Part of understanding the value of truth, is to talk about the consequence of not being truthful, accurate or authentic. Now to be fair to ourselves, we don’t usually go out of our way to be dishonest or wrong. But more than we realize, we do often end up in this place of inauthenticity. How does this happen? It starts with our subconscious evaluation process.
“Does it make sense?” We almost always ask this question of ourselves when we are having an experience. Why? Because there is a rational, grounded, logical part of our mind that thinks this way.
“Does it feel right?” We also ask this of ourselves, but might not have the same level of awareness regarding this question. Nevertheless, the question is there. This appeals to the more emotional and experiential part of our self.
If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” then our mind will readily reject the experience as being inauthentic. However, if the answer to both of these questions is “yes” we open ourselves up to form a belief that our new experience is true. This is the very reason why a truth based perspective is important to mental healthiness. Just because something “makes sense” and “feels right” to us, doesn’t automatically make it true.
Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winning psychologist, has done extensive research on our human biases. He says:
“We think, each of us, that we’re much more rational than we are. And we think we make our decisions because we have good reasons to make them. Even when it’s the other way around. We believe in the reasons, because we’ve already made the decision.”
The risk of biases, coupled with the self belief that we are unbiased, can create a widening gap between the beliefs of our inner world with the truths of the outer world. This gap between what is believed versus what is real leads to a “false belief” system that ultimately creates problems for living. Why is this so bad? Because it is our beliefs that dictate the automatic thoughts and the automatic behaviors of our daily lives. If our beliefs are aligned with reality, then our automatic thoughts and behaviors engage us with our environment authentically. If our beliefs are based on false perceptions or ideas, then the ways we think and act are disconnected from what is actually happening in our lives. In the short term, this disconnect may not have any apparent reason for concern, but over the long term the subtle and imperceptible consequences accumulate and lead to bigger and bigger problems. As long as we remain disengaged from our actual life, those problems persist and lead to real pain and harm. The more disengaged we are to what is real, the greater potential for these problems to grow. Eventually these unhealthy experiences can lead to dysfunction, marching us further and further away from healthiness, and closer and closer to illness and disease.
So to avoid this pitfall of relying too much on our own rationality and experience, both of which may be biased, it is crucial to consciously ask ourselves a third question:
“Is it true?”
If the answer to all three questions is “yes,” then we have aligned the beliefs of our inner world, with the truths of the outer world, and we can authentically engage with the people, experiences, and environments in which we live. If we have the opportunity for real enjoyment, engagement and meaningfulness then we experience them to their fullest. If we have real challenges and difficulties, we can face them and make real progress as we engage them earnestly. Living authentically is living healthily.