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.
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. ✍🏾