What it is not: Emotional honesty is not about telling the factual truths. Story telling, with lots of details, is not always emotional honesty. It is not about being right or wrong. It is not intellectual, or necessarily expressed in complete sentences. If I am sitting with someone telling me ‘what happened’ and just not feeling it, it is likely they are talking from their neck up. When the story is about all the things going on around them, about what’s in other people’s heads–emotional honesty is not happening.
When some one is being emotionally honest (if you are really listening), you can feel it.
We all struggle with emotional honesty at times. Perhaps we do not want to feel the flood of emotions kept safely tucked deep down. Possibly, it is not a safe to be vulnerable.
How to be Emotionally Honest:
- Know your options: There are many! This list is pretty good, but I doubt that it is exhaustive. I encourage make-up words to exactly express what it is you are feeling. I have heard some funny ones: When I had to walk into that mess, I felt crazytoons. I have heard some starkly accurate ones: When I put her on that plane, I felt like all my limbs had been cut off.
- Intellectual vs Emotion: It is one thing to discuss the finer points of all the reasons things went down as they did, to find compassion and understanding, or blame and righteousness. But, be clear–that is our intellect talking. That is our thinking mind in action from the neck up. When we get emotional, that is coming from our heart. Our intellect, our knowing, does not have to jive with what we feel. In fact, it often doesn’t. We must learn to trust our emotions, feel them, and know that they are real chemical and physical reactions. They are impermanent, constantly changing, and if we do not allow them to come forward, we will carry it with us. Over time, that enormous emotional potential, shoved way down deep, gets heavy and pressure builds. Giving our emotions the proper attention and the respect they deserve is essential to our well-being.
- Know & Notice your chemistry: Understand that emotions have chemical and physical reactions that happen in our bodies. When we experience happiness, anger, or fear, there is a chemical released in our bodies that creates a physical and emotional sensation. Sometimes we experience something physically, like an injury. In this instance, a physical pain begins the process. If you get very still and quiet, you can notice what you are feeling (name the emotion) and where in your body it resonates (scan from head to toe). Doing this at first may be a little bit of a challenge. Some physical sensations are subtle, but they are there.
For example: When my brother died unexpectedly in a car wreck, I felt like my breath had been taken. I felt a heavy sadness fall upon me, and I felt it most profoundly in my chest.
Or: when my mother died and my sister ignored my wishes to speak at her funeral, I felt crushed and angry. I felt crushed in my chest and stomach, and anger in my head and throat.
Next time someone asks you, “How are you doing?”, consider how you feel, notice where you feel it in your body, and answer honestly.