Posts Tagged community

Emotions, Vulnerability, & Truth vs. White Lies

How often have you asked someone “How ya feeling?” and gotten a reply like. “Well, it’s being going good for me. Work is…” or “Fine. It’s all good!” After nine months in recovery, I cringe every time someone uses phrases like this or any time I’m tempted to reply in a similar manner.

Why are we so afraid of feelings? Is it the exposure or the fleetingness of their existence that stops us from naming the emotion we’re actually feeling the moment we’re asked or perhaps the anticipated reaction? I tend to think it a combo of all three. Say my friend, Josh, another writer who is probably little more than a good acquaintance at this point, phones and says, “Hi, how are ya?” Standard greeting, right? But what if I answered, “Well, I’m feeling pretty depressed this morning about blah, blah, blah.” TMI for poor Josh yet truthful. So maybe for superficial friends, it might be more honest and less traumatic to say, “Eh, so-so today, but working toward awesome.” Less awkward, more truth, peeks at vulnerability, but doesn’t shut down the entire conversation.

I think we tend to substitute politeness for honesty especially with different levels of friends and depending on gender. It is never okay to say, “Hey, I’ll give you a call” or “Yeah, we’ll make a plan” if that’s not what you intend to do. Think about it. Who are you saying it for? Not for the person you never intend to see again. It’s all about your ego and how you feel about yourself, but it’s a lie. Denial for you, lie for her/him.

What does this have to do with feelings? Acknowledging our feelings on a level appropriate to the encounter enables us to engage more authentically with that person. I also suspect that we get into a habit of denial with everyone, not just someone we may not care to see again, but even with those we hold dear. Dealing with emotions can be messy.

Scenario #2 – Tom calls. Close friend of many years asks the same question as Josh. Same honest answer. Tom, who was focused on the reason he actually called, recovers quickly and asks a few questions about what I expressed. The point here is not that it’s a good idea to dump on everyone we meet because we’re having a particular ‘feeling’ but to authentically exist in the moment in order to make a connection with that person. It turns out that Tom had been having some similar issues and after a brief discussion, we made the transition back to discussing an upcoming hiking trip. I gave Tom an opportunity to meet me where I was or choose not to be there (like Josh, who had every right to disengage if he was uncomfortable.)

I could have chosen to side-step the entire question of “How are ya?” with a simple “Good” or “Fine, how are you?” but I’m no longer invested in pretending that life is a calm even journey that only affects emotions in me during a crisis. I’ll risk the exposure of my feelings, the embarrassment of feeling something other than ‘fine,’ (which by the way is NOT a feeling) and I’ll take the risk that a ‘Josh’ may say “Ah, ok, gotta run, but I’ll give ya a call sometime.”

I’m also giving up the claim that life is a series of little dramas that toss me around on an emotional roller coaster. Life is an endless bevy of opportunities to connect. Sometimes we will; sometimes we won’t. So if you call, and ask how I am, I will be appropriately truthful, effectively leaving the door open for a deeper conversation, or not, depending on what you’re feeling at the moment. I will be as fearless as I can for the sake of connection.

So how are you feeling today?

©2012 Carolyn Moore

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