How are you?

 

Most of the time, when people ask me that, I respond with my reflex obligatory response: “Fine thanks and you?” But the reality is that in addition to being somewhat fine and good I am also a complex mixture of various other shades of emotions, which I cannot really explain and cannot really express.

For long periods in my life the subtext would have read something like:

‘I… am… heart broken, and wounded. I am hurt, I am sad, I am angry, I am frustrated, I feel trapped and alone. I would love to talk to someone about it but I don’t know how and I don’t think you would want to be burdened with all that. It’s hard but I always pick up the pieces and put them back together as best I can, maybe have a good cry and I feel a lot better and I try to forgive and make a fresh start and then I feel… good and fine!… So yes I guess I am… “Fine thanks – and how are you?

I think many of us are like that. We are so used to hiding our feelings, or rather being uncomfortable discussing our emotions, how we really feel, definitely with colleagues at the workplace, but even with close family and friends.

Some reply: “I can’t complain” and others go for the more honest: “I would complain but who would listen?” Sometimes we meet an actual complainer who, the moment they sense that you will actually listen, proceeds to offload all their issues and dramas and while it may seem refreshing to have a real conversation about how someone is doing, the longer it goes on the more you realize that this person is not expressing emotions but rather verbalizing a negative mental pattern. Eventually you think maybe I should have minded my own business. Once in a while you may here someone say they are doing: “Fabulous!” and you ask yourself:

‘Really… are you really feeling that good or are you just trying to give the impression that you are fabulous, like all those call centre agents who want us to buy their products. Surely no one is fabulous all the time? What does fabulous even feel like?’

Sometimes it’s true, that on a particular day, or at that moment you may be feeling good, or even really good, but generally speaking it has become a reflex answer to an obligatory question, a mere acknowledgement of each other’s presence. The real question “How are you?” is asking about your state of heart, mind and soul, your emotional well-being, or your state of consciousness. Often it seems like there’s not enough time to really discuss one’s real emotional state, but if you think about it, it is not a question of time, because people find the time to do and talk about many things that interest them, but very few people actually want to know how you really are, or even have the capacity to listen to what’s going on in your life and feel these emotions with you without becoming awkward and disturbed.

We carry it all around anyways, whether we remember or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we discuss it or not, it is with us, all these mixed up feelings and emotions, as some vague nebulous stress that sometimes erupts in emotional implosions or explosions and in cases of chronic repression it will come to consciousness through life experiences, and surface eventually as physical symptoms and illness, which usually gets people to take notice and start making changes. But why wait and waste energy, and the precious time of your life, stuck in negative patterns?

 

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