When we see someone who is hurting emotionally, we instinctively want to cheer them up. But often times, our attempts fail. Why is this? Well, sometimes just trying to focus on the positive actually glosses over the enormity of the situation and it may end up being an unintentional act of invalidation. In a sense, not being allowed to process or grieve negative emotions usually ends up hurting us more in the end anyways.
Adding Perspective
Avoiding the negative and focusing on the positive is oddly counterproductive, because not acknowledging our pain becomes an endless cycle of escapism until we actually confront the discomfort. This is fairly common in people who engage in excessively hedonistic lifestyles after a tragedy (binge drinking, binge eating, hypersexuality, shopping constantly, etc.). Sometimes, just expressing a “that really sucks” sentiment goes a lot further than reminding somebody of what they should be grateful for. Other times, being a quiet supporter in the background can be effective because the grieving individual may need some distance to process things on their own time and would just love to have a nice, calming experience with a friend who he or she may enjoy. Not everybody wants to have the attention and emphasis on the problem or situation. Acknowledgment and creating a neutral, zone is often the best remedy to give someone emotional support.
Thoughts for the Week
The key to understanding another person is to pay attention to subtle cues and play it by ear as to what kind of support the person may want or need from you as opposed to what you think a person may want or need. In a similar vein, it’s also important to remember that even if a person does not accept your brand of support, it usually doesn’t have much to do with you, but that the individual is dealing with things in his or her own way. Thus, it’s rarely personal. Life can be tough, but the support from those around us can make all the difference!