I have expressed + explained my frustration with the universally-normalized greeting of "How are you?"
It frustrates me NOT because I am a sociopath, but because:
(1) a profoundly deep, existential question has been reduced + diluted to a flimsy synonym for "Hello"; and I know that is the case because
(2) RARELY is a GENUINE response to that question expected, let alone tolerated (given the supreme restraints of time + attention that most people live under.)
Basically, "How are you?" is a $10,000 question, that only has capacity for a $0.10 answer.
(And I'm the sociopath for merely pointing that out?)
I've also shared a way to do something PRODUCTIVE with things that bother, annoy or strongly trigger you.
And I have a hybrid solution to this particular "How are you?" dialogue-dilemma that I'd like to share with you. It's useful because we will receive that prompt with nearly every real-life social encounter we have.
Here's my internal solution, which prepares me for external engagement:
* First, I had to acknowledge the lifetime of conditioning I received to automatically reply "I'm great or I'm fine," whenever asked that question. In fact, it was while I was in a 2-year period of hellish darkness, that I woke to my aggravation with this social ritual that passes for genuine concern. At that time, I was barely held together by a single strand of string... and when asked that question, I knew no asker would want or be prepared to handle hearing my truth. So, while minimally functional, I was burdened to prettify and falsify my reality, in order to keep things moving along. And that was precisely what made me an extreme cave-dweller during a time when I most needed connection. I suspect a lot of people also choose to suffer in private silence, because of this hurried + shallow practice.) Three words can metasticize into social isolation that is now an actual epidemic. Are we willing to take an honest look at causation?
* Now, as part of my morning orientation... I scan and select a true and socially-acceptable statement I can use that day. My default is "I am grateful for life." That is quick, and ALWAYS true... no matter what I am facing. If I feel especially safe or expansive, my reply may be "I am available to be a Force for Good on this beautiful planet." (That one is aspirational and, of course, not consistently executed... but it IS an abiding motive of mine.)
This is not trivial or hair-splitting.
This is the work of INTEGRATION... of creating alignment + congruence between your inner world and your outer world.
(I have lost closeness with those who have shamed me for having no choice but to acknowledge this pain-point. Sadly, that was a lot of people. Fortunately, that cleansing made space for new people who get it... most of whom are neurodivergent.)
All this is just bringing a tiny bit of consciousness to a social custom that hasn't received much thought or consideration.
Ultimate Point: Being socially courteous does not have to come at the expense of suppressing what is true + meaningful to you. These forces don't have to be at odds. Instead, we can add LIGHT + LUBRICATION to old, stale, insincere ways of greeting each other. And while you may not agree with this approach, there is certainly no need to pathologize it. Peace to all.
May this 17:00 minute healing meditation be of service to you, and your precious inner child. Three references mentioned in it are:
Hi, Beautiful! Thank you for clicking on this experience... which is a healing meditation for your INNER CHILD.
Part 1 offers some foundation, and will prepare you for the experience;
Part 2 is the actual meditation I'll talk you through; and
Part 3 will conclude the experience.
The phrase -- "inner child" -- brings different ideas to different minds, so let me share how I am using that term:
When I say "inner child," I am referring to an INTERNAL ASPECT of you that experienced a great, unattended pain or loss in your childhood. Or, a SERIES of great, unattended pains and losses in your childhood.
You may, or may not be, consciously aware of the effects of these childhood hurts or abuses... but they have definitely influenced the now-adult version of you.
The intent of this meditative experience, is to direct tender, caring awareness toward a particular memory that feels unresolved, and ready for closure.
Please note that I am not a licensed mental health professional, and this meditation is not presented as a substitute for industrialized methods. I am sharing with you a free and creative way to consciously use your WILL, your IMAGINATION and your BREATH to bring about relief and refreshment.
I acknowledge the incredible difficulty of motherhood... and if you are a Mom, I honor every sacrifice and delayed desire that motherhood required of you. This meditation places zero blame or shame on the heroic efforts of loving Moms.
I give daily thanks for all that my Mom endured as a single parent... and I send extra loads of respect to all single parents who face the most challenging job on earth... without a partner. DOUBLE STRENGTH to your arms, single parents!
The field of psychology has a lot to say about childhood wounds. (Dr. Gabor Mate is my favorite voice on the subject). Inner child work is shadow work. Whether you envision a "shadow" or a "child" version of yourself... the point of "working" with the shadow and/or inner child, is to stop muzzling, hiding, denying, refusing them. And start accepting and loving them. Whatever sliver or fragment of yourself that has not received your love... is wreaking havoc somewhere, someway.
The Gnostic, Thomas, put it this way. He said: "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” <--- That is the best description of shadowwork and inner child work I've ever heard. BRING FORTH WHAT IS WITHIN YOU... and meet it with love.
Ideal ways to experience this healing meditation:
BEGINNINGS. Beginnings are so important. Whether the beginning of a relationship, or a new job or business. And certainly the beginning of a LIFE. A beginning is the first part of something. It is the BRAND NEW START of something. The most basic instinct within us makes it clear that beginnings in life are to be protected, and kept free from harm and undue disadvantage.
