Alethephobia is derived from alethia – meaning “truth” in Ancient Greek (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aletheia) and of course phobia, meaning an extreme or irrational fear.
This often understated phenomenon of alethaphobia has become more and more prevalent in today’s world, particularly in western culture. Since the beginning of time, the “truth” can be quite scary for anyone, especially when the real world staring us in the face isn’t so pleasant. Perhaps what has changed nowadays is that there are so many diversions from the truth and quite often these clever ways to sidestep reality are often valued and even encouraged. Don’t get me wrong, all of us, myself included, have our schemes and methods for temporarily dodging uncomfortable actualities from time to time. What has changed today, however is the increased availability and accessibility of these escapes, and the degree to which many of us are willing to use them.
To explain further, think about the past when life was much more straightforward and simple. People have always had their imagination as a means to briefly circumvent reality but usually sooner or later people in the past had to face whatever was going on in their lives. People years ago had alcohol and some drugs available, as well as television and movies, but still there was a lot less of an available cushion between the real world and one’s own fantasies and there were fewer external forms of emotional retreat for the average man and woman. Today, however, the escapes right at our fingertips are endless. We can take a virtual online vacation from emotional hardships through social media, online gaming, gambling, shopping, and a host of other diversions or vices, dependent upon how out of control they can get. For example, if you have a smart phone think about how easy it is to get lost in the world of Facebook or Candy Crush, anywhere and anytime you need to get away. In addition, nowadays there are a multitude of prescription drugs and other substances, both legal and illegal, right at our disposal, affordable and accessible for just about everyone, that aide in the escape from reality (or at a minimum take the edge off the discomfort associated with the stressful facts that we may reluctantly have to face in our lives).
The second aspect of this situation is that in many ways society has come to value escapism and evasion of reality. The bar for realism and truth is set much lower. A snappy wisecrack, comeback or counter argument uttered in response to a challenge of one’s viewpoint, morals, values, etc. is often much more appreciated than a soul-searching, insight-oriented, and introspective journey into honest self-evaluation and sincere self-correction . People’s ability to rationalize, justify, and deflect blame on others is often the first line of defense to a personal challenge rather than humble reflection, and when needed, personal acceptance. To put this in perspective, think about how often we hear of someone in the media saying “Sorry, that was my fault” or “This is my responsibility and I will do what I can to change” Its not that it never happens like that any longer, but it usually is the exception as opposed to the rule when someone gets caught, unless of course their back is against the wall. “Deny, blame or justify” is often the rallying cry of anyone caught in the spotlight.
What is the cure for alethaphobia, or fear of the truth? It all starts with our desire. As the cliché says, the truth hurts, but if there is a sincere desire to start to know the truth, and to honestly face what at times may be uncomfortable or unpleasant, only then will we set the stage for insight and awareness. For all of us, this is a daily work in progress, but the effort involved yields steady emotional and spiritual growth.