We wear a mask that grins and lies
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes
This debt we pay to human guile
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
By Paul Lawrence Dunbar
What is Emotional Honesty?
When you say yes but mean no, when you smile at someone but inside you are angry/frustrated or upset with them, when you say “it’s ok” and it clearly isn’t.
Do you consider yourself to be an emotionally honest person?
As children we all start out being emotionally honest; we say things that parents or friends are embarrassed by, but we learn over time that it is best not to be honest. Unfortunately when children are subjected to emotional or physical abuse, they are taught that bad things are good, that they must do what they are told or that they are selfish for not wanting to comply with that person’s wishes, their feelings are not validated and as they grow into adolescence they begin to answer back and get angry – people rarely ask why and these children and adolescents learn to lie about their true feelings. Without help, those adolescents turn into adults who are unable to be emotionally honest in a relationship unless they get some help.
Society encourages us to be emotionally dishonest, for example our standard response when someone asks us how we are is “fine” (ever heard that FINE stands for Frustrated, Insecure, Needy and Emotional?)
It can be frightening to be honest about your feelings; you may be concerned about hurting someone's feelings or making yourself vulnerable. Unfortunately not all people around you are good listeners; they too have learned ways to be dishonest and show their displeasure by sighing, blocking what you say, talking over you, or getting upset. You can ask them to listen and let them know that what you say is simply information about you and that you don't expect them to agree with you. What you are hoping for is that they try to understand what is going on inside of you so they can know you better.
Being emotionally honest comes with responsibility and awareness, it means taking a risk by hoping that the person you are opening up to won’t take your emotions and crush them, that they will be able to hold those emotions and not take advantage of you or use them to hurt you in any way.
Obviously if you tell your boss that you feel he/she is a complete idiot who can’t be trusted to run a paper round, it is unlikely that they will throw their arm around you and offer to share feelings over a coffee, similarly if you tell your partner that you want to tear your hair out when he/she talks endlessly about some boring meeting they were stuck in all day, it won’t help matters, and this is what I mean about awareness of situations and people you are honest about.
Most importantly, be emotionally honest with yourself and if that is difficult, talk to someone who can help you.
Written for June/July 2009 Darling Magazine, Wimbledon, SW20
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