Living The Truth by Dr. Keith Ablow sounds pretty straightforward. Live the truth. Easy-peasy.
Not so fast.
I have always considered myself an honest person. My mother will tell you I was a terrible liar as a kid. I can tell you that I’m a horrible liar now. Between my anxiety, sweat glands, and rosacea, I would never pass a lie-detector test, even if I * was* being truthful.
My mom tells a story about a pre-teen me and her favorite nail polish… called Palomino Pink. Here’s how the exchange went:
Mom: Did you use my nail polish?
Mom: Are you sure?
She looks down. I look down. My toenails are clearly Palomino Pink. She looks up.
Mom: Are you sure?
Me: Okay, yes, I used it.
Ta dum. That’s me, trying to pull one over on Mom.
But actually, it’s not that kind of truth-telling that Ablow is talking about. He’s talking about “editing out the fiction” from our lives. (By-the-by, I LOVE that – editing out the fiction. Isn’t it perfect?)
My favorite chapter, in fact, talks about “The Four Fictions”:
- Fiction about self
- Fiction about the actions and intentions of others
- Fiction about one’s economic, social, or cultural circumstances
- Fiction about what it means to be mortal
I told myself a lot of fiction growing up and well into adulthood. When I broke loose from all I believed I was, I went in a direction that was dangerous and life-changing… and if you’ve read me for any length of time, you might think I’m talking about the swingin’ 70’s (written about here) when in fact it was in 1999 (written about here.) I don’t need to go back over it, except to say that it was a very dark time. Coming into the light was nothing short of a years-long odyssey.
That said, the fictions I had told myself … changed. Stopped. Some of the changes came from within me. Most of them, actually. But nothing teaches you about mortality like the deaths of loved ones. That’s a human experience.
This is a big book, filled with patient and personal experiences, lots (and lots and lots!) of fill-in-the-blank style questions, and a ton of great advice.
If you have “done the work” on yourself and/ or have dealt with the pain in your past, this book may feel simplistic or redundant. This is not to say you won’t learn something… cuz I kinda feel like we can *always* learn something.
As I thumbed through it today, I felt kind of validated in all the work I’ve done on myself. At nearly-60, I should have, eh? But I also saw a couple of things that made me go…
I really liked the “Life Story” section and actually did exactly as he suggests, years ago. The book is from 2007 and I wisely used a notebook instead of writing in the book. Yay, me!
I feel like I mentioned this next part before but can’t find it… ugh… so sorry, it might be a repeater story. Last year, a friend of mine and I were talking and I showed her my notebook where I kept all the answers to questions from self-help books, along with quotes, therapy notes, memories, and timelines in a 3″ notebook. It was packed. She asked me why I kept it. I answered that I kept it in case I wanted to review it. She asked if I needed to do that. I said yes.
Fast forward to about two weeks later. Her questions haunted me.
Did I really need to keep it? Why was I keeping it?
I couldn’t answer in any positive way. So, I destroyed it. Gutted the notebook, shredded the pages, and kept the page protectors.
Done and done.
But I digress.
This book is excellent for beginners in the self-help game. It’s easy to read and you’ll learn a ton about yourself. And that’s the name of the game… when you’re talking about self-help.
Originally written by me for this blog on June 20, 2018