I’d like to share some thoughts about Radical Honesty, a set of therapeutic methods developed by Brad Blanton, PhD.
When I first discovered Radical Honesty in 2014, I was immediately attracted by the name itself. I already considered myself to be quite an honest person, but I also knew that that I was holding back when it came to expressing emotions like anger or grief.
The first 8 day intensive in early 2015 changed the direction of my life in ways I could not have imagined in advance. And I spent the next few years trying to understand what had happened to me and why that retreat had such a profound influence on my life and wellbeing.
It wasn’t until I started teaching Radical Honesty to others, in meetup groups and assisting in weekend workshops, that I started to put together the pieces in a more meaningful and coherent way. I’d like to share some of my thoughts and observations of what Radical Honesty is to me and how I make sense of it.
First of all, honesty is only part of what Radical Honesty is about. Perhaps the bigger part of what Radical Honesty is about is embodiment. Sometimes I think Radical Honesty should be called Embodied Honesty or Radical Embodiment. I say more about this below.
Another central theme in Radical Honesty is learning to differentiate between what we notice with our five senses and the additional layers of meaning, interpretation and judgment we add on top of what we notice, or rather mix into it in a way that is normally indistinguishable for us from the actual perception. We learn to recognize that the world we live in is mostly a mental fantasy-land rather than something real, and that this can create conflicts that wouldn’t arise if we would stick to the simple world of the 5 senses rather than imposing our fantasies on ourselves and others. So in that sense, Radical Honesty is a school of enlightenment, with the intention of helping us to separate illusion from reality.
Radical Honesty trainers will often say that Radical Honesty is simply about reporting what we notice: the sensations we notice in our bodies, the things we perceive with our senses in the outside world, and the thoughts we observe in our minds. In my opinion this fails to explain an essential component of Radical Honesty. Radical Honesty is very much about learning to express ourselves with our bodies in a natural, congruent, and nonverbal way. Typically this can involve expressions such as raising our voice or crying or laughing. In this way Radical Honesty is also about letting go of control, about surrendering to those parts of our being that aren’t under the control of our rational minds. (Some restrictions apply: physical violence and unsolicited touch are prohibited and touch isn’t part of the methods themselves)
Finally, Radical Honesty is about radical self responsibility. It’s about taking full ownership of and responsibility for our experiences and our emotions. In this sense, the goal of telling another person how we feel about them is not to change or blame that person, but rather as a technique to help us get over our resentments and appreciations and restore peace of mind in ourselves and a more balanced loving forgiving connection with that person.
So, summarizing what I said above, Radical Honesty is about :
- Learning to feel our bodies and sharing verbally what we notice
- Learning to recognize and distinguish between the reality of our senses and the added layer of interpretation made up in our minds, and sharing both of these verbally and separately
- Sharing NON-verbally how we feel, by allowing our bodies to express themselves naturally and spontaneously rather than controlling or resisting the experience
- Letting go of the stories, interpretations and judgments we make about people
- Taking responsibility for our emotions without expecting other people to change
As a result, a radically honest communication might look something like this :
- I’m sharing verbally and non-verbally how I feel towards the person I’m facing,
- I report what real-world things triggered me to create those feelings towards that person,
- and while I’m doing this, I also feel and report my bodily sensations,
- and let go of the meaningful stories I made up about myself and the other person
- with the intention of fully experiencing and expressing the experience of what I’m feeling so that the experience can increase and then decrease and then passes altogether
- and leaves me feeling more relaxed and happy and more connected to this person.
I’d say this covers the basics of Radical Honesty. Some of the topics I didn’t cover are:
- asking for what you want
- hot-seat work
- naked work
- top-dog bottom-dog
- autogenic relaxation
- levels of experienced experience vs. non-experienced experience
- Sufi levels of consciousness
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