Recently, I got to talking with friends who, like me, are “of an age.” We commiserated about our personal ills and challenges, how we are managing and coping during the pandemic, social-political turmoil, climate change generally and forest fires specifically, et cetera and so on.
At some point I would interject, “I know saying ‘You’re not alone’ sounds trite, but the fact is you’re not alone.”
I “knew” that myself, but I hadn’t “felt” it. I do now. I learned that from the dozens of responses to my essay “Sharing a Drink Called Loneliness.” Undoubtedly, one reason I had not internalized it was due to isolation, the lack of my usual social interaction.
I was struck by the honesty and consistency of themes expressed. Most said they were feeling as I was. A few detailed their experiences. Many kindly extended their sympathy about the loss of my friend to suicide, and a couple shared their experiences about a loved one who had done likewise.
A consistent expression was that of appreciation for writing and publishing a piece they identified with. It seems to have validated their state of being.
Several referenced favorites experts. One is Dr. Joe Dispenza.
He points to the research that shows we rethink ninety percent of thoughts, often overloaded with emotion, we had the day before. If we get out of bed thinking of something that causes us to feel anxious, sad, grumpy, or angry, it’s likely we’ll continue through the day in that frame of mind. Compounding that state of mind is that we’re likely to repeat the same actions as the previous day’s behaviors. We become addicts exhibiting addictive behavior.
In an interview with Brene Brown, Dr. Marc Brackett, author of Permission to Feel, discusses Emotional Intelligence and the reason that so many are emotionally illiterate. He explores the concept of “meta-emotion,” that which one feels about what he/she is feeling. Embarrassment, shame for feeling sad or anxious?
It causes one to wonder why so many are emotionally out of tune. One reason, Brackett posits, is that we don’t teach EI. Which then causes one to ask, “Why not?”
Cultural Taboo, primarily. It’s not socially acceptable or politically correct to talk honestly about one’s true feelings. It’s seen as a sign of weakness. So, we mask them not understanding we will invariably express them unconsciously in unhealthy ways including negativity, substance abuse, or violence.
Asking another how he/she is doing or, more impersonally, how it is going helps one avoid delving into deeper areas: Feelings and emotions.
Dr. Brackett talks about how we blithely ask while hoping to God the person doesn’t honestly answer. The irony is that the questioner has little to fear. For we have been taught, schooled, enculturated not to honestly respond.
Everyone can recall personal periods of high, intense emotion. That intensity is true as well in our collective past such as the 1960s. For many though, this period is off-the-charts. Nonetheless, it is real, the muck through which we are wading.
We are heading into what likely will be our toughest stretch yet with the pandemic accelerating, tensions running high, and the holidays looming. So, it would behoove us to think about how we greet another. A suggestion: Rather than opening with a throwaway query, make a statement such as “I’ve been thinking of you” or “It’s so good to see / hear from you.” It helps hearing that you are in another’s thoughts, that you are not alone.