If i were to tell you that the sun was hot, you would surely agree that this is the truth. If i asked you if it were absolutely true, again, you would agree. And it would be true because you are thinking about the question in relative terms. The sun is indeed the hottest thing in our solar system. But if i were to ask you if the sun was hot compared to other stars, you probably wouldn’t know. And here again the question of the sun’s heat is a relative one. But now the context has been changed. And in doing so, i have illustrated how the power of the absolute is trumped by the power of the relative.
… So what does this have to do with psychology? It has everything to do with psychology. Here’s why: What appears to be absolutely true is quite often something that is only relatively true. Being a failure is often only feeling like a failure. Time often heals this, and having a witness helps too. A witness not to the absolute truth to you being a failure, but to the underlying feelings of shame. These underlying feelings constellate a fixed view of reality that downplay your unique experience of them. Revitalization of your relative truth is called for in these instances… Fortunately for counsellors, psychologists, therapists, social workers, etcetera, your relative truth has been marginalised by what appears to be absolute truth…
Let me share with you a story about this. This is a story from the Sufis. A Nasrudin story:
One day Nasrudin was sitting at court The King was complaining that his subjects were untruthful. “Majesty,” said Nasrudin, “there is truth and truth. People must practice real truth before they can use relative truth. They always try the other way around. The result is that they take liberties with their man-made truth, because they know instinctively that it is only an invention.”
The King thought that this was too complicated. “A thing must be true or false. I will make people tell the truth, and by this practice they will establish the habit of being truthful.”
When the city gates were opened the next morning, a gallows had been erected in front of them, presided over by the captain of the royal guard. A herald announced:
‘Whoever would enter the city must first answer the truth to a question which will be put to him by the captain of the guard.”
Nasrudin, who had been waiting outside, stepped forward first.
The captain spoke: ‘Where are you going? Tell the truth-the alternative is death by hanging.”
“I am going,” said Nasrudin, “to be hanged on those gallows.”
“I don’t believe you!”
‘Very well, then. If I have told a lie, hang me!”
“But that would make it the truth!”
“Exactly,” said Nasrudin, “your truth.”
So, as the story indicates, there is great power in relative truths. But the task in finding them is not an easy one. For this, you need someone who is skilled in relating. When someone can relate to you where you need it the most, new life comes into to your relative truths. Your personal experience takes precedence over a constructed view of absolutes that no longer holds so much weight against your specific view of ‘reality’.
We all have places where outside or collective expectations of us is in direct competition with our unique direction in life. Discovering, honouring and following our own unique way is part of a lifelong maturation process that psychologist Carl Jung referred to as individuation. Individuation is something that i work towards with my clients so they feel more empowered to live their lives, and not the lives of their parents, friends, mentors or cultural icons. So if you find yourself feeling the squeeze of expectations but without the will to meet these external obligations, you may be a loser when it comes to meeting goals others have set for you. But the possibility of reclaiming your goals may be at hand. If you think no one can relate to your situation and the experiences that have brought you to this point, give it a chance and write: firstname.lastname@example.org We’ll see if you can’t be welcomed back inside YOUR kingdom without losing your head.