Dear Soft Hearted Loves,
I have a friend who brought to my attention that people often walk by stating “how are you” and keep walking before hearing an answer. It may feel like a socially appropriate or common question; however, we rarely wait around to hear the answer. Is there room to reply with anything less than “fine” if people do ask and wait to hear the response?
It may also be helpful to consider who you are as the “asker” given different layers of privilege. Are there any cultural differences in expression regarding this question for the person responding? Or, if a person in power asks their employee how they are, does the person have freedom to reply honestly without any repercussions or judgment?
Some of us feel pressured to show the sunny side of how we are feeling. This toxic positivity cannot be mistaken for gratitude or authentic joy. When we are not sure how we feel or when we automatically reply with a socially appropriate “doing well” I’m concerned we are not honoring what’s going on. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely glossed over a “how are you” with an “I’m fine” when I was not or was unsure.
There’s so much wrapped up in expression of emotions. For many of us we may not even know how we actually feel. Physical and or emotional feelings are charging through our bodies. Rarely do we answer the passerby with an answer to their quick and mindless “how are you” with a genuine and attuned response such as “I’m feeling sad, grateful and my chest feels heavy.” While this response may be true we rarely hear the thorough and deep response from folks that can possibly aide connection and reduce isolation.
I honor you taking pause or a mindful moment to see how your body and emotions are and where they are experienced. If you are unsure, I invite you to tell me, “I’m not sure how I am or what I’m feeling.” If you know how you are or what you’re feeling I also make space for you to tell me I know and I don’t feel like sharing right now. It’s all okay.
In addition to taking pause to notice and attune we can note what arises. For example, we can practice noting general feelings including irritability, sadness, silliness, joy, disappointment, fear, and so on. We must recover from isolation with feelings. Noting what we are feeling is not so easy for people who grew up where feelings other than anger were rarely expressed. If you didn’t grow up with healthy models for emotional expression, is there something you can give yourself now that you did not get when you were younger such as taking moments to identify or attune with what’s coming up or finding a trusted person to talk with about these feelings?
There’s so much corrective repair and transformation that can come from attuning to and noting what comes up for us. If you’d like, you can share in the comments section what or how you feel in this moment. Please do so only if you would like to. I’m listening.