By Jennifer Patterson, BSN, Student Intern
Speaking your truth is a phrase that has come up numerous times in recent months, leading me to question, "What does speaking your truth actually mean?" It most likely means different things to different people. Some people's truths may come from a place of hurt, maladapted coping, distorted perceptions and/or irrational belief, while for others the truth comes from a place of inner healing, forgiveness, and knowing what is true.
As little children we came into the world needing safety, security, love and acceptance and many of us did not get these things for one reason or another. From infancy we began to figure out ways to cope with our unmet needs. We observed those around us and determined how they got what they wanted or needed from others, and we learned to mimic their behavior and communication styles, not knowing whether they were functional or dysfunctional.
For those of us coming from dysfunctional family systems, we were not taught to be honest and direct. Those caring for us did not model healthy communication. As a result, our communication style became rooted in manipulation. We learned to "doctor up" or "sugar coat" what we said in order to get what we needed or wanted, sometimes saying, "Yes" when we meant, "No." We told lies as protection from the consequences of something we had said or done. We also participated in triangulation, which is talking about one person to another rather confronting a problem directly.
The mind uses unconscious defenses and coping mechanisms to survive trauma, hurt, neglect and/or loss. In the beginning, eating disorder behaviors serve a functional purpose; however, ultimately the body and mind are harmed. Eating disorder behaviors are maladapted coping mechanisms and these behaviors become the voice that communicates an unspoken need; a type of silent screaming, if you will.
In order to speak our truth, we must first discover what have we have been telling ourselves that is not true. What is my mindset? What is my belief system and what was it formed upon? What are my perceptions about others, the world and myself? Are these perceptions accurate or distorted? This is best accomplished in a safe and supportive environment with a trustworthy individual such as a counselor who has been trained in the recovery process.
One goal of therapy is not to help us simply feel better, but also to help us get better! It is important to remember that self-examination is a process, and it takes time, willingness and commitment. Commitment to the recovery process involves compete honesty, attending weekly therapy sessions, completing any take-home work, participating in group therapy sessions, practicing newly acquired skills, and putting new information to work in our lives. Most often, regularly attending 12-step recovery groups and getting a sponsor are essential as well.
In therapy we learn how to get honest with others and ourselves. We learn how to ask for what we need in a direct and assertive manner. We learn how to embrace our true self and release the false self. We learn how to set boundaries that keep toxic people and situations at a distance. We learn mindfulness. We learn how to be self-led rather than live a life that is simply reacting to people and surroundings. We learn how to speak for ourselves rather than allowing the eating disorder to be our voice. We can learn what is true and then are we able to speak our truth using the voice of our true self.