Honesty: Getting Beyond Social Games


The first series of blogs to appear on “Perceptions of Self: We Don’t See the World as It Is We See the World as We Are” are written based on the Five Steps to Staying on Track by Peter Branden while channeling Zarathustra,  a lifelong friend and teacher of Den Nelson. Honesty is the first step.

One of the reasons people lose touch with their authentic selves is because of social or cultural games. We’ve been talking about honesty and how learning to be honest means getting beyond our social games. When we accept ourselves just where we are in the present moment, we stop seeking approval from others in an unhealthy way. Often people don’t know that they have the authority to approve of themselves. In order to stay in touch with our authentic self we have to be honest with what we’re feeling to ourselves and give ourselves approval without being perfect.

People always ask “how are you doing?”  Then we have to decide if they really want to know and then ask myself how do I really feel? The final decision is do I want to be vulnerable and self-disclosing. Time, circumstances and people involved change the answer to each of those questions.

We have to observe ourselves compassionately as a witness in our social interaction in order to be aware of how social games make us feel. It seems like there is an epidemic of loneliness – of people not feeling heard or seen. When we’re not seen or heard it’s easy to feel like we (and life) are empty and meaningless.

There’s a lot of pressure to not be real, to not be honest, to appear perfect. A therapist friend asked a table at a restaurant a question: “have you ever been scolded at a dinner table about what you wanted to talk about?” Social games are all about approval or acceptance. If someone turns to you and says, “Nobody wants to hear what you think” that can wound you, make you wary of speaking your mind without a filter, touching matters that aren’t “light dinner conversation.” We’ve all been in social situations like dinner parties where there’s no real communication going on. How do you feel in those moments? We’re all checking our watches, wondering when we can escape.

Playing social games is often an unconscious habit. When we were children and adolescents we needed approval for basic survival in the family home and to have a sense of belonging. With adults it’s different. We still need to have a sense of belonging, of being included, but the adult doesn’t have to trade its authentic self for acceptance. All major teachers or inspiring people, empowering people, are not seeking approval – they’re giving it. What makes people grow is giving themselves acceptance just where they are.

The problem is the lack of self-kindness for being less than perfect. The trap of demanding perfection from ourselves often robs us of the ability to genuinely accept ourselves; and when we demand perfection of ourselves we also demand perfection from others, hurting our relationships. The social games are the result of this search for approval when we cannot or will not give it to ourselves. And the search for acceptance, often in unconscious ways, invites us into playing social games.

We all want to be loved. We all want acceptance. The first step is learning to love and accept ourselves.

Honesty: Don’t Hold Back


The first series of blogs to appear on “Perceptions of Self: We Don’t See the World as It Is We See the World as We Are” are written based on the Five Steps to Staying on Track by Peter Branden while channeling Zarathustra,  a lifelong friend and teacher of Den Nelson. Honesty is the first step.


Stating our feeling honestly and not holding back, especially to ourselves, is the first step in this series for a good reason. It keeps us grounded and helps us avoid drama. As children, we needed love like water or air. We were all programmed on different levels that honesty could get us in trouble. It could get love revoked. We learned very early that there isn’t always a positive response to the honest expression of the things we’re thinking – our inner truths.

But the reality of the situation is that I work best when I’m honest about what I’m feeling. When I’m not honest with myself and others – I contract. I withdraw from the environment, the relationship or the situation that I’m in. Anxiety increases. In order to have room to be, I have to express what I’m feeling. That’s not to say I’m going to say everything I think, or use truth as a weapon, but to be happy and healthy I have to communicate with my environment in a way that’s honest.

Stating our feelings honestly is tough. We’ve all had life lessons that tell us don’t rock the boat. Don’t bring that up. We’re not supposed talk honestly about the way that we feel because it may require tapping into things that are unpleasant.

However, stating what’s true allows us to be present with ourselves, even when it’s not pleasing to others. It allows us to be comfortable with our feelings. If I’m not addressing my world honestly, it’s hard to be present. In my mind, I slip into the future or the past. I bring my heart, my soul, and all the awareness I can muster to the present.