A person's beginning in life SHOULD start without the normalized interferences of neglect, abandonment, abuse, molestation, or other traumatic forms of lovelessness.
But what SHOULD happen, often does not happen, and those unfair situations create wounds and injury.
The quick pace of modern life rarely allows the Time, Space or Know-How to productively deal with these wounds and injuries. Most humans just do their best to keep journeying forward... despite what may be hurting them deep within.
So NOW is a designated time for you to choose a persistent, painful memory... and see how you can shrink and dissolve that pain with something you always have access to, and in unlimited supply... and that is loving attention.
Are you ready to have an uncommonly beautiful encounter with yourself? Before we move on to Part 2, I remind you that you are in complete control of this experience. Follow the suggestions that feel good and right to you... and if, at any point, you sense overwhelm or unpleasantness... exercise your sovereignty, beloved, and simply pause or stop. You can always come back to this at another time.
As we approach the end of this meditation, you can say to your inner child: "Bye for now, Beloved. We are healthily connected, and I will be listening for your messages. You are very important to me, Dear One. I love you, and commit to keep you safe."
CONGRATULATIONS! You have established a positive bond with your inner child. You can revive this connection, as often as you like. You can return to this meditation, and love your way through as many memories or body-books as present themselves to you. And at any time, you can inhale love, and exhale pain, fear and resentment. These internal practices empower and support you!
When you feel ready, open your eyes, and bring your awareness from inside you, to your physical surroundings. The things around you make look the same, but YOU are not the same. You bravely brought something forth from within, and that means you are now more whole and more free than before. I'm thrilled for you, and your inner child. Walk in your newness.
If, after experiencing this, you desire a caring conversation... there is a link for you beneath this video.
These days (daze!), there is no shortage of people or circumstances that may annoyingly trigger you. Triggers are also invitations. Below are three ways I am learning to face them with grace:
#1. Level It Up
Leveling up a strong trigger is choosing to behave as a modern-day alchemist, and deciding to transmute lead (something crappy), into gold (something magnificent). More modern words for this ancient practice includes "beautification" and "upcycling."
EXAMPLE: As long as I can remember, I was triggered by the normalization of social shallowness + insincerity. It drove me bananas! I only found relief to this widespread conditioning by doing my transmutative part to normalize social depth + sincerity.
#2. Blend It Into Your Being
Walking the path to Wholeness includes being humble enough to learn from all situations, and update an operative belief that you've come to see is not fully true.
EXAMPLE: Stoicism was once a strong trigger for me. It is a philosophical school of thought that promotes being unmovable by both pain and pleasure. While I easily celebrate its foundation upon virtuous behavior, and respect for natural law... as an impassioned being with strong emotions, I (wrongly) felt it invalidated my natural way of being. It seemed to restrain or dismiss divine femininity, and I was also unaware of any melanated folks advancing it. So, as a brown woman... stoicism caused me to feel twice excluded.
But beneath the surface of those observations, Wisdom showed me that including certain stoic traits -- like reason, logic, resilience and stabilized consistency -- all empower me to make better use of my emotions. It liberates and energizes me to integrate the strengths of something I once saw as oppositional.
#3. Rise Above It
Some scenarios are too toxic or degrading to be dealt with at all. Self-love and self-respect -- (which are two active expressions of Wisdom) -- will make it clear to you when it's time to stop engaging, and start elevating. Do just like that gorgeous, fuchsia moon... and rise.
EXAMPLE: I once suffered from a naive disbelief that a person could pose as a friend, and actually be able to cooperate with harm coming to me. Of course I know that all people -- including myself -- are capable of unknowingly hurting someone. But it was a horrific shock to learn, (and more than once!) that relational betrayal can be planned and intentional. I am imperfect, but I do not possess malice... so it took a long time for me to accept the reality of maliciousness in someone I once loved and trusted. When a venomous rattlesnake is revealed, be thankful for the notice that it's time to leave the snakepit beneath you.
Next Up... Healing Meditations
I'll be closing the year preparing + sharing a free series of healing meditations for:
* Your Inner CHILD :: Lovingly revisit + a review a past, root hurt. This is never to wallow, and only to bless + release.
* Your Inner ARTIST :: A fresh take on creativity, form, format, aMUSEment, imagination, inspiration + intuition.
* Your Inner ENTREPRENEUR :: Get clear on the service, influence, impact, legacy + success that your wise-heart most longs for.
Generalizations are both sloppy (because they over-simplify), and handy (because they are so simple)!
Having made that acknowledgment, there are three kinds of people: speedboat-people, sailboat-people and submarine-people. This post is intended for the submarines.
The question "How are you?" is PROFOUND.
But it has been watered-down to a synonym for "Hello."
Forced or fake auto-responses of obligated okay-ness are expected.
(And if you are going through something tragic, it really doesn't matter! Every social encounter OPENS with this well-established Ritual of Insincerity.)
The question "How are you?" prompts an answer that begins with "I AM _____________."
This means many times each day, you are invited to SPEAK THE MOST POWERFUL STATEMENT that can be spoken of yourself.
And the socially-expected thing to do, is be QUICK + SLICK with your answer.
For a change... TAKE YOUR TIME, and tell your truth. ✍🏾