I have a tendency to say “I’m fine” when I’m not. It’s almost an automatic response. Maybe I’m feeling bad but don’t quite understand why. Or maybe I know why, but I don’t want to talk about it.
I saw a post online the other day that said when people say, “I’m fine,” it actually means: “fucked up, insecure, neurotic, egotistical.” Although I’m not sure it always means those exact words :), I do think “I’m fine” usually masks what is really going on with a person.
Understanding Feelings: SASHET
It’s difficult to know what you’re feeling and talk about it. First, it’s hard to know what you are feeling. Many of us weren’t taught how to identify and talk about our feelings when we are growing up. I like to use the acronym SASHET to help people identify what they are feeling: sad, angry, scared, happy, excited, and tender.
- Sadness involves feelings of loss.
- Anger involves a boundary being crossed.
- Scare involves feelings of being in danger.
- Happiness involves feelings of joy, as if everything is right with the world.
- Excitement involves the anticipation that something good is going to happen.
- Tenderness involves deep connection with others.
Vulnerability and Letting Others In
Once you know what you are feeling, it can still be tough to let others know what is going on inside of you. One reason is it’s vulnerable. When you share your feelings, you are opening the deepest part of yourself to someone else. It takes a certain level of trust to feel comfortable doing that.
Vulnerability and Risk
If we aren’t used to being vulnerable with others, or if we have gotten hurt in the past, this kind of vulnerability might feel impossible. Being vulnerable and sharing our feelings does require some level of risk. The other person might not respond in a loving way. We might feel judged. There isn’t a way to protect ourselves completely in a relationship. When we let someone in, we entrust them with our heart.
The tough thing is this kind of risk is the only way to get that deep, heart-level connection with others that many of us long for. If we stay on the surface, if we stay guarded, our relationships don’t have the opportunity to deepen. You aren’t likely to feel close to another person until you have taken the risk to open up your heart to them.
Take the Risk
My encouragement is to take the risk. When someone asks you how you are doing, and you are tempted to say “I’m fine,” consider sharing something deeper about how you are really doing. Pick one of the SASHET emotions and share a brief context about what is happening.
It’s okay to go slow. You don’t have to share your whole life story right away. But peel back the onion a little bit. Share something deeper, and see if the other person responds to your sharing with grace and acceptance. If so, go a little deeper next time. You might find that you start to develop the kind of heart-level connection that you really want.