on growing up, how did your strength develop? When we are young we are born with certain genetic characteristics and then we develop as a result of adapting to our environment. What was happening around you as a child? Were you the one who made peace or tried to make people happy? Maybe you learned that being funny helped life be more livable or working hard was important. Or maybe there was a lot of pressure at your house and the only thing you could do was become solid like a rock. Or maybe you learned that going out to play or riding your bike to a friends house was the best way to adapt to your environment. Whatever you did, how was it helpful at the time?
“How is it now a habit?”
Once you understand how it was helpful, you can have compassion instead of frustration. Compassion helps us have awareness instead of the habitual frustration. Once you have awareness you can have more choices to change. You can begin to develop what is needed for balance in your life. Ultimately, you have more of an ability to handle the truth of the present moment instead of habitually trying to manage it. You can have more freedom.