On Truth, Transparency, and Therapy

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I recently came across a video by an educational youtube channel/company (Can you Trust Kurzgesagt). The video goes to great lengths to demonstrate a few key things: first, what it means to trust them in an age of information, disinformation, and opinion; second, it demonstrates that two of the site’s most viewed videos were ones that it is least proud of. Least proud because the information presented were not well researched, one sided, or created out of emotional investment rather than the available data/research.

I think this is great. It’s great because it demonstrates what I hope we can all come to as honest people: the ability to be trusting and open about how we operate (when safe to do so) and take responsibility when we are in error. Depending on one’s orientation in the world of therapy, one of the the things that allows a therapist to do their work is the ability to be truthful in the moment with the client about what is going on. To create a space where two people can meet and discuss issues in the safety of the office. Ideally, this artificial space helps create an internal safety which can then be translated to the outside world. This is not common phenomenon in the world at large, for a whole bunch of reasons, but in particular because we are not able to show our vulnerabilities without total fear that they will be exploited.

Now, I know that exposing one’s own faults in a youtube channel is not exactly the same, but it demonstrates to us, the viewers, the simple principle of responsibility. A company that takes real responsibility for it’s regrettable work opens up the conversation that mistakes can be made and we do not need to shy away from them. I personally have shared one of their regrettable videos (the one on addiction) because it espoused a view that I subscribed to. I allowed the echo chamber of my own biases to obscure the one-sidedness of the video. As I see this happening more and more online, I am worried that it leaks into our personal lives: the inability to admit error, the inability to meet in a common space of understanding, the unwillingness to be vulnerable. What I fear the most is that if we become insulated in our own silos of belief and refusal to see outside of them, how are we to ever learn?

There is a relation here to therapy. Often, therapy progresses on an uneven line. It usually dips and peaks at times when the foundation of our beliefs about self and other are challenged. When we hear about behaviours or actions we are ashamed of, we retreat into our own silos, telling ourselves stories that reaffirm our position, justify our actions, or let us ignore and shut out the voices that don’t agree. The most change I have seen from clients comes not from advice or intervention from me, it comes from the choice of individuals to step out of their silos, hold the pain of confronting their actions and internal beliefs, and creating space to listen and respond (mostly to their own internal stories) compassionately.

Fundamentally, we are people who want to be close to other people. I think that the ability to trust, be transparent and be close is being eroded by the mass of disinformation and lack of responsibility in our online worlds. We constantly bear witness to trusted sources taking advantage of that trust to peddle specific viewpoints while espousing neutrality. What does this model for us as consumers and people? I would wager it is not positive, community-building, or connection-inspiring. If we truly value these things, why don’t we ask for it in the places we access most, the places our children watch the most content, the places that inform the opinions we take forward and share in our personal worlds?

I have been busy, and have missed connecting with people about things that matter. I am glad to be posting again, and as always look forward to conversation and engagement.

Take care of one another and be well friends,