Kavanaugh Lied, Ford Didn’t: How Radical Honesty could Transform the National Conversation from Blame to Forgiveness
By Brad Blanton, Ph.D. (author of Radical Honesty)
The current ongoing conversation about how we can be fair in a context of worldwide economic inequality and unfairness is ridiculous. Still, this stupid, impossible, infuriating conversation is critically important to the survival of humankind. We are all participating in a gigantic public conversation about secrecy, lying and justice these days that is bringing about a profound and vital re-formulation of how we treat each other and how we act together to govern ourselves. So let’s talk about it!
A Few Problems with Assumptions
The news these days is full of conversations about honesty and morality and lying. Lying by withholding is particularly the rage, based on the bullshit assumption about how our “security” depends on secrecy. That “security depends on secrecy” is a completely fucked up idea. I will talk about this after I have dealt with issue two, which is needed before we can deal with issue one.
In the press and the public in general there is a lack of knowledge about, and respect for, a vital process called transformation. This process is known to group and individual psychotherapists who know what they are doing (a fairly small number of people) along with a few writers and group process experts. The process called transformation is about how feelings change, and thoughts that follow do too, when issues are faced and forgiveness occurs…and it is a feasible, workable solution to humanity’s terminal illness.
Issue two shows up in the press as a discussion about whether there can be civility in politics. Usually it is a game of who can pretend more virtue: "Who can put on the best show of pretend neutrality?” "Who is the best actor to falsely pose as humble…or righteously angry” seems to have been the ultimate criterion for qualification for the job of Supreme Court Justice.
People favoring the Republicans thought Dr. Ford’s crying and shakiness when she was testifying were bad. I don’t agree. I think she was being honest and authentically vulnerable. I think that is good. It is what leads to the healing of PTSD. It is authentic and she was being honest. (I am a world renowned expert in honesty and she was telling the truth. You can take it to the bank.)
Also, the press thinks that Kavanaugh’s crying and being pissed off was a terrible thing. I don’t. I think that was a good thing—probably the most authentic thing he did during the entire hearings. He resented the Democrats who have accused him and tried to oppose him and he was hurt by how he and his family had been treated. If I had been coaching him he would get even madder and more hurt and more embarrassed and raised hell even more! He made a good start, but had to interrupt himself in the middle of the process in order to “act civilized” when he wasn’t feeling civilized, to play to his imagined audience of the public and his boss, Donald Trump. Kavenaugh almost became honest enough to transform his grief and anger and embarrassment, and simply tell the truth about what he remembers and what he can’t remember. But he lied instead by posing again in his usual “presentation of self” way of being, which he has done all his life, the way good Catholic boys are taught to do.
Healing Requires Facing Difficult Experiences and Sticking With Them ‘til Something Changes
The press generally focused on whether testimony was evidence of strength or weakness. The press usually misses the whole point that healing requires honestly facing things and sticking with it, and not running away or “thinking more about it” to avoid feeling too much or being “too honest" so as not to damage your reputation. Who you are, in that case, is your reputation...so you must lie to protect it. The commenters and commentators are not thinking about healing at all (for Ford or Kavanaugh, or for any of us listening in) ... that was not at all a consideration of mainstream media.
We are sick. We need to get well. We need to transform vengeance to empathy.
Transformation is a process. In this process, experience changes as a result of honest and expressive sharing. This process idea, transformation, is an idea whose time has almost come. Transformation has a result. The process of transformation results in forgiveness. Currently the end result of that process, forgiveness, though occasionally documented in therapeutic situations, is not yet included in the political world or the perspective of the press.
This process, so seldom understood or explained, goes like this: the sensations associated with the emotions, once affirmed and expressed and experienced...change. So the sensations associated with sadness, for example, first increase, then decrease, then recede. Tears flow and the person becomes “emotional”. Then the emotions change when the sensations associated with the emotions change. The sensations increase, then decrease, then recede. And as they gradually de-intensify the conversation changes, and the sensations continue to recede and go away and get replaced by other sensations. Eventually you have felt what you had to feel and now you feel differently about what you felt. That is transformation.
Forgiveness Occurs in the Body
Transformation occurs when what was being resisted and lied about is affirmed, experienced and allowed to increase, then decrease as an experience in the body, and then go away. When, let’s say, around 40% of the experiencing of what was being resisted occurs, the conversation changes and more connection with the other and detail and memory from the past about what happened that you got hurt or mad about emerges. Then as that is shared, more forgiveness occurs and more clarity and deeper sharing and more details are remembered and shared. The process continues. When you fully experience your experience it comes and goes. Being willing to let yourself feel the experiences of your life and let them come and go is a downright delicious Buddhist as well as Christian idea—that lets love of life include all of life. Or as Paul Tillich says about it, you say “Life is Good” as a declaration and an affirmation of everything including the suffering.
The time has come now for us to develop our civilization, such as it is, into a therapeutic community—where people get mad and get over it, get hurt and get over it, get ashamed and get over it, etc.
