Page developed by Ann Reiten, PhD 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.
This comment might seem rather oblique, but one might ask: Would honesty significantly improve mental health? And if so, how?
Honesty in relationships contributes to stability and good mental health.
Honesty is Healing
Honesty, in the arena of therapy or counseling, contributes to healing. When one shares with another his own experience and it is accepted, it becomes a shared rather than isolative 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 many feel 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 successful psychotherapy. Individuals in psychotherapy are allowed to honestly speak to and share with their therapists, without any retaliation from their mental health care provider. Accurate mirroring in therapy, whether it be in formal therapy or with a close or trusted friend, is therapeutic. However, if honest communication results in some form of rejection or is responded to judgmentally, this can be psychologically damaging.
Honest Dialogue - Carl Roger's Humanistic Therapy
Carl Roger's developed humanistic therapy addresses the need for clients to engage in an honest dialogue with their therapist. There are three central aspects of humanistic psychology in psychotherapy to be considered. These include the following:
(1) accurate empathy
(2) unconditional positive regard
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 of the client; genuineness and realness are exhibited by the therapist.
While it is true that there are limits to confidentiality in terms of a client’s expressed intent to harm himself or others, one of the central curative elements in Carl Roger's therapy, and that is addressed by therapy of any orientation, is honesty. We are healthy when we are mirrored by another, and acceptance by another allows us to accept ourselves, resulting 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. The key to this transcendence is honesty with another. Clearly, a gift of honesty would be a gift of better mental health to individuals in many settings.
Learning to be honest in psychotherapy 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 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, setting aside your characteristic psychological defenses. Psychological defenses can include denial and repression, both of which involve dishonesty with the self, and with the help of one's therapist, one can begin to be aware of and transcend these defenses.
The person in therapy has the option of healing by emptying the self of false pride (not to be confused with self-respect, self-esteem, or healthy pride in oneself). Honesty will allow the person to overcome 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 perspective of their own failings.
Emptying ourselves of false pride can help us develop self-insight and lead to more-secure relationships.
Conclusion of Therapy Success - Honesty Promotes Healing
It is interesting that greater personal security and self-acceptance will allow one to admit one's failings more readily. 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 and efforts regarding the "real self".
The goal of therapy is then considered to be congruence between the real self and the ideal self. One can see how important congruence is for mental health, and congruence is achieved more readily by means of honesty with oneself.