Page developed by Ann Reiten, Ph.D. and the AYCNP
"I would love to give the gift of honesty to my country-by-adoption because honesty with self and others is the basis for good mental health and self esteem...My gift of honesty would empty mental hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers and radically reduce the prison populations."
Lehigh Valley's newspaper, the Morning Call, Lehigh Valley Newspaper.
This comment might seem rather oblique. One may ask: Would honesty significantly improve mental health? And if so, why?
Honesty in all relationships contributes to stability and good mental health.
Honesty is Healing
Honesty, in the arena of therapy or counseling, has the ability to heal. When one shares with another his own experience, and it is accepted, it becomes shared experience. If one can imagine oneself in the same situation, or empathize with the disclosing individual, that person may feel less alone with his experience.
Every one of us has something that we do not disclose. And everyone feels that, were they to disclose this aspect of themselves or their experience, they might not be accepted or understood. The point of this is that we all must take positive risks. We must risk telling our secrets when we feel at least somewhat comfortable in doing so.
Honesty in the arena of mental health is seen as directly related to psychotherapy. Individuals in psychotherapy are allowed to honestly speak to and share with their psychotherapists, without any retaliation by the therapist. We are healthy as long as we receive accurate mirroring by another individual. This can be a therapist or a trusted or close friend. However, if honesty is received by another without acceptance of us, is can be judgmental and psychologically damaging in terms of that judgment.
Honest Dialogue - Carl Roger's Humanistic Therapy
Carl Roger’s created humanistic therapy that addresses the need for clients to enact, with the help of his therapist, an honest dialogue with their therapist. In terms of humanistic psychology, there are three central aspects of psychotherapy.
These include the following:
(1) accurate empathy,
(2) unconditional positive regard, and
Accurate empathy is one tool by which the therapist understands the client on the client’s own terms. Unconditional positive regard is displayed by the therapist as a means of complete acceptance by of the client, and genuineness is exhibited by the therapist as a means of honesty and realness.
While it is true that there are limits to confidentiality in terms of a client’s expressed intent to harm him or others, the central curative element in Carl Roger’s therapy, and that addressed by any therapy of any orientation, is honesty. We are healthy when we are mirrored by another, and acceptance by another allows us to accept ourselves, culminating in better mental health.
Carl Rogers stated: "Only when I accept myself as I am can I then change."
By accepting ourselves, through acceptance by a therapist or any concerned and trusted friend, we are then able to transcend our issues. They key to this type of transcendence is honesty with another. Clearly, a gift of honesty would be a gift of better mental health to individuals in many settings.
In terms of honesty in psychotherapy, learning to be honest will allow you to discover the "truth" of living in grace, instead of pursuing your truth through intellectual abstraction. This means that both the client and the therapist must learn to be honest with each other, and it means, additionally, that the client must learn to be honest with him or herself. This process, in itself, can be healing and stabilizing.
Take Down Psychological Defenses - Be Honest With Yourself
Honesty involves learning to express oneself openly to another person the fullness of your immediate, inner experience in terms of setting aside your characteristic psychological defenses. Psychological defenses can include denial and repression, both of which entail dishonesty with the self, and, with the help of one’s therapist, one can begin to bring these defenses to one’s own attention, so as to transcend them.
The person in therapy has the option of healing by emptying the self of pride and what might be termed false pride. Honesty will allow the person to surpass social game playing. Persons who are psychologically unaware and bristling with defenses must learn to understand themselves psychologically and become more secure in the psychotherapeutic relationship in order to admit to what they perceive in their own perspectives as their failings.
Emptying ourselves of false pride can help us develop self-insight and lead to more secure relationships.
It is interesting that greater personal security and self-acceptance will allow one to admit one's failings. Carl Rogers, the founder of humanistic psychotherapy, postulated the discrepancy between the "real self" and the "ideal self" in people who are in need of psychological healing. He stated that one must lower one’s expectations in terms of one’s "ideal self", while raising one’s expectations regarding the "real self". The goal of therapy is then considered to be congruence between the real self and the ideal. One can see how important congruence is for mental health, and congruence reflects a deep honesty with oneself.