1. (un)Truth: “Anxiety and depression are tied to the future and past, so if you stay in the present, you won’t be anxious or depressed. If you stay grounded in this moment, mindful and fully present, you are okay. Nothing’s wrong.” This is true… almost. What a statement like this misses is that anxiety, grief, sadness, depression, and traumas of various other kinds live in the body, and thus are experiences that can live in the present moment. Anxiety and depression can be very real and it’s unkind, unwise to dismiss their existence with the assertion that if you could just be more mindful and present, you’d be fine.
2. (un)Truth: “How you live your life is far more significant to your health and happiness than what you do. Rest, relaxation, meditation, nutrition, exercise, laughter, play, family, friends and spirituality can be woven into our lifestyles regardless of the work we do.” Someone posted this last week on Facebook, having heard it in a stress management class she’d attended. While I agree that all those “other things” are important, the work we do has an equal impact on health and happiness, and can sometimes eclipse those other things. This is one of those “truisms” that shifts blame to individual choices (“if you are stressed out, it’s your own fault because you aren’t doing enough of the other stuff to take care of yourself”), ignoring the impact of our work — the environment, the people we interact with there, the tasks we perform, and the responsibility we are given. If it’s the wrong fit or even toxic or just somehow too much, the consequences can be quite nasty. And, I have found it to be true in my own experience that some work makes it really difficult to maintain the energy or time to put towards all those other wonderful things. I feel lucky some weeks to have clean underwear and food to eat. Truisms like this tend to just make me feel like crap about myself, like I’m doing it wrong, even though intellectually I know that’s not the case, that it isn’t anywhere near that simple.
3. (un)Truth: “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up, and never give up.” Prince Ea, who I really like, posted this on his Facebook page the other day. Again, just like the other two untruths in this list I feel like it glosses over something essential. The most problematic part is the “no matter how you feel.” In an effort to encourage people to not give up, it suggests that they deny how they feel, push it aside, dress it up and keep going. I get that you don’t want to feed the wrong wolf, but to not allow how you feel some agency, some authority is not right either. There are valid reasons for sadness, fear, anger, and to deny them and just act as if everything is okay doesn’t seem like the best approach. “The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy,” Pema Chödrön.
One wish: May we recognize truth when we hear it, know love when we feel it, be grounded in our own wisdom and power, remain gentle with ourselves, and never give up.