The idea is not to be the best liar or the best faker of civility, but instead go through a process to actually get to the other side…namely forgiving your enemy REALLY, not just another pose or lie to show what a good polite decent person you are. You get to where you actually become civil by being uncivilized and recovering from it—and then having an authentic conversation instead of a phony bullshit act of manipulation.
There is a reason the book I wrote about this is titled: Radical Honesty: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth. Transformation by being honest, expressive, angry, sad, vulnerable or ashamed comes from experiencing your experience, and reporting it as you go, and letting go. The value of honesty is that if you stick with it you can get to go from shame to presence, grief to joy, hatred to love. This is done by sticking with the experience and sharing it with others until it recedes and get replaced with what emerges next. This is why our online course is called Radical Honesty: How to Get Over Shit and BE Happy.
From Stupidity to Simple Dumbness
We are on a mission to transform complex stupidity into simple dumbness. Dumbness is much better than stupidity. More fun. Wiser. If we can be dumb enough to feel our way through things instead of thinking our way around things, we can stick with feelings long enough for them to change, and long enough for our personal perspective on them to change.
By defending our innocence, or proving we were right, or just lying like hell to protect our image, we’re like whatshisname…(Who comes to mind? Who is the very poster child for stupidity? Uh oh. D.T. again!) I wonder if I could see him in person if I could forgive him?)
Humanity does need saving from stupid idiots amongst us who think they are so smart and special and superior. We are all in need of a process of liberation from our own stupid minds. Radical Honesty is central to that process of losing your mind and coming to your senses. Once that is accomplished once or twice, problem number one, that our security depends on secrecy, mentioned at the beginning of this writing, gets handled. (Our security does not depend on secrecy. It’s exactly the reverse! Our security depends on honest sharing so transformation from despair to hopefulness can occur and thoughts pursuant to that come into being and real solutions occur based on all the information with nothing avoided.)
Transformation requires a clear and dedicated commitment to face into honest communications and all our triggered intense feelings. That are hard to do but it can be done. I have seen it. I have done it. And it works. It is perhaps the key to therapeutic community where people nurture each other instead of remaining alienated from each other though phoniness.
I want to tell you a story. It's a story about stories.
How the Camp David Accords were reached
Many years ago, in the 1970’s, under the Jimmy Carter administration, I heard rumors of a number of therapists, group-process specialists, and gestalt therapy-trained trainers I was familiar with in the D.C. area, who went to camp David for a few days to run the first couple of days of meetings between Israelites and Palestinians, who were in the U.S. to forge a new peace accord between their two countries.
“For two days”, the facilitators told their clients, “we are not going to talk about any peace accord. We are going to talk about what really happened between us. We are going to talk about war and hatred and hurt and murder and vengeance and the like.”
And they did just that.
For two days, individuals from the two sides told their counterparts what murdering low life rotten fucking bottom of the barrel shit-for-brains cruel heartless insane motherfuckers they, and all their fucking kin, really were.
“You killed my uncle and my two cousins and many, many of my friends! You low life murdering sonofabitch … and I am going to kill your ass for doing that! Fuck you! You piece of shit! I hope you fucking die tomorrow and if I get a chance I will make sure you do! …and etc. etc.” In the course of those two “processing of the past” days, there were a lot of very emotional breakdowns, breakthroughs, upsets, and transformations but no one was allowed to kill anybody.
The result of these meetings, was the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeil Prime Minister Menachem Begin for which both Sadat and Begin shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize.(wikipedia)
What really happened at Camp David?
What actually happened in those first two days IS STILL SECRET, and because it was a condition of agreement for all participants and leaders for those first two days, may remain so forever.
But what I, the author of Radical Honesty, imagine happened, is this: Peace broke out when even partial forgiveness occurred. A process of intimate honesty about specific details of hatred and hurt between enemies led to forgiveness.
The enemies found they were a lot alike, in fact, brothers.
So “You low life motherfucker who killed my uncle” became “my pathetic, just like me, brother who killed my uncle” and then the grief and anger and sorrow and love and hurt and many other things that were experienced…increased, then decreased, then some of it went away. “...and I killed your father. And I’m so sorry for our losses.”
In other words, a degree of forgiveness occurred, and beyond that, a connection.
On the other side of anger
And then, on the other side of anger and a degree of forgiveness, was a conversation without denied or hidden or secret agendas. Instead there was an honest effort, for at least a while, to resolve conflict.
What resulted was a few years of almost peace, which were the longest, lasting Peace Accords in the long conflict between those two nation states.
They came from authentic forgiveness based on, what we like to call radical honesty, including not just connection through anger, but connections of pity and a sense of relatedness and love and compassion for self and other.
We call this Radical Honesty, and it is one of the keys to solving the fundamental human problems that come from a failure to connect. When it happens transformation and forgiveness occur, even if to a small degree. We need to provide a structure for this to happen between people of differing and conflicting nation states, like we do with couples and smaller groups and businesses and nation states. When transformation works it tends to keep on working.
Brad Blanton, Ph.D. Author of Radical Honesty, Practicing Radical Honesty, The Truthtellers, Radical Parenting and other books