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Speaking Your Truth When it's Hard

By Dr. Margaret Paul
August 09, 2010

How often to you withhold your truth from someone important to you because you are afraid of their anger? Discover what caring about yourself looks like in this situation.

How often do you withhold the truth from someone important to you - your partner, friend, parent, child, co-worker - because you know he or she will get angry rather than care about you?

How you do feel when you don't speak your truth about something that is important to you? It is likely that you feel depressed when you don’t speak up for yourself. Not speaking up about something that is important to you is a way of ignoring your own feelings and needs, and very likely will lead to depression.

Yet, if you do speak up and someone important to you doesn't care about your feelings, then how do you feel? If you are aware of your deeper feelings, you will likely feel some loneliness and heartache when someone is angry rather than caring about what is important to you.

For example, Johnnie consulted with me because his wife, Rosemary, had spent way too much on their credit card and had put Johnnie in a difficult financial position. Johnnie knew from past experience that if he said something about it to Rosemary, she would explode at him, which would feel awful to him. Yet, by not telling Rosemary about it, he was feeling depressed.

"I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place," he said to me. "I don't know what to do."

"Johnnie, what do you usually do when Rosemary gets angry at you?"

"I either get angry back, or I get defensive, or I shut down. And I feel awful."

"What are the awful feelings?"

"I feel hurt that she doesn't care about how her behavior affects me. I feel sad and lonely that we can't talk things out with caring rather than with anger."

"And it seems to me that you cover these feelings up with your own anger, defensiveness, and withdrawal - is that right?"

"Yeah, I think that's right."

"What if you were to be compassionate toward your own feelings of loneliness and heartache? What if you were to give yourself the caring that you want from Rosemary? What if, when you tell her your truth and she gets angry rather than cares about you, you care about yourself, bringing lots of gentleness, kindness, tenderness, and understanding to yourself? Do you think that would help you have the courage to speak your truth?"

"Actually, that sounds good to me. I think I can do that. So what you are saying is that if I give myself the caring I need when Rosemary gets angry, then I can speak my truth rather than stay depressed and ruminate about it."

"Yes. If you know that you are going to be there for yourself rather than abandon yourself in the face of Rosemary's anger, it makes it much easier to speak your truth. As long as you allow her anger to intimidate you into keeping quiet, then you are allowing her anger to control you, which is not good for you or for her. By choosing to be loving to yourself rather than avoiding the conflict, you will feel much better, even if she explodes. Are you willing to try this regarding the credit card?"


In our next session, Johnnie reported that, when Rosemary exploded as predicted, he was able to stay present and caring about himself. He was able to say everything he wanted to say, including how heartbreaking her anger was for him. He felt much better and the conflict lasted a much shorter time than usual.


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