“The man who tells you truth does not exist is asking you not to believe him. So, don’t.”
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy
Truth’s Role in Your Mental Health
Identifying and living truth are fundamental to healthy psychological development, interpersonal competency, and emotional fulfillment in life. Denying or being unable to know and live truth is a recipe for discouragement, depression, self-deterioration and destruction.
First let me explain what I mean by truth. From a big picture standpoint, there are two types of truth; objective and subjective.
Objective truth: Objective truths are absolutes; meaning that they are obvious reality and no alternative to their existence as truth is possible. The most basic example is the absolute fact that each of us exists and that we will also die. Another example of objective absolute truth is the fact that everything has a cause, this is the law of cause and effect. For example: In the case of human behavior, thinking causes feelings and feelings cause behavior.
Subjective truth: Subjective truths are man-made, which means man has decided that a given belief or fact is true. Subjective truths are not absolutes, but are rather products of people’s choices as to what is true. They are mutually agreed on truths. Examples of man-made truths include: morals, civil and criminal laws, religious beliefs, the definition of an inch, believing that one race of people is better than another. Simply stated, a man-made truth is anything we decide to believe as true. These beliefs are for better or worse in man’s existence. They are all open to challenge. And, to be a psychologically healthy person you must challenge many if not most of them.
About now you’re probably asking yourself, ‘What does all of this “talk about truth” have to do with mental health? The simple answer is that everything you believe to be true about yourself and the world determines the quality of life you experience. The accuracy and quality of your personally held beliefs determine your mental health, your perception of the world, and your ability to find fulfillment in life. This is particularly true when it comes to the beliefs that you have about yourself. What you believe to be true about you, for better or worse, influences everything in your life.
As children we all were taught selected subjective truths about ourselves and the world by our primary caregivers, which in most cases were our parents. What our parents taught us was their perception of truth. My point is that the subjective things we are taught can be valid or invalid, rational or irrational, and beneficial or harmful to us and to those around us. In large part, it is what we are taught as truth early in life that determines our mental health and our ability to find fulfillment in life.
The following are some questions about early learned beliefs about yourself:
- Am I a good or a bad person?
- Am I a happy or sad person?
- Am I deserving of love?
- Do I trust my mind to know what is true?
- Am I afraid most of the time or am I confident and even courageous at times?
- Do I feel depressed about life in general?
- Do I continue to do things that I know are harmful or destructive in my life
Your answers to these questions, point to underlying beliefs you have about you, the person. It should be obvious to you that your beliefs are either positive or negative. The important question is, are these beliefs that you hold about yourself really true? For example, your responses may be positive, but are you being honest with yourself? If you are not being honest, you and those around you will suffer for your denial of truth. Alternatively, your responses about yourself may be negative. You may accept your negative self-beliefs as your lot in life—something you just have to live with and do the best you can. What if you are wrong?? In reality, your negative beliefs about yourself could be wrong, yet because you believe them, they become truth. They control and determine the course and quality of your life. Because of negative beliefs your life is increasingly depressing, disappointing, and destructive to you and those around you.
As an individual, whatever you believe to be true about you, determines your thinking, feeling, and your behavior. If you believe you are unlovable, you will feel unloved and you will behave in ways that will ensure your perception of your belief. The bottom line is that if your beliefs about yourself are negative, you should change them. You are the one that created these beliefs at some point in your life, so it is within your power to change what you believe. This is true if your negative beliefs about yourself are accurate and it is also true if your negative beliefs about yourself are inaccurate.
So how do you change your beliefs? First you must recognize what your real beliefs are. Then, you must determine whether they are harmful or beneficial to you. By the way, you might also determine whether your beliefs are harmful or beneficial to those around you. By taking responsibility for the quality of your thinking, its positive or negative nature, and its effect on your life, you can change the actual quality of your experience of life.
You may be able to make these changes yourself. Your own experience of your attempts to do so will provide you with feedback about whether you are actually able to do it on your own. You might consider purchasing my new book: My Enemy—My Self: Overcoming Your Self-Defeating Mind as an aid to your self-help endeavor.