In order to access the domain of intimacy (including with myself) I have to be willing to be vulnerable and self-disclosing. It’s all about honesty. I’m speaking to what’s inside of me, not what I think makes me look good, be pleasing to others, or acceptable.

Sometimes we say yes when we want to say no. We don’t consult with ourselves to see what our truth is. We don’t take the time to say, “Let me think about that” or, “I’ll let you know” when we hear a request. We’re like tight rope walkers who use a pole to balance. It swings between there-for-myself and there-for-others. We’ve all fallen off the tight rope for being there too much or others of there too much for oneself. This returns to not holding back when it comes to being honest.

We like to think that we’re super heroes. Super man and Wonder woman don’t have any needs. They only rescue, but did you notice they don’t have any relationships? It’s time to revisit those notions of self. Often the perceptions we learned of ourselves were distorted, and yet, they have never been up for review.

There is an immense, recurring temptation to hold back. You say to yourself, “Maybe I shouldn’t say that …” When we withhold from someone close to us, it attracts more withholding. We distance ourselves from people in our lives, which first limits and can eventually cut our connection. It all starts with not being honest and not expressing clearly how something impacts us or makes us feel in a way they can hear and understand. It all begins by holding back what we’re feeling, sometimes from ourselves.



Honesty: State Your Feelings Honestly


The first series of blogs to appear on “Perceptions of Self: We Don’t See the World as It Is We See the World as We Are” are written based on the Five Step Formula for Staying on Track by Peter Branden while channeling Zarathustra,  a lifelong friend and teacher of Den Nelson. Honesty is the first step.

Honesty, like truth, needs mindfulness about how we communicate as well as sensitivity toward others’ listening. Ideally, in a relationship we can make it safe for each other to give feedback – feedback that speaks to our feelings and experience, including the negative impact we have.  Speaking to a behavior that impacts us negatively and treating it as a behavior instead of criticizing the person for a personality trait. There’s a way to show love for the being and respect for the being while disapproving of a behavior. It doesn’t affect the worth or value of the person, but it brings attention to the negative impact where there may not be awareness. Observing negative impact makes us grow.

Sometimes doing what feels right for us may have a negative impact on someone else. It’s a delicate situation. I think it’s best to speak to things before the charge is built up. I find that it’s much harder for others to hear me and for me to hear others when my charge is strong. It’s an ongoing moment to moment call. Do I need to speak to that? Everyone is doing the best they can and often people are unaware of their impact on others. But it’s often a misunderstanding and is rooted in not knowing someone’s history. It helps me act and not react.

What is a reaction and what is a response? How can I respond without reacting? It’s an ongoing process. The brain is hardwired to react, especially when it feels threatened. Fears come up that drive us through a series of reactions. I think moving from reaction to response requires awareness and maturity.

Recognizing reaction is important. It’s physical as much as emotional or mental. An example is that a friend comes over for dinner.  She shows up late, which increases my reaction by the moment. It ends up that my friend was solving a problem in an apartment complex she was managing. But by the time she showed up I was in complete reaction mode. I had to sit alone and process the changes in my body – my heart rate and my breathing. My internal world was responding in a way disproportionate to the experience in current time. It could have been connecting to those childhood wounds – feeling ignored or not valued. But I had to put it in perspective.

When creating safe ways to communicate heal and grow relationships, the first step is to move beyond finding fault and placing blame. Who’s to blame? Who’s at fault? You can’t move past things and reach a solution when you’re stuck in that. There’s no room to hear each other when we are finding fault and placing blame.

That’s the major step to any resolution. It requires being bigger than the ego, bigger than the role we play. It’s making the relationship more important than the ego in the moment. We can imagine ourselves and attempt to feel ourselves as the space that everything shows up in. It’s incredibly valuable for taking in feedback and learning about our own negative impact.

We can’t live on earth without negative impact. One way to know that we’re growing is to track and alter our negative behavior. Be more considerate in order to change the negative impact and clean up the trail of mess. Our illusion that we can live on earth and not have negative impact is just that; it’s an illusion!