You bump into a friend and they ask ‘how are things?’
‘All good’ you respond. Never mind that you had an awful morning, a terrible night’s sleep and you are stressed about x and y.
There’s this thing, in British culture particularly, of never saying what’s really going on, a bit like talking about the weather rather than anything intimate.
So pushing that to a bit of an extreme, do you live in a world which is always sunny, where there is no poverty and disease? Are your friendships and family relationships all great? Is your job or role at home going swimmingly?
No? I thought not (and I’m no psychic!)
Sometimes that avoiding saying what’s really going on goes deeper. It’s not just a cultural thing, but it’s a deeply engrained habit.
Ask yourself this. Who in your life knows really what’s going on for you? Who would know about any deep concerns, fears, hopes?
If you’re like most people, life is lived in shades of grey, but it might be really hard to say what’s going on. Or perhaps it’s deeper than that, you’d never say anything other than something positive about what’s going on.
Work? All fine
Home? Loving it
Relationships? Top notch
The difficult thing is that when you spend a lot of energy on maintaining an image of positivity, it might be having a cost.
That’s not to suggest you should start baring your soul to all comers. There’s something about striking a balance between your authentic experience and who you trust to share that with.
Telling your boss you are chronically depressed might be ok in some organisations, not in others.
Saying to the cashier at the shop you feel sad, might not be the best context for sharing these personal feelings.
But in your family and friendships, you might ask yourself why you self-censor. What holds you back? Did you grow up in an environment where things always had to be positive? Where you weren’t allowed to show a down side? Are you afraid of how others might react?
When I work with my counselling clients, a big element of the journey is reconnecting with an authentic voice and experience. Part of that is finding a way of saying what’s important, and real, even when it feels unnatural to do so. Counselling provides a safe and confidential space to say whatever needs to be said about how you really feel.
This week’s lifeline: What’s under the surface
This week’s Lifeline can help you connect with what you hold back from saying.
It’s called ‘What’s under the surface?’
Imagine a pond, beautifully smooth. Idyllic, but underneath it’s all churned up. The top of the pond represents the positive spin you put on things. Underneath is what you really felt, but couldn’t say.
Now, find a quiet space and allow yourself to connect with your breath. Gently bring your attention inside. Cast yourself back to a situation which where you weren’t able to say what you really felt that was incredibly important to you, and you put a positive light on things.
When you are ready, take your writing materials and start by describing the circumstances. Who were you with? Where and when were you there? What was the lead up? Recount in detail what was said.
Then for each stage in the conversation write:
When I said I’m… I really felt…
Keep writing this as a list as far as you can. Once you’ve got as far as you can, stop and re-read your list. What came up? What surprised you? Did you find there was a lot left unspoken or that you were able to say what was really going on for you?
As you go into your week, take a moment to reflect on when you censor and when you don’t. What’s different in each situation? And maybe think about taking a risk, of showing your true feelings.
Over to you
How do you find a way of both connecting and saying what is true for you? Are there some scenarios where it’s easier than others?
Want to find a way to your authentic voice?
If you find it hard to voice what’s important or true to yourself and would like a safe space to explore that, why not get in touch to book a first session?