On Emotional Honesty

The New Year is all about resolutions, which often resemble the following:

  1. Lose weight.
  2. Eat healthier.
  3. Run every morning.
  4. Keep a journal.
  5. Get straight A’s.
  6. Lose weight.
  7. Learn to play the guitar.
  8. Lose weight.

How about something like this:

  • Be emotionally honest.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one before. But I can’t think of a better resolution.

We live in a world where (I’m guessing) 30-50% of one’s social life is probably online, via email or social media of some sort. I have “friends” on Facebook that I haven’t spoken to or seen in years, just because sometimes that happens in life, but I know that they went to New York for Christmas and also that they forgot to drink coffee this morning uggggh long day ahead text me… There is no reason for me to know those things, and really no reason to post them in cyberspace in the first place. But people do. I do. And all it is is superficial socializing that makes me feel like people care about random pithy thoughts passing through my brain.

We live in a world where daily interactions can sometimes feel like walking on eggshells. For one reason or another, keeping the peace has taken precedence in so many social interactions. Maybe it has to do with office etiquette. Maybe I see it because I go to a small college in which one must always be aware that things get around. Maybe it’s because of a culmination of things our culture has bombarded us with through media and technology. But I often find myself and society ill-equipped to experience or communicate real raw emotion.

We know how to subjugate our feelings to avoid conflict, or at least I know I do. But lately I’ve been wondering if perhaps that has become, in my own life, so much of an automatic habit that my emotional reaction contraption has become rusty. That perhaps I’ve trained myself so well that I’m not even aware, at first, of how I really feel about things. That doesn’t seem right.

Don’t we all hate those would-have-been-perfect moments to tell someone how you feel about them, lost to stammers and comments about the weather? No one can read minds, or signals. Trust me. Everyone has a different lexicon of signals and it’s confusing. And after too much time spent sending signals, the interest is gone and the opportunity lost. How about just saying what you think? Any stipulations or hesitations won’t be offensive or emotionally-bruising because they are being communicated, and that honesty is flattering. We evolved capabilities for language in order to communicate. This is one of those moments when that’s useful.

And we all love that moment in a movie when that upperclassman jerk gets the solid punch to the jaw that he’s earned. Doesn’t it feel so good to see that happen? So why don’t people do that in real life? I’ve slapped two guys in my life, and I swear those were the most liberating moments. I didn’t even slap that hard, and I’ve encountered more than just two who deserved it, and some girls too. But I always end up eating my anger and then fantasizing for days about all the things I should have said.

But life’s too short.

I’m not advocating violence, but emotional presence. We shouldn’t feel so afraid of doing the wrong thing that we end up doing nothing. Those slaps came from a strong emotional urge, and they were very thoroughly earned.

So my New Years resolution is to be emotionally honest. With myself. With my friends and family. If I get mad about something my siblings say, I’m going to tell them. I did that over the holidays for the first time in a long time. And rather than estranging us or ruining the holiday, like I had feared, it brought us together. I was still mad at them, but at least they knew, and we agreed to disagree. We know each other better now. I know myself better. And that feels good.

Happy New Year, folks.



5 thoughts on “On Emotional Honesty

  1. Reblogged this on The Renaissance Mind and commented:
    Emotional and social authenticity is incredibly hard to come by in this day and age of complaisance and degrees of separation. But finding a grounding in the real world; the real physical world comprised of people ever searching for a connection is crucial now more than ever.

    A beautiful piece by a wonderful writer:

  2. It’s ironic that in an age when communication has become so insidious, we actually communicate very little. Being present…great practice, great reminder! Thank you!

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