Higher Living Reflections

How Are You Doing?

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.

In one video, Dispenza discusses how our thoughts indelibly affect our bodies and emotions, a concept he first addresses in this excerpt from What the Bleep Do We Know?

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.

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  • Steven Craig
    November 17, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    I love how this dovetails on your previous piece. I tried to subscribe to your reading list, but that button is not functional. Much love and light, my friend!

  • Melanie Mulhall
    November 17, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    Brackett’s take is fascinating. And your advice about opening with “I’ve been thinking of you” or “It’s so good to see/hear from you” is solid advice. I do find myself doing that, but it’s nice to have the validation. Thanks for another great post, Jerry.

  • Allynn Riggs
    November 17, 2020 at 5:22 pm

    I recently decided to send thank you notes to people in my life, I choose one or two each week and write a short note about how much I appreciate having them as a friend, mentor, family member, co-worker, et cetera. The first one I sent was to a high school and college friend whom I had not heard from for over a year. I received a phone call from them thanking me for letting them know I remembered them and thought about them. They were struggling with the isolation they were enduring and getting that simple note allowed them to open up communications with their own families and acquaintances through hand written letters, emails, and exchanges on social media (which they had been ignoring due to the over abundance of political “news” and negative opinions being voiced). We now have touched base almost once a week for the past two months. They send me postcards with one or two sentences focused on a positive topic or event. I now have purchased several boxes of postcards to go along with the variety of Thank you cards or blank cards. It’s been fun and I know we both look forward to those little recognitions that we are in someone’s thoughts – that we are not alone.

    Thank you for this posting. It validates what I began as a means for me to connect outside my immediate household. Keep an eye on your mailbox you may be the next person on my list.

  • Rick Posner
    November 17, 2020 at 7:28 pm

    Thank you, Jerry, for reminding us of what’s really important in our lives, not just in today’s turbulent world, but ALWAYS. As I grow older, I say this time and again: I would gladly trade some IQ points for some EQ ones. It’s no surprise that we don’t think about this when we are young and trying to “make it” in the world.

  • Donna Taylor
    November 20, 2020 at 2:16 am

    Your writing and comments reminded me of a friend, Elaine. I worked with her at first and became friends. Elaine was so honest and would always tell me exactly was she thought or felt in response to a question, so much so that I would hesitate at times to ask what she thought of my hair, clothes, and more serious issues, half afraid of what she would say. She loved bringing people together, had tons of friends and laughed a lot at herself. Elaine died two years ago. Before she died I texted her on her birthday, as usual, not knowing she had been diagnosed with cancer. She did not respond to my text and I always regret not calling to follow up so I could have told her how I appreciated her.

  • Karen Gamret
    November 23, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    To add to our very wise author’s information, I highly recommend Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. It’s an oldie but goodie!