We are all wired to detect the truth. We just haven’t figured out how to turn on our devices.
Lies are illusions. They are potential realities that we are welcome to step into; however, they are also tight, confined spaces. Truth is a path that offers continuous expansion. Although there is always more truth to be had, it doesn’t flip-flop laterally or revert back to previous states. It always moves upward and invites more opportunity and possibility.
Living in an era of information overload seems to challenge our ability to tease the truth apart from lies. Our collective voice feels cacophonic, not because we don’t hear or listen, but because we haven’t fully cultivated our ability for discernment.
The process of identifying the truth isn’t nearly as complicated as we might believe, and our mounds of data don’t have to undermine our ability to see clearly.
Information overload isn’t the root of our problem. Our greatest challenge is recognizing that truth rings from our core. Truth-seeking is not in itself a mental or emotional pursuit. When our minds and feelings constantly hunt for information, we drive ourselves mad as we would in a roundabout with no exit.
Our thoughts and emotions are informative, but in and of themselves they don’t tell the whole truth. The how-do-I-feel and what’s-my-opinion layers obfuscate the truth. We have to tune into the core of the truth-experience, which is found in the physical body.
TRUTH IS A SENSORY EXPERIENCE
Our bodies are equipped with powerfully accurate truth-sensing capabilities. The home of our truth/lie detector resides in the area of our body that encapsulates the throat, heart, and gut. It activates before our minds and emotions begin to tell their stories.
Though it takes practice to tune in, stilling the mind through meditation and silence builds the skill. Paying attention to the sensations in our physical body helps to draw our focus away from the intensity and raucousness of thought and emotion.
Certain bodily cues tell us whether we are being triggered by truth or illusion. Truth manifests in the body as even, full, steady breaths. Our heartbeat feels peaceful, even if it is quick. Our jaws and shoulders are relaxed. In a state of illusion, our breathing is shallow and choppy. Our heartbeat feels off-beat, and our jaws and shoulders are tense.
More than anything, the ring of truth feels expansive and light. It brings about a distinct and noticeable opening sensation in the throat-heart-gut area. Lies and illusions elicit tightness and constriction.
The truth can at times initially feel uncomfortable. Sometimes this discomfort is a signal that someone is trying to feed us an illusion and our body is “rejecting” it. Other times, the discomfort occurs because we are lying to ourselves and the truth is shattering our own illusions.
When discomfort arises, we should not run away or jump to conclusions about it! When the source of our discomfort is unclear, the next step is to explore the nature of our mental and emotional reactions to the information.
MARKERS OF TRUTH AND ILLUSION
- Truth sets us free. It leaves behind a tacit understanding that we are free to choose something or leave it behind. It doesn’t pressure us. And if we do choose that thing, we are not locked into it. Truth upholds free will and tells us that we can always change our minds in the future.
- Truth is straightforward. It tells succinct stories. It doesn’t require loads of data to back up, and it doesn’t force us to do mental backflips to understand it.
- Truth is balanced. It doesn’t ask us to pick sides or create polarized thoughts and emotions. It takes into account the merits of all sides, without exaggerating any one element. It takes into account multiple perspectives and presents an integrated view.
- Truth is warm. It doesn’t ask us to harbor intense emotions, whether hot or cold! It doesn’t throw us into extreme states, even if they are positive states. The truth doesn’t need to sparkle or dazzle. It shines with plain, simple language.
- Truth coalesces. It always moves in the direction of connection, community, and accountability. It never asks us to sacrifice the greater good. The deepest truths stretch beyond borders. They apply to all nations because truth ultimately is not cultural or timebound. It is the gut of our human fabric.
- Illusion is restrictive. It makes us feel boxed in and that our options have suddenly diminished. It implicitly tells us we can’t have everything that truly matters to us.
- Illusion is controlling. Because illusion wants to rule our lives and loves, it seduces and persuades us with extreme positive or negative emotions.
- Illusion rushes us. It creates a false sense of urgency. Implicit or explicit in the information is now or never. Illusion is a hijacker that throws us into panic mode.
- Illusion is convoluted. It constantly seeks and throws more information at us, in a desperate attempt to validate itself. The endless generation of information distracts us from seeing clearly.
- Illusion alienates. It is often flavored with divisiveness and blame. It tells us to isolate from good people, places, and things.
When we try too hard to convince others of our perspective, it’s a sign that we are harboring an illusion, which we are trying to spread. Persuasion should not be effortful because it’s the natural byproduct of speaking our truth. If we find that someone is trying hard to sell us on something, it is our right as information consumers to inquire why we are being force-fed.
Watch out for speakers who fire us up. They might be using this as a distraction, knowing that our intense emotional states obscure our vision. Truth tellers with the highest integrity don’t use emotions excessively to get their messages across. They know that truth speaks for itself.
Intentions matter a lot. While we may believe firmly that our view reflects the whole truth, carrying motives other than wanting to speak our truth will undermine our credibility. Here’s a classic example:
Do you recall seeing the frightening messages and gruesome images on cigarette packaging? While there is ample scientific evidence that smoking is harmful, these labels send the message that there is an intent to control. A smoker might in turn feel that their free will is being undermined.
The other point with cigarette labels is that truth delivered without kindness is cruelty. Truth delivered with an intent to humiliate, degrade, or devalue others will not yield positive results. Truth is meant to set us free and never compromises our wholeness.
Similarly, truth does not exaggerate, but it does aim high. Telling a “factual” joke at the expense of others may result in a brief moment of laughter, followed by an icky feeling in our gut if we pay attention to our body. Truth is not a cheap thrill.
We are imperfect beings and always will be. We all strive for different degrees of truth and we do so in our own timeframe. When we hear the presidential debates and arrive at the polls, rather than seeking a perfectly truthful candidate (which will never exist anyway), we can select the one whose cup holds more water.
Truth is an easier place to live once we have worked through its initial myth-shattering effects. While our circumstances may not be exactly what we want, in truth-land we feel at home and at peace within ourselves, even when the world around us seems to be falling apart.
In truth-land, we return to our state of innocence. Here, we sleep like babies because we have realized that the truth is always within us. There’s nothing more to chase after.
I originally published this article in Fast Company Magazine: How to figure out if someone is telling you the truth (fastcompany.com)