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Understanding the Four Fictions - The Power of Insight and Honesty


kamurj

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Excerpted from
Living the Truth: Transform Your Life Through the Power of Insight and Honesty
By Keith Ablow, M.D.

If you were to tell someone the story of your life, would you be honest from start to finish? Or would there be gaping holes? Would there be chapters you would want to hide-not only from others but from yourself as well?

Because we unconsciously (and even neurologically) treat the painful chapters of our lives as the enemy, nearly every one of us creates a life story that is partly fiction. We instinctively deal with hurt-whether resulting from the loss of loved ones, the imperfections of our parents' marriages or their love for us, psychological trauma, growing up poor, growing up in chaos, growing up with an alcoholic or drug-dependent parent-by denying it.

The first step in this denial is to put up our shields to deflect the slings and arrows of everyday reminders of the pain so that we may live our lives, however dysfunctionally. But hard as we may try, we can't totally forget about how we grew up.

We tell ourselves palatable tales about what we lived through and who we lived through it with. And the more painful the truth, the deeper we bury it.

Yet the parts of us that hurt are also the most genuine and potentially powerful. They are the most vulnerable because they are the most exquisitely real. They include our inborn capacities to love, to trust, to dream, to create, and to empathize with the pain of others. Finding them again is like finding buried treasure, but the search takes courage.

Is there a map that leads to this treasure? I believe there is. And the place to dig can be found by tracking the energy we expend to keep the treasure hidden.

In my opinion there are four areas of life in which our early injuries occur and, therefore, four fictions we use to keep the truth at bay. Maintaining these fictions consumes an extraordinary amount of psychological energy. And beneath these fictions lie enormous reservoirs of personal authenticity and interpersonal power. The four fictions are:

  • Fiction about the self
  • Fiction about the actions and intentions of others
  • Fiction about one's economic, social, or cultural circumstances
  • Fiction about what it means to be mortal

Fiction about the Self

For the most part, before we emerge from childhood or adolescence, we note that life has not given us every gift. We see that we are stronger in some areas and more vulnerable in others, whether those areas are physical, emotional, or intellectual. We may be more athletic but less intelligent than others. We may be less attractive but more outgoing. Or we may be attractive, outgoing, and athletic but may face special learning challenges. Some of us struggle in childhood with medical conditions such as asthma. Others, with physical handicaps. Still others, with mood disorders.

As socially competitive creatures, we feel a host of emotions when we compare ourselves to others, including admiration, envy, superiority, inferiority, pride, and shame. And since we also have imaginations, we measure ourselves not only against people we know but against idealized notions (some promoted by television, films, and advertising) of what we wish to be and what we believe the world wants us to be.

Many of us make peace with our strengths and weaknesses and come to feel satisfied with who we are. But if those around us make us feel self-conscious and defensive about our shortcomings, or if no one helps to foster our core strengths, self-esteem is harder to come by. Our energy may be devoted to covering up. We can literally spend our entire lives creating and trying to sustain elaborate fictions to hide from others-and, not uncommonly, from ourselves.

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