In all my years of counseling and having friends, or even as long as I have been alive, these words cause the most damage.
For a strange reason us humans, think it’s polite to ask after people. Then everyone lies.
I understand why the lies, because any time I try tell someone how I really am, the look on their faces as their eyes dart away looking for a quick exit makes it tricky to really express how I am.
But I have heard the very same words come from people who are on morphine; lost a love partner; been diagnosed with cancer; unemployed for over a year; suffered unbearable abuse; widowed; in front of a car wreck; minutes from having fainted; staggering after running 70km; recently divorced; put their child into rehab and the saddest of all, standing at the edge of a grave.
In a country where sadly our crime statistics are often brutal and un-hollywoodlike, the yardstick for admitting to trauma is often minimized.
“At least you are ok…”
“Well, my car was stolen, I had a gun to my head, I was stabbed in my bed, I was nearly raped… but I am fine”. Of course anything other than death is fine, when every single one of us has experienced some sort of trauma. But in my experience the body will try to minimize the trauma in order to survive and try return the body to normal. Then we compare our traumas to others and of course we will always find someone worse off, so we should be ‘glad’ that it’s not worse. We minimize our pain, our wound, our very essence to be allowed to feel.
These words ‘I’m fine’ turn us into liars. The truth too complicated and painful to admit to others, never mind ourselves. But the beauty about recognising that ‘I’m NOT fine’, means that we take our responsibility back. We take our power back from the trauma, we give ourselves permission to feel the pain. Our basic need- is to be heard. But it starts by listening to ourselves first. It is the hardest voice to hear. But the first vital step towards recovery and healing.
So let me ask you…
“How are you?”