Actively living from a place of honesty and habitually telling the truth to those around you appears to have a direct link to overall individual happiness and well-being.
All of us have told lies in our lifetime, either to protect our own interests or those of people we care for. Perhaps we have decided to distort the truth in order to gain something from somebody else, or maybe to avoid facing up to the consequences of our own actions. Maybe we withheld information and truth about aspects of ourselves that we assume will lead to feelings of humiliation and inferiority.
All of us will also have experienced the sensation of confessing to the truth after telling a lie. Whether we told a small harmless fabrication, or maintained a proliferating web of lies over a long period of time, when the truth comes out it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of our shoulders and a new space opens up in which we can live in alignment with our own truth.
Science has tapped into this domain and evidence shows that honesty directly correlates to happiness, increased mental health and even better physical health. Researches at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana conducted a study consisting of 110 people who were observed over a period of 10 weeks. Half of the participants were instructed to stop telling both major and minor lies over the duration of the study, whereas the other half served as a control group. Both groups attended the laboratory once a week to undergo health and relationship testing and were also subject to a polygraph test to determine the number of major and minor lies they had told that week.
Over the study period, the link between telling fewer lies and improved health was significantly stronger within the no-lie group. The study reports members of this group experiencing less mental health issues such as feelings of melancholia and tension, as well as fewer symptoms of physical imbalance such as sore throats, headaches etc.
Another positive factor born out of the no-lie group was that, upon telling fewer lies, the members found a large improvement in their close and personal relationships and also claimed that social interactions ran smoother and more lucidly. Members of the group stated that to avoid telling lies, they openly admitted to their failures and mistakes and also told the plain truth and ceased to exaggerate.
Although this information provides evidence to suggest that resisting telling lies can lead to improvement in our lives, there is most definitely a difference between not telling lies and being thoroughly honest with oneself and others. Telling the truth in place of lies is a stride towards honesty, yet by committing acts such as suppressing our emotions to please others, refusing to speak our minds out of fear of judgment, and even living our lives to please expectations put upon us by others, we are not being honest.
“Radical honesty” is a term coin by psychotherapist Dr. Brad Blanton, who thinks, “Lying is the major source of all human stress. It kills us. When people engage honestly, energy that was wasted maintaining a performance to make an impression is suddenly available for creativity. When we admit our pretenses we can refresh our relationships and powerfully create our future together. Radical Honesty is direct communication that leads to intimacy in relationships.”
Blanton explained to Reset that many of our personal paradigms and reality structures that breed dishonesty and lying derive from the stories we weave and learn as children and live out throughout our existence. These stories may prevent us from living from a place of honesty with ourselves and lead us to live lives of relative safety and comfort in place of true happiness.
“Our minds are made of memories of events organized into stories,” explains Blanton. “We all live our life in stories. We learn all kinds of stories from family, books, other people. We constantly make a lot of them up for ourselves. Our very identity is a story. We think of ourselves as a story of what was done to us and what we have done and how and why we did it. There is nothing particularly wrong with that. It is just what human beings do. But there are a few pitfalls that can immensely affect the quality of our lives. We sometimes settle for stories that give us less satisfaction than we want but appear to be safe. We do this particularly when we are scared by, of course, some story about danger. We sometimes tend to prefer a story of feeling safe, or right — more than feeling free and happy — particularly if we were scolded or controlled a lot when we were growing up. A lot of parents get scared about raising their children and teach them to live in a worrisome story. They teach these cautionary tales to their kids for their protection. That’s doesn’t always work so well.”
Blanton says that lying and dishonesty are not always born out of bad intentions, but are habits and patterns we have learned and developed earlier in life.
“People are not so much driven to lying. They are invited and trained into it by parents and teachers and their entire cultural environment of moralists. Moralism is the key. We are taught that our reputations are who we are. They are not who we are. We are first and foremost noticing beings, who like to talk to each other about what is going on. Moralism is a disease of thinking that being right and not being wrong is the most important thing in the world. It is not. We get it wrong by trying to always get it right.”
Sometimes being outright honest can cause our pulse to quicken and hearts to bound. It may cause temporary emotional pain to both the giver and receiver of the truth. Whether we are breaking a cycle of dishonesty, or sharing what path we really want to follow in our lives and shedding the expectation of others, the risk of honesty reaps great rewards.
“Even though we like to feel safe and protected and not at risk, we also like stories that make us feel really good — really happy and proud and in love and laughing and ecstatic — even though being really happy is a little scary for most of us,” says Blanton. “That is one of the central dilemmas of in-depth psychotherapy. So we have many stories that tell us not to risk safety in order to feel better. So we settle for safety first even if there is a possibility for feeling good, but still a chance of feeling worse. ‘The risk ain’t worth it’ was the message a lot of us got from a lot of people living in scary stories themselves who wanted to protect us from being in a tragic story. Bad stories kill people. Zombies are people who got moralized to death. We have been warned, and sometimes taught from experience, to be careful not to have too much fun.”
Blanton went on to detail how being radically honest can renew our relationships, and help us to forgive and ultimately revolutionize our lives.
“Radical Honesty, because it brings about the destruction of a lot of past stories that are no longer useful or were all bullshit in the first place, is the very source of personal liberation and social revolution,” says Benton. “Because after the pain of that overthrow of the government of the mind stories comes an immense sense of joy.”