Much of the power of psychotherapy as a healing technique is the remarkable way it helps people stop running away from their anxieties, shed their defenses and share the very things they feared would diminish them in the eyes of others.
With Christmas approaching, I think it’s worth noting that this act of surrender to the truth is a very real path to spiritual rebirth.
At this very moment, millions and millions of Americans believe the traumas they have survived, the doubts they harbor, or the emotional pain they have experienced, need to be hidden—that they are safer if they present a good “face” to the world, even if it is something of a mask.
Nothing could be further from reality. The armor we wear to hide the scars we bear from our struggles ultimately just weighs us down. We can’t be known, loved or love ourselves until we share the very things that we fear would diminish us in the eyes of others. We can’t channel our energies in the direction of our dreams if we are using it up carrying shields against self-judgment or the critical eyes of others.
The moment you admit that you aren’t certain you were really loved by your parents, you are on the path to finding true love. The moment you admit that you were bullied as a child, you are on the path to courage. The moment you admit you lived with an alcoholic or became one, you are on the path to autonomy and sobriety. The moment you admit that you broke faith with your own beliefs or ideals, you are on the path to again embracing them. The moment you admit you pursued goals that were not in your heart to pursue, you are freer to pursue ones that truly move you. And the moment you share these revelations with another human being, you are no longer alone with your pain. You are that much more a brother or sister of humanity. Such is the miraculous power we have to heal ourselves and one another through insight, transparency and empathy.
This season is all about being reborn. You can’t do it by creating a new identity and trying to jettison the past. You can only do it by again embracing yourself, especially those elements of self you think would mar your polished surface that prevents you from being seen for who you really are. Those elements are actually your greatest assets as you seek to be whole, which is a prerequisite to be completely present for others.
This holiday, give the gift of revealing yourself to someone you love. Tell your adult son or daughter about the fears you had when you thought about becoming a parent. Tell them about the ways you had hoped to do “better” than your own parents or simply hoped to measure up to them. Tell them the ways you feel you came through or fell short. Tell your husband or wife one thing about yourself—preferably, from childhood--that you never have, fearing you would be “seen differently.” Tell a friend whether you feel you pursued your real dreams or feel like that remains to be done. Whenever you share your real story, angels will be by your side.
See, I have always believed that we are more alike than different in our needs and fears, and much more alone than we need to be.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. He is a New York Times best-selling author, and co-author, with Glenn Beck, of the upcoming book "The 7:Seven Wonders that Will Change Your Life." Dr. Ablow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.