Really. Really? Really!?!

Have you noticed that we use the word "really" a lot -  really a lot?  In my conversations with those at critical live junctures, I find myself asking questions like "what do you really want to do?" or "do you really believe that?" or sometimes just an incredulous  "really?!?".   In the quiet early morning hours, I ask myself the "really" questions of want, desire, truth.  It strikes me that "really" has become a code word for the call for serious conversation and deeper, more honest thinking.

Merriam-Webster defines "really" as being "in reality; actually; truly, unquestionably; very." Certainly those are accurate definitions of the word, but there is something more subtle emerging in our everyday use of the word, especially in serious conversations.  There is the often unspoken assumption that what we say to others and even to ourselves (perhaps most particularly to ourselves) is not what we really believe.   

Society teaches us that in order to be successful in life we need to be polite, considerate, careful, and thoughtful in how we express ourselves.  Add to these general social admonitions, those of specific faith-communities, professional roles, class and social norms, and local cultural practices, we can unwittingly end up masking our real thoughts behind a veneer of niceness and political correctness.   We do this so automatically and so habitually that we may not even recognize that what we are saying, the words that we use with the outside world and in our internal thoughts, are not reflective of what we genuinely, really believe. 

This is where the power of the word "really" is increasingly coming into play.  In serious discussions of high trust, we are free to ask the other - really?   "Really" becomes an invitation to move beyond social expectations and verbal habits to something deeper, something more genuine, something more vital to understanding.   When we or the other shares what we are really thinking or feeling, we have entered into sacred space.

We are also free to ask ourselves - really!?!  What do I really think about this?  What do I really want in this situation?  What is really going on here?  Do I really mean what I am saying?  Is this really the right thing to do?   What do I really believe without the overlay of social expectation and norm?  "Really" is a call to deeper thought.  "Really" is a call to deeper honesty.  "Really" is the call to greater authenticity, integrity, and well-being.

How do you take advantage of the power of "really"?  I believe there are three ways.  First, create for yourself the habit of asking yourself about what you really think, feel, believe.  For myself, this is part of my daily journaling practice.  Capturing my thoughts, going deeper into my thinking, not letting myself off the hook with the easy, glib, and socially acceptable answer brings forth greater insight and honesty. 

Secondly, seek out individuals that you trust and with whom you are willing to share what you are really thinking,  believing, and feeling.  Enter into dialogue, real dialogue.  Finally, be the kind of friend, mentor, colleague, parent, healer, or teacher who can ask and receive with love and tenderness, the "really" answers of others.  Handle these disclosures with care for we are all, regardless of role, rank, age, or position, vulnerable when we are really ourselves.

A psychologist said to me, there are only two important questions you have to ask yourself. What do you really feel? And, what do you really want? If you can answer those two, you probably can leave your neuroses behind you.
— Harold Ramis