My husband, the other Dr. Levine as he’s known in our Clinic, gave “the talk” at our kids’ school the other week. He gives the basic talk about pertinent reproductive issues each year to the 5th graders—culminating in the lesson that “no means no”. (An important lesson.) Because of the success of his past talks, he has been asked to also speak with the 9th grade class to give them a refresher course as they move into the challenging adolescent years. This seemed like a great plan until my son hit 9th grade. Suddenly the idea, that his dad was going to give even more detailed information than he had given during the 5th grade talk, seemed truly daunting. My husband pointed out that when he had given this exact talk last year to the 9th graders, it had been well-received and no one even snickered. “Wow, Dad” the kids replied, “I guess you do know something.”
We all got a good laugh out of that one, but it started me thinking.
1. Do we always realize when we know something or when someone else knows something?
2. How do we figure out which somethings are actually true?
Let me try to clarify. The individuals I see in our program are all talented, unique, amazing individuals. Yet, none of them seem willing to acknowledge that they know something. They often undercut their talents and sell themselves short. If they haven’t done something perfectly or don’t know everything, then they know nothing. The old black and white and nothing in between.
When they come into the program, they rely on us to know something. And, luckily, we do. But we don’t know everything. We know what tools have helped others with their recoveries. We work to improve our skills so that we can offer more and more tools. We incorporate tools that others in the field are using. But not every tool works for every person. So we know something, but you know something, too. You know what is challenging and what is working for you.
People often try to tell each other what is best. We all know what works for us or know our view on life, but that might not be a view that is true for everyone. We can respect opinions, but how do we know when something is actually true? There are probably a limited number of truths—even things that people believed were true, i.e. that the world was flat, eventually got proven as untrue. So how do we know what’s true? Well, in life sometimes there are tests—is this idea or tool going to help my recovery? Does this belief make me feel better about myself or worse? Does this comment allow me to see myself as unique and amazing or is it trying to diminish my abilities?
If magazine editors want to believe that photo-shopped images look better on the covers, well that’s their opinion, but it doesn’t mean it’s the truth. It’s not the truth in many ways—those pictures aren’t true, they are manipulated. Making everyone look perfect and plastic, doesn’t make them look more beautiful. When we move away from our uniqueness to one sanitized version of truth—we diminish our own true beautiful nature.
· What truths have you been living with? What have others made you believe that you’ve never stopped to question? Write those thoughts down and examine them in a new light. Do you want to hold onto those beliefs? Do they make you a stronger, better person or do they diminish your true beauty?
· What truths do you know that you might not even be aware of? Your inner truth. The truth that is important to you but that others might not know about. A truth for me is that writing is important in my life. It is how I come to understand more about myself and others. This is not necessarily a truth that others in my life share—okay. They don’t need to write, but I do. There is not a one-size-fits-all truth. So try and discover yours.
Use a sentence fragment…
o I believe…..
o My inner truth is….
o If my soul could speak, it would tell me….
You may need to use these prompts at different times. As you move along in your recovery, you may come to learn new things about yourself.
· Are you using your voice in your recovery? Gathering all the tools you need? Are you using tools that don’t work for you? Write to discover your thoughts and then work with your treatment team. Work with them—you have a view of your recovery, but use their expertise. And make sure the view you’re expressing is yours and not Ed’s.
· What are magazines, TV, videos, the Internet telling you? Are you accepting images as truth? Challenge anything that you hear or see especially if it is making you feel bad about yourself. Look to see if it is trying to manipulate you into believing something is true that in fact might not be. Ads will always suggest that something new will make us happier or make our lives better. That is the job of an ad—to sell something. It is a sales tool. It is not the truth. Write to see how these images or tag lines are influencing you. If an ad or program is making you criticize yourself—journal about what is happening. Explore your thoughts and the way the media is trying to sway you. Understanding these effects will help you decipher when something is bona fide and when it is bogus.
o Bona fide—We are all unique and amazing people!
o Bogus—We all have to be the same.
So, go, discover your own truths. Go, Write On!
Martha Peaslee Levine, M.D.