The therapy version is Feelings I‘m Not Expressing, but the one I like to say in my head is “F***ed up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.” If that is really what we all acknowledged when we reply “fine” to “how are you?” several times a day, that would be manageable, but that is not what we are trying to say. It could be a lot of things, but mostly “you are only asking because that is what you are socially conditioned to do and would not really care about the answer if I gave you the real one so I am not going to bother.”
Can you imagine what would happen if we gave real answers?
A True Answer
I rarely let my clients tell me they are “fine.” If they say it, I usually ask them to elaborate. They can give me the highlights or low lights of their day, give me an actual emotion to describe where they are at that moment, or tell me a story instead. I think it helps start the session off on an honest note, and serves as a reminder that this is not your average conversation – this is supposed to be addressing what is below the surface.
I feel privileged when you let me in and actually tell me what is happening with you. When you are able to walk in (or log on) to the session and be mindful, open, and compassionate towards yourself and with me there. Thank you for that.
When you ask me, I will try not to say “fine” either. I will use a different word, and I try not to be dismissive because I know that in this unique, therapeutic relationship there are different boundaries than in the rest of the world. I will try to give an honest answer like the ones I expect from you because it is more genuine and respectful. If I do use “fine” or “good”, it usually means “I am here for you right now and this is your session, so it does not really matter how I am (and sometimes there are things going on that it is not appropriate for me to talk to you about).”
Side note: the longer we work together, the more you might glean about me from our interactions together. That is a natural part of working together. One of my clients once sent me this video, Kristen Bell’s Funny or Die “Love Ballad to Your Therapist” and I still think it is both hilarious and true (for the most part). Still, I will not come up to you out in public and will try to maintain all the appropriate boundaries because therapy is really about you, not me.
The Feeling Wheel
But back to “fine” – as long as you are aware of what you are doing, go ahead and say it. Maybe translate it in your head when you notice and try to name the emotions you’re experiencing. You do not have to tell anyone (even me) what you are really feeling, but most of us need practice knowing it for ourselves. (If you need help with that, we can start with the Feeling Wheel, of which there are several different versions, but the original was by Dr. Gloria Wilcox)
I would like to live in a world where people are able to name their true emotions and talk about struggles without shame. I would like people to think about how they actually are. I would like more relationships in the world to be open, honest, and mindful. Hopefully, you do too.
If you are interested in virtual therapy, please contact me!