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October 20, 2003

Groups, Part 2: Communicating the Truth

Our interactions with others are strongly affected by how we interpret experience. This leads to one big question - what is the truth?

There is a tendency for us to believe, as Newton did, that the universe consists of objects and events with an absolute reality independent of interpretation. Under this assumption, communication and conflicts are focused on perceiving this absolute truth and determining who is right and who is wrong. In this belief system, "the truth" is an object that we struggle to see more clearly.

But how do we know that this "objective reality" actually exists? Who has ever experienced it beyond the interpretive filter of their own brains and bodies? No one. Absolute, objective reality is a total assumption, a giant Santa Clause.

Consider olives.

Two people can share the same olive and have two entirely different experiences. To me, olives taste horrible. To a friend of mine, they taste delicious. If olives have an absolute objective reality, a judgment could be made by someone that one of us is right and one of us is wrong.

I think that both of us are right. Both of us are telling the truth - not about the phantom "objective olive," but the truth of our own experience. When I encounter an olive, a person, or an image in my mind, I experience colour, sound, taste, smell, touch, and feeling. This experience, regardless of its source, is real - it is happening. It is my truth, the truth of my experience. That's all I ever have, and that's all I ever need.

This perspective revolutionizes our relationship with ourselves and others. When we stick to the simple truth of our experience and feelings, there is no judgment of others and no blame. Even if something we experience seems to emanate from other people, all we know for sure is our experience. And all we have to do is report that as is.

Let me use an example. If Peggy says, "This house is a mess," her choice of words do not actually tell the truth. Her partner, Greg, doesn't feel that the house is a mess - he likes it that way. They could fight over the elusive objective "truth" of whether the house is a mess or they could speak their truth. Peggy might say, "To me, it seems that there are a lot of things lying around and I find it difficult to find what I need. I feel uncomfortable with the house this way." Greg might say, "I see the stuff, but it doesn't feel messy and it doesn't bother me. I know where my stuff is and I feel relaxed in this kind of environment." If they did this, they would have the benefit of each other's truth. Without personal judgment and blame getting in the way, they could begin to work on the situation.

Telling the truth of our experience - our truth - eliminates the existence of judgment. This creates safety for others and ourselves. When safety exists, growth and healing arise spontaneously.

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