Don't Censor, Filter

 It's okay to filter. Censoring is what gets us into trouble. Photo by  Tyler Nix  on  Unsplash

It's okay to filter. Censoring is what gets us into trouble. Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

We censor ourselves. 

All the time. 

We have a suppression mechanism to protect us from embarrassment where we conveniently ignore or suppress things we would like to say or feel the need to say but don't know a way to say them so we say... nothing. We withdraw into our heads and retreat into a cold silence.

Or, in moments of conflict, we seek a quick end to the discomfort of the conversation so we appease the other person when we really have much to say. We say, "I'm sorry," when what we'd rather say is, "Fuck you!" Even if it isn't in those words, our anger, frustration, disappointment can be buried or directed elsewhere to avoid our own discomfort. This censoring, supposed to save us from trouble, actually causes its fair share. 

Uncommunicated feelings and expectations rot the core of meaningful relationships. Buried feelings become buried hurts and open wounds no one else knows about. We become increasingly divided between our light and our shadow, one hiding in our heads and the other out there in the open. Instead of filtering through our feelings to find what and how to communicate authentically, we stop the flow altogether.

You know, it's funny, but we often use the language of "unfiltered" to talk about authenticity, but I've found that my being authentic can be a very filtered experience. 

I may have intrinsic or instinctual reactions to events internally, but that doesn't mean I have to ride the wave of every passing thought or emotion with an ensuing action. My inner chaos isn't constantly expressed in the outer world. I can be with my feelings of anger, be with my feelings of concern, ask into my own reactions, "What parts of me are affected by this?" and "What do I really want?" There are moments where I trustingly say whatever pops into my head, and there are moments where I don't. I can choose, and that doesn't make me inauthentic, that shows I am a conscious being with awareness and depth. 

I'm thankful for filters. I enjoy drinking purified water. I appreciate drinking coffee that has a bold flavor without particulate matter in my cup. A strong pour-over? Hits the spot! It's the little things, right? The art of filtration when it comes to coffee (or tea, or whatever) is an art and a science that I enjoy working with. This is true of internal-life filtration as well.

However, I have yet to find a time where I'm thankful for censors. I have teased some of my friends and colleagues about their persistent use of euphemisms in conversation... "Why not just say the real thing?" Yet every time I am feeling angry does not mean I "must" lash out. I feel my anger and I look for the root of where it comes from, I become the filter to catch and release and be aware of it all. 

So the next time you start to shut down in a conversation, pause. Recognize your censoring mechanism and your default reactions. Be with them. Even verbally acknowledge them to your conversation partner: "I'm feeling ______. When this happens, my tendency is to ______. I'm working to stay present to this conversation." That's filtering. Authentically acknowledging what is happening with you instead of suppressing or lobbing, fighting or fleeing, whatever scurries across your internal field of view. 

Authenticity doesn't have to be unfiltered. We must, however, address our censor, get to the heart of the matter, and filter accordingly.