The Eightfold Path: Right Speech

In this series, regarding the Buddhist Eightfold Path and it’s relation to caring for your IBS or other illness, we have reached something called Right Speech. This concept focuses on being honest with others and more importantly, especially when dealing with illness; ourselves. Right Speech is important in how we approach the world and how that effects our overall wellbeing. Let us turn our thoughts to how what we say plays a very important part in managing our illness.

Right speech vs. wrong speech

Within the Eightfold Path of wellness, right speech is pretty much what you might think. In the course of our daily lives we find ourselves exaggerating, downplaying or miscommunicating our true feelings for any number of psychological reasons. We may tell little white lies, we may tell some incredibly enormous lies, we may lie to others, or ourselves and we may talk about others behind their backs. These things all tend to be a natural part of human existence, but they take their toll. Even if you don’t realize it, you probably don’t see that the backbiting, the little lies, the big lies and all the other not so great things that come out of your mouth, tend to cause anxiety, stress, worry and sometimes depression. We don’t feel good about ourselves because we don’t WANT to behave in this manner. We want to be transparent, we want to tell the truth, we want to be good people. But due to the nature of our society and our own psychological and emotional states, this type of Wrong Speech tends to creep into our daily lives.

Think for a moment about who you talk to and how you talk to them. How and what we say varies, sometimes significantly, based on who we are talking to. Do you speak the same way to your Mother as you do to your doctor? Do you approach your boss the same way you approach your therapist, your best friend, your husband…your dog :-). No, we choose to share our thoughts in completely different ways depending on our comfort level, situation and a variety other reasons. The key idea here does involve Right Speech, but what we don’t say is just as important as what we do. When we are not completely honest with anyone, we tend to feel bad about it regardless of whether or not you believe the situation warranted it. We don’t need one more thing making us feel BAD. We already have plenty of that, I think.

The idea of transparency dictates that when are given the choice to be completely honest with ourselves or others we should be. I don’t mean that if you think your friend at work is having a bad hair day that we should just be honest and tell them. Don’t tell them. No speech, is sometimes Right Speech. When we tell our doctor or therapist only half the story out of embarrassment, shame, pride or some other emotion, we are doing ourselves a disservice. Not only are we perhaps not going to get the care we need, but we are ultimately misrepresenting the true nature of our current being. This is also detrimental to our psychological state and our ability to cope healthfully with our illness.

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