Emotional Honesty: What It Is And Why It Is Important

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Most people are emotionally dishonest for various reasons. A bold statement, maybe but in my experience it is a true statement. Look at this quote:

“Most of us feel that others will not tolerate emotional honesty. We would rather defend our dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others; and having rationalised our phoniness into nobility, we settle for superficial relationships.” from Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? by John Powell.

In my work as a couples therapist, I see this as a major barrier to a couple being on a road to recovery. By being emotionally dishonest, we are missing out on connection with others and indeed ourselves. We are missing out on living an authentic life and we hide and lie what we are truly feeling. In a relationship, this can break trust and lead to resentment, leading to angry outbursts and disagreements.

Emotional honesty is the glue that holds the four pillars of trust, honesty, respect and mutual benefit together. It allows us to be intimate, vulnerable and connect deeply with another person. However, we mostly avoid it at all costs.

Before we can be emotionally honest with others, it is important that we are emotionally honest with ourselves. This is where it starts and where it will flourish with others. We don’t do this for a number of reasons. Firstly, we fear judgement and criticism from others and it is easier to avoid that. Secondly, we have become adept at manipulating our feelings, subduing them and hiding them in order to control the response from others. In the case of codependency, this is very much the case. The price we pay for this is that we become involved in flat, superficial relationships. Being emotionally honest with ourselves means actually to reveal ourselves. It means taking the risk that your true feelings will be open to judgment. However, if we are in a relationship with someone who handles this well, then in time, it will become easier. If not or if that person is encouraging emotional dishonesty, then you have to reassess the relationship.

Being emotional honest means recognising and accepting when you are being defensive, for example or hiding what you are truly wanting to say. So it starts with you being emotionally intelligent and aware. Emotional intelligence may also give us the ability to decide when it is in our best interest to be emotionally honest by sharing our real feelings. There are times when it is not healthy or safe for us to be emotionally honest. In general though, I believe we would be better off individually and as a society if we would be more emotionally honest. Only then will you be able to set healthy boundaries for ourselves and others. In fact, being emotionally honest may well encourage others to do the same.

Nathaniel Branden writes:

If communication is to be successful, if love is to be successful, if relationships are to be successful, we must give up the absurd notion that there is something “heroic” or “strong” about lying, about faking what we feel, about misrepresenting, by commission or omission, the reality of our experience or the truth of our being. We must learn that if heroism and strength mean anything, it is the willingness to face reality, to face truth, to respect facts, to accept that that which is, is.

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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner's approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients' internal "parts," or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.

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