Sometimes we don't let ourselves know what we know, because then we'd have to do something about it. One of the problems with this strategy is it's difficult to find inner peace when we are living with inner conflict, even, and perhaps especially, if it's not conscious.
When we do not let ourselves know what we know, we start second-guessing ourselves. When we do not want to know what we know, sometimes our response is "I don't know," which can signal dissociation, a psychological defense used when we are traumatized or conflicted. We then separate thoughts, emotions, sensations or memories from the rest of our psyche. When we are split like this, we cannot live as an integrated whole.
What do I know that I wish I did not know? What are the questions that I am afraid to ask? Which truths do I dare not say? The difficulty with the truth is once we admit it to ourselves, we have a responsibility to do something with it.
A character in Alice Walker's novel "Now is the Time to Open Your Heart" says, "I am thinking of the moment something dies and how we instinctively know it. And of how we try not to know what we know because we do not yet understand how we are to negotiate change."
Going back into denial or swallowing it is not the most growth-full option.
We might see that the position in which we have placed ourselves, for whatever reasons, is no longer tenable. We just might have to do something about it. We might have to find out what it says about us, this truth, and why we have lived contrary to it. We might have to have the fortitude to sit with both the truth and its contrary circumstances for a while until the way out emerges. In addition, it gets tricky if we discover this "truth" is based on false premises. Then we have to go back in and get to the root of this truth and see whether it's based on something grounded and solid.
Krishnamurti said the truth is not a fixed point. There cannot be a path to find it; truth is a pathless land. Experience has taught me that truth is not black or white. Just when we think we have arrived at the truth, another layer of the onion peels itself away, and we see another truer truth lying there. We thereby come to know that there will be other truer truths down through all those layers. Once we gain some equilibrium, we make peace with it. We find the paradoxical place of knowing — we have to start from somewhere, it is too disorienting otherwise — and yet being completely amenable to being proven wrong.
Truth-telling and transparency are most challenging in our relationships. What are the lies we tell ourselves to keep the status quo? One is that something is wrong with us. Another is calling something a compromise when it is really a break with our integrity. Not speaking our truth is, strictly speaking, lying. To not speak our truth can be seen as denying our own existence, our own inner experience, and what is true for us. In order to hold on to our relationships, many of us go this route to some degree.
In the past, rather than confront, I would turn my feelings inward and suffer the conflict inside rather than outside. I would sever my relationship with myself rather than sever my relationship with the other. I would abandon myself rather than abandon the other. Even though I still have this tendency, I am getting better at catching myself and addressing the situation more quickly.
Marla Estes, M.A., is founder of the School of the Examined Life. She will give a free talk about the school and upcoming classes from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the Ashland Public Library. See her website www.marlaestes.com.
The Ashland Daily Tidings invites Rogue Valley residents to submit 600- to 700-word articles to Sally McKirgan, firstname.lastname@example.org.