We are often raised with fundamental “truths” that are established by our caregivers. These truths are bestowed upon us from the moment we are born, and they are reinforced regularly so long as you are around those people. Sometimes, these truths are healthy, accurate, and useful to us. Things like “you are loved by your parents” or “the world is safe” or “you can rely on your caregivers” are truths we all want to be instilled within us within the first few months of being born. This is because the truths that are given to you at that tender age will often play a significant role in how other aspects of your Self are formed and defined.
However, if you are like I am, you were raised with a lot of less-than-healthy truths. Truths that I would be willing to wager you speak to yourself everyday. This is a post about heka and truths, and how abuse distorts our truth, and therefore our heka. This post will discuss many aspects of verbal abuse, so this is a massive CW/TW to anyone who could find these topics upsetting or unbearable at the moment. Please proceed ahead with caution.
Before I dive fully into this, I want to talk about what I mean by “truths.” In this case, I’m talking about any bit of information that we have been taught or learned and have then internalized and have now accepted, without any question, that this information is the honest-to-goodness truth. Truths of this nature may be good or bad, accurate or inaccurate, depending on what you’ve experienced in your life. Many of us are carrying around a lot of systemic truths that are perpetuated by our culture. Many of us are carrying around a lot of abusive truths that were pushed on us by our immediate family. Both types of truths often feed into one another, wherein the truths given to you by your family are reinforced by your surrounding culture and vice versa. Of course, the “truths” that hurt us are false, but they often feel very very true, even if we don’t necessarily realize it, so when I am using the phrase “false truth”, what I am meaning is a truth that is unhealthy for us, a lie that has been sold to us as truth. You’ll see me using “trauma” pretty regularly alongside “false truth” because you’re most likely to receive false and unhealthy truths from abusive people and traumatic situations.
So let’s get into it.
The worst part about how humans develop is how long it takes our brains to finish developing. It doesn’t help that our brains are something like “a sports car that has been given to a three year old,” especially because these sports cars take about 25 years to finish growing, and if you experience any sort of trauma or abuse before those 25 years are up, you’re more likely to have that trauma hardwired into your sense of self. Which means you’ve got 25 years to learn a lot of garbage that you then have to unlearn again in order to be healthy. Although most of us consider ourselves to be very objective and rational and removed from silly things like ideas we absorbed in childhood and never really outgrew, the truth of the matter is that most of us have a lot of ideas we absorbed in childhood and never really outgrew. If we were all truly rational and capable of removing ourselves from emotional hard wiring, cognitive dissonance wouldn’t be a thing, nor would racism. The cold hard truth of the matter is, we are not separate from our emotions, and our emotions can cause us to lie to ourselves regularly in order to protect our sense of self. It takes constant and diligent work to push back against our own ability to lie to ourselves.
The cherry on top of the “takes 25 years to finish growing” thing is that that some of the most important years for our development are the first few years. How you are raised by your caregivers will usually determine core aspects of how you view the world. Whether you think the world is a safe place or not, whether you feel nurtured and loved or abandoned, whether you can trust people or not. If your parents manage to mess up the first five years of your life, you usually will have resulting mental health work that needs to happen once you’re an adult. To quote someone who has done more work in this field than I have:
When parents do not provide safe enough bonding and positive feedback, the child flounders in anxiety and fear. Many children appear to be hard-wired to adapt to this endangering abandonment with perfectionism. A prevailing climate of danger forces the child’s superego to over-cultivate the various programs of perfectionism and endangerment listed below. Once again, the superego is the part of the psyche that learns parental rules (read: truths) in order to gain their acceptance.
The inner critic is the superego gone bad. The inner critic is the superego in overdrive desperately trying to win your parents approval. When perfectionist driving fails to win welcoming from your parents, the inner critic becomes increasingly hostile and caustic. It festers into a virulent inner voice that increasingly manifests self-hate, self-disgust, and self-abandonment.
The inner critic blames you incessantly for shortcomings that it imagines to be the cause of your parents rejection. It is incapable of understanding that the real cause lies in your parents’ shortcomings. The critic-driven child can only think about the ways they are too much or not enough.
The child’s unfolding sense of self (the healthy ego) finds no room to develop. Their identity virtually becomes the critic. The superego trumps the ego. In this process, the critic becomes increasingly virulent and eventually switches from the parents’ internalized voice: “You’re bad” to the first person: “I’m bad”.
You can see some of these false truths that many of us get saddled with in the quote above. Core ideas about whether you’re lovable or not, whether you’re fundamentally good or not, whether you can trust people or yourself — all of these things take root in your first few years. All of these truths will play into how you behave towards others, how you behave towards yourself, etc.
There is a saying that always reminds me of heka: it’s like playing a guitar, everyone can do it poorly, and only a handful of people can do it well.
The best and the worst parts about heka is that it is something that is very accessible to everyone, and we all have the ability to utilize our words, our body language, our actions to influence the world around us. In antiquity, we have stories of the lowest classes of society being able to bring the king into a swoon because their heka was that good. We’ve got stories of gods changing key aspects of the cosmos with their fine-tuned heka. It is everywhere, and it is free for the utilizing if you want to.
But its best selling point is also its downfall. Everyone can utilize heka, and everyone does utilize heka whether they realize it or not. It’s very easy to have the subtle, abusive heka of your childhood manifesting in the very heka you use as an adult. It’s so easy to carry false truths in our words, and it can be very hard to unroot those truths from our minds.
If the very things we tell ourselves daily are not true, how can we really know that we are true in our voice, or that our voice is carrying truth upon it? Humans often engage in daily dialogue that is based off of these falsehoods we were raised to believe as truth, and I can’t help but wonder how it influences the very heka we construct, and by extension, how we construct the world around us. I mentioned in my inertia post that people often behave based off of their expectations, and if our inner dialogue expects us to eternally suck, then how will our heka have any truly lasting power? If you’re getting in your own way before you’ve even tried, how can you hope to succeed?
There are many ways to un-knot false truths that are stuck in our minds. The path to fixing such things is not straightforward or easy. For most of us, we don’t have the resources to really tackle these issues head-on in a way that makes the work timely. Gods know that I have regressed on this issue many times in the past, and will likely regress many times again in the future due to lack of resources and fucks to give. However, that doesn’t mean that the work shouldn’t still be done, even if it will be a grueling task along the way. This post is less about solutions (I could write those posts in time, if people wanted them), and more about opening the table for discussion, so if you’ve got thoughts, I welcome them.
When you look at the things you tell yourself, the truths you have been fed throughout your life, how many of them are true? How many of them feel true, but probably aren’t? How do these things influence your daily life? Do you think it influences your heka? And of course, most importantly, when you do come across these false truths, do you want to do something about them? Why or why not?