THE BLOG
10/09/2014 08:52 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Truth Is Not Out There: 7 Steps for Clearing Truthaches

Even though I covered my ears and closed my eyes for most of the series, I was crazy about The X-Files 20 years ago. I didn't love the creepy monsters and mutants or the lingering feeling of paranoia, but I loved how the main characters were always seeking truth. Mulder and Scully never seemed distracted by what the culture was doing -- money, power, success, or keeping up with the latest trends didn't matter. Even the burning chemistry between them wasn't a huge distraction. They were archeologists, digging for truth.

Many of us go on our own quest for truth, investigating mysteries and conspiracies in the world, easily weighing in on the integrity of the people around us. This is especially true in the age of social media where we have quick access to the contents of other people's lives. We naturally dig around for honesty and resonance in others, searching for what and whom we can trust.

But what if the doorway to truth isn't actually "out there" at all?

If we're not careful, we can use the quest for outer truth as a distraction, a way to avoid the much harder work of digging into areas of falsity in our own lives. If we aren't aware of the need for balance, we can make picking apart other people's integrity a full-time career and miss the opportunity to investigate truth in our own backyard.

Creating a more honest, trusting world begins at home.

A truthache is something we hide or avoid that hurts us. The ache is the symptom we get from not being totally honest. Truth archaeology is the practice of digging into our truthaches to gain more clarity, confidence and purposefulness in our lives. It's about delving into dark places compassionately and purposefully.

Most of us have times when we push away emotions that feel too heavy or complicated. We might avoid speaking our truth with someone we care about, pretend we're fulfilled in an unsatisfying job, or keep saying yes to something we don't want to do. Ignored, our truthaches can damage our self-worth, hurt our relationships, and zap our vitality. In some cases, they can even lead to illness.

The good news is that our truthaches secretly adore us. They don't feel good, but they persist in order to steer us away from living a lie. When we ignore them, they usually find new creative ways to get our attention. They love us that much.

This is where truth archaeology comes in. The inner quest isn't as dangerous as slaying night creatures X-Files style. It can, however, be exciting and mysterious, especially if we have the right attitude and the proper tools. When we feel lost, confused, betrayed or unworthy, we can cozy up to our hidden truths and begin to clear our own fog. The truth really can set us free.

Journaling is one way to uncover hidden inner truths, and these 7-steps can get us started.

1) Desire: We've got to want to do it. Feeling nervous or scared is normal. If our thirst for clarity and purpose in our life is bigger than our fear, we'll make it happen despite the discomfort. We might try to talk ourselves out of it, thinking we have more important things to do, or deciding it's silly. It's our ego's way of saying 'lets stay stuck; its safer!' Don't let the voice of fear win.

2) Time: Carve out a block of uninterrupted time. Set aside at least an hour, and plan for some down time afterward. A week-long retreat is the ultimate dig, but not everyone has the resources for that. Book it into the calendar so it's treated with the respect it deserves. Often when we don't schedule it, it doesn't happen.

3) Space: The more comfortable and natural the setting, the better. Nature has a way of speeding up our process because it relaxes us and tunes us in to the bigger picture of life. If that isn't an option, cozy up by the fireplace, light some candles, or sit in a favorite chair by the window. Set up the space as though a guest of honor is about to arrive -- that's you!

4) Tools: Journal and pen, and questions to focus the dig (see point #5). Bring tissue -- just in case you hit something good.

5) Journal Prompts: Use these suggestions, or make up your own: a) This is a time in my life when... b) I have been avoiding thinking about... c) One thing I could never say is... d) This problem is teaching me... e) My body is saying... f) The part of me that needs comfort is... g) Someone I could turn to for help is... h) One tiny thing I can do today to support myself is...

6) Patience: Something interesting might come up immediately, or it might take awhile. For me, when something makes me cry, I know I've hit something good. I linger there and try not to shut down my uncomfortable emotions. Other people tell me they know they've dug up something good when they hit hidden anger or frustration. Don't get stuck blaming others -figure out what is underneath the anger. Stay with the feelings and write them out. Pay attention to the body's responses. Honor all the emotions, whether it brings up anger, sadness, lightning-bolt clarity, or profound joy. Emotions are not bad or good -- they are simply messengers.

7) Reward Yourself: Do something pleasurable afterward to shift the energy. Exercise, take a bath, go for a walk, or listen to some good music. Notice if you feel lighter or freer.

We never know what we'll discover when we make space for ourselves in this way. When Mulder and Scully followed a lead, it was like pulling a thread on a sweater; it always unraveled more than they bargained for. Truth archaeology is similar. When we dig into a hidden part of ourselves, we almost always learn more than we anticipated. It wouldn't be a dig if we knew all the answers going in.

No matter what we tell ourselves, our life is more interesting than any sci-fi character. If we approach the dig with an open heart and mind, and without judging ourselves for not being perfect, we can be surprised and amazed at what we discover.

We might discover that the truth really is in there.

2014-10-07-TruthinThereTS.jpg

Used with permission, the term truthache was coined by Author Jeff Brown