Would You Rather Be Right or Be Real? Letting Go of Our Obsession With Rightness

04/17/2015 05:20 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2015

The other day, as I was walking through the park, I decided to practice mindfulness, to listen in on my own thoughts and pay attention, on purpose, to what my mind was telling me in that moment. What I discovered was that my mind was generating a whole campaign of thoughts that explained, precisely, why my husband was wrong for doing what he did, and of course, why I was right. My thoughts were very clear and concise, quite convincing (if I do say so myself) in their case for my rightness and my story of the truth.

Have you ever noticed, when you're in a disagreement with someone or have experienced a conflict of some sort, that you spend a lot of time explaining and defending your version of the story, going over what really happened, making your case for why you're right. And that you do all of that explaining, that proving, to and for yourself. Inside our own heads, we are constantly explaining why we're right, and defending our version of the story. We go over and over why the other person is to blame, and what the truth is. We spend a lot of our lives presenting our case to an imaginary jury, in an imaginary court, all of which takes place inside our own heads.

Have you ever wondered, to whom are we presenting the case of our rightness? And what are we hoping/believing will happen if our imaginary jury deems our version of the truth to be "correct"?

We use the narration of our rightness, the ongoing internal defense of our truth, as a way to stay away from what we actually feel. As I walked through the park that day, I looked beyond the thoughts that were talking to me, past my case for the truth, to see what my attention to this story was allowing me not to feel -- to stay away from. I looked to see what was underneath the anxious fervor to prove my case of what really happened. I was then in touch with profound disbelief, powerlessness, anger and hurt. When I stopped constructing an explanation and interpretation, a story of guilt and innocence, I uncovered my true feelings. Our thoughts, and particularly our thoughts about why we're right for feeling the way we do, allow us not to feel the way we do.

Furthermore, when we stop engaging in our mind's defense of our rightness, something interesting and wonderful happens: we can enter the present moment. When I stopped paying rapt attention to my narrative on the truth, repeating my interpretation of what was happening with my husband, I was suddenly noticing the wind again, the trees, the dogs, the sky... I was back in the park in which I was walking; I was back in my life. When I came home that night, having chosen not to spend the day strengthening my mind's case for my rightness and my husband's wrongness, not to put my attention to writing my story of the truth, my truth, I could then meet my husband, as he was in that new moment, and as I was with him in that new moment. I could meet a fresh now. Because I had chosen not to fit the new now into an old truth, not to insert my husband or me into a reality that I had constructed and solidified inside my mind, something new and unexpected could happen. Something different than what I had narrated could unfold; I could feel differently, he could feel differently, we could feel differently--we could be different. Entering the moment without an already written truth, life could change and evolve.

Try it on for a day, as an experiment. Refrain from feeding your mind's case for your rightness and others' wrongness; turn away from the thoughts that habitually defend and explain your version of truth. As you do, notice if something in you or some identity of yours feels threatened when you drop your case. Instead of diving into your mind's narrative and returning to engage in your defense, use your awareness as an invitation to inquire into your experience: how you feel, what's really there, and how you are with what is happening. Simultaneously, notice if, without the ongoing narrative, the situation and people in it have more space to shift and evolve, and if you are more available to and present in the moment, more aware of what it contains. Most importantly, when you stop telling yourself what's true, notice if a new truth can actually emerge.