When someone new asks, “How are you?” do you find yourself answering “Fine?” The word ‘fine’ is a culturally expected response, especially in casual circumstances like when in line at the grocery store, bank, or post office. Although Webster’s dictionary defines fine as a “satisfactory condition,” we often use the word when we actually feel quite different than fine.
So…what if you dug a little deeper and responded by sharing what you are truly feeling?
Lately, I have risked sharing my real feelings in public venues. When the bank clerk asked, “How ya doin’?” I told him I was tired and a little sore. He told me he was tired too because there’s a baby at home who was waking up during the night. I was able to give him a little empathy and connect with him over loss of sleep. Our conversation became more real and personal. When purchasing groceries, I responded to the clerk that I felt hungry and a bit grumpy which led to an interesting, albeit short, conversation on blood sugar and carbs.
There may be times you do choose to say ‘fine.’ And if you do, consider taking a minute to ask yourself what you truly are feeling. Are you really ‘satisfactory?’ Then maybe use a more descriptive word like content, comfortable, or even peaceful. If something painful or difficult just happened in your life, you may choose not to share it with a stranger (especially because they may not know how to response). You may feel guarded or sad or confused. Acknowledging these feelings to yourself might bring more self-connection and compassion.
When I began learning NVC and familiarizing myself with the feelings vocabulary and the felt sense of them in my body, I realized most of the time I had no clue what I felt. Looking back, I believe it came from years of hearing, “Don’t feel that way” or “You don’t really feel that way” or “You shouldn’t feel that way.” In my family of origin, the acceptable and safe feelings were to be OK, good, or fine. I opted for a kind of inconspicuousness and stayed within the boundaries of “fine.” Needless to say, this decision did not support a rich emotional life.
It wasn’t until I learned Nonviolent Communication that I was able to put words to the body sensations I was feeling—hurt, embarrassed, shame, frustration, confusion, joy, contentment, flummoxed. Those feelings were like a telephone ringing. By answering the call, I could understand what needs were behind those feelings. Suddenly, I felt more self-connected and alive. I learned to trust my body and the signals it sends.
Small children are ‘body beings.’ They live fully in their bodies. Their emotions are up front and center. They easily cry, laugh, startle, scare, and become upset. Conscious parents will allow their children’s full range of emotions and even help them name what they are feeling.
My daughter and granddaughter spend a good deal of time in the local children’s park where other parents say things like, “You’re OK” or “Don’t cry” after their child has hurt themself. When my granddaughter gets injured, my daughter will soothe her. “It looks like that hurts. Would you like to me rub it or blow on it?” She will sit with her daughter as long as it takes to feel better. When parents are able to accept all of their children’s feelings, the child learns to trust their emotions to guide them through life.
For myself, I was able to overcome stuffing my emotions, which took practice and patience. By paying attention to my body and interpreting the messages, and connecting to my needs, I reclaimed my innate emotional experiences that children have naturally. Observing my daughter and granddaughter, I feel joyful and gratified witnessing the next generations trust body wisdom and honor emotional intelligence.
How are you Feeling...Really?
Posted by Christine King on