Brutal Honesty

Perhaps it would be best to begin by explaining what brutal honesty is all about.  It is being able to accept certain realities about our behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes.  It is the ability and willingness to look in the mirror and take whatever steps are necessary to be able to see ourselves, as we really are, the good along with the bad.  It is the ability and willingness to view a situation we are in and accept what is going on for the reality of what we see before us.  It is the ability and willingness to view the actions of another person without placing judgment upon that action or the person.  In other words, to be brutally honest is to be a realist in the strictest sense of the term.  Brutal honesty describes the mindset that a person must have if they are to learn how to deal with problems in a healthy way.  Being brutally honest also means that we accept the reality of the motivations that drive our behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes. 

One psychological approach talks about the true self and the ideal self.  The true self is the reality of how we behave including thoughts, and attitudes, and what drives those behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes.  The ideal self is that imagined person who always behaves exactly as we think we ought to behave.  This approach states that there can be conflicts between how a person truly is and the way they think they ought to be and that this conflict is the source of most of our mental health problems.  In being brutally honest we deal strictly with the true self (or real self if you like, as opposed to some hypothetical or ideal self.)  The truth is that the ideal self exits only in our minds even though it can have some influence on our behavior when we are driven to behave according to this fictional character’s traits.  We are who we are and what we are, nothing more, nothing less.  It is this true self that we need to be completely honest about.  Rest assured that being brutally honest is a very personal endeavor, and no one else need ever know the truths that you discover.  However, if you are in counseling, it would certainly pay to be brutally honest with your counselor. 

The purpose behind being brutally honest is one of discovery.  In order to be able to deal with emotions, it is imperative to understand the driving forces behind them and the effect they can have on you.  No emotions are automatic; instead they are learned.  Understanding this principle is vital to your success.  The approach detailed in this book will help you discover the source of your emotions, and then show you how to control them.  You will learn the process by which you have come to possess the attitudes and beliefs that drive your emotions.  Once the source of your emotions is discovered it becomes a simple matter of rationally dealing with them. 

So what exactly will you discover through brutal honesty?  You will come to understand why you feel this way or that, or why you behave one way or another.  You will discover the driving forces behind your emotions and actions.  These forces are thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes that result in behavior, or feelings you have about everything you experience in life.  Once you discover these forces it becomes a rather simple task, albeit not always an easy one, to learn new thoughts that make it possible for you to decide how you want to feel.  The result of this process is a conscious awareness of your emotions and the ability to control how you feel, instead of being at the mercy of the actions of others or situations.   

What are you likely to discover about yourself by being brutally honest?  This is the tough part.  You may discover that you are not thinking rationally.  It might be the case that you are being driven by purely selfish motivations.  It might be that you simply do not know how to handle a given situation that you have found yourself in.  You may discover that you harbor many fears, whether they are founded in reality or not.  The list could go on, but the main point is that you should be prepared to discover that you might not actually be the wonderful, rational person you have been thinking you are.  By being brutally honest and dealing with what you discover, after all is said and done, you will be a better person for having taken the challenge.  You will be in control.

How do you go about being brutally honest with yourself, and what do you do with the information you discover?  You quite simply search your heart and your mind and ask three questions.  The first is “Why?”  Why did I get angry?  Why do I feel this way?  Why did I let my feelings get hurt?  Why do I feel sad?  Why do I expect certain things from others?  Why do I expect certain things from myself?  The second question to ask is “Is it real?”  By asking if something is real, you learn to question your perception of what is happening and decide if what you think is happening is really occurring the way you are thinking it is.  The third question to ask is “Am I being rational?”  By asking if you are being rational, you will learn to think in rational terms.  Is it rational for me to feel this way?  Are my thoughts rational?  These are some examples of the types of questions to ask.  The vital issue here is to answer these types of questions honestly.  Remember, no one but you will ever hear the answers you give.

The primary purpose of this chapter is to help you understand that the first step in dealing with those issues you face in life must come from within.  Being brutally honest with yourself is a valuable and powerful tool you can use to take that first step.

There is another factor to consider when being brutally honest.  Under normal circumstances you are typically your own worst critic.  You tend to judge your behavior and yourself far more harshly than anyone else would.  Why?  You are your own worst critic because you understand more clearly than anyone else ever could why you behave or feel one way or another.  You understand the driving forces behind your behavior, whether you are able to discern them consciously or are willing to openly admit them or not.  Therefore, it is imperative that before you begin your journey into brutal honesty you understand a few things first. 

You are today, the sum total of everything you have ever seen, tasted, felt, heard, smelled or otherwise sensed.  Included in this summation of self is every thought you have ever had, good, bad or indifferent.  All of your life’s experiences combine to make you who and what you are today.  Along with your good points is the presence of your faults.  Regardless of whether you like who you currently are or not doesn’t matter right now.  What matters is that you understand that you are who and what you are at this moment in time.  Among a few others, the single characteristic that distinguishes you from all the other animals on this planet is that you can change.  A dog today will behave pretty much the same way tomorrow.  You, on the other hand, have within you the capacity to change every single aspect of your emotional being.  By following the steps presented in this book you get to keep those good points you possess and replace those that are harmful. 

So, when you stand in front of that mirror and wonder about who and what you are, and how you got to be this way, know in your mind that you can change.  No matter how you are today it is ok.  The past is gone and you cannot change anything you have ever done.  If you have faults, that is ok.  If you are selfish, that is ok.  If you have problems coping with life, that is ok.  You are no different than any of the other six and a quarter billion people on this Earth.  However you are today, it is ok.  Keep in mind that within yourself, you have the power to change.  And, even that is ok too.