How are you?
I’ve written before about a pandemic silver lining – that people are answering that quesiton more honestly than ever before.
But as meetings and parties and pre-pandemic habits return, I’ve noticed more and more people gong back to “Fine” as their stock answer to this question.
A few weeks ago I saw a patient I’ve known for a while, asked how he was and got “Fine” as his response. Despite his daily pounding headaches, disordered sleep, raging reflux (heartburn) and skyrocketing blood pressure, his answer was “fine.” And that answer is a very real part of his problems.
Generations of adults have been taught to behave as if emotional expression is shameful. Men, especially, are trained from a young age to suppress their discomfort, fear, sadness, and do whatever it takes to present a stoic exterior.
We’re all taught that adults, especially professional or “successful” adults, don’t let feelings out. Even though we now know that emotions are chemical reactions happening on our brains, we’re driven to pretend they’re not real.
In that understanding that emotions are chemical reactions, I finally found the analogy I needed to help this one patient consider a different approach. I wonder if it might be useful to you as well.
Listen, I hope that you’re doing really well.
If you’re actually fine – fantastic!
If you’re saying “fine” when you’re not, though, I’m going to implore you to stop pretending. You don’t need to tell everyone your truth, but you should start by knowing it, and thinking about where you might share it so that you can avoid the explosion.
So, how are you this week? let me know, would you?
All my best,Dr. G