Is That True?

Yesterday I wrote to you about the power of why as a way to explore yourself on a deeper level.

Today I have another question for you to take with you on your next journalling session: is it true?

Here’s why this question is important, whether you’re writing or relating or just trying to figure your shit out.

Thoughts — which originate from the same brain which gives you crazy acid-trip dreams and makes you scream when seaweed that you can see brushes up against you in the surf — are not always the most reliable indicator of your actual opinion, feeling or belief about something.

You are not your thoughts. You do not have to act on your thoughts. You do not even have to believe your thoughts. Just because they come out of your brain — which is, admittedly, a miracle — they’re not always true.

Some of the most interesting work I’ve ever done came from wondering if a long-held assumption was actually true.

Your brain evolved during an epoch that was much, much less complicated.

Yes, there was still family drama and feast-famine cycles and the occasional mega-fauna raging through your living space, but there was no Twitter, no 24-hour news cycle, no debt-based economy.

The pressures on the human animal at that point in time were completely about survival, and now that our basic survival needs are covered, there’s a whole lot of brain space available to think all kinds of crazy stuff.

So sometimes it will throw up a thought or an idea that has no grounding in reality. You know the ones:

You should really shave your head. No, no I should not.

Don’t worry about putting that plane ticket on your credit card, you’ll figure it out. Nope, bad plan.

Are you sure you don’t have a thing for so-and-so? Yes, very sure, thanks byeee.

Most of the time, though, we’re pretty habitual in our thinking. We think plenty of stuff on auto-pilot, just because it’s routine.

We do other things instinctively, sometimes thanks to a wee bit of conditioning.

Other times we’re analytical in our thinking, critical even, but generally what we think about depends, of course, on our experiences and contexts.

It also depends, a LOT, on your childhood, and whether you formed secure, avoidant or anxious attachments with your caregivers.

Regardless of where you sit on this spectrum, ‘is it true’ is a radical and powerful question, because perceived truth can be a kind of tyranny.

When you believe something just because that’s what you’ve always believed, or because that’s what someone told you a long time ago, or because you’ve never been in a position to question what you were told, you have no agency in the matter.

If it’s a foregone conclusion that The Thing is true, then you are powerless over it.

But if you give yourself permission to ask this question, suddenly you take all the power back. Now The Thing answers to you. It has to justify itself. It has to give evidence. It has to explain the web that has held it in place until now.

Here are some things I’ve interrogated with is it true?:

  • Is it true that my job in my family is to protect my sisters?
  • Is it true that I should prioritise the opinions of the men in my life about what I do with my time and energy?
  • Is it true that it’s selfish of me not to have children, and that I’ll regret it when I’m old?
  • Is it true that my value as a person is directly correlated with my body fat percentage?
  • Is it true that my life would be much better if I adopted another little floof of a furball and all his squishy little siblings?

In order to ask if something is true, there are two subtle, powerful shifts that must happen in you.

The first is that you have to realise that not every message you’ve absorbed is true, and therefore not every thought you have is true.

The second is finding the courage to hold your thoughts up to the light of truth, and, critically, to trust the answers that emerge.

To do that, you might have to displace someone else’s truth, which makes ‘is it true’ even more potent than ‘why’.

There’s endless ground to cover here.

What you believe about your past. What you believe about your future. What you believe makes you valuable (or not) as a person. Put it all to the test.

Force your thoughts to justify themselves, explain why they’re taking up space in your brain. Hold it all up to the truth and see what falls away.