As we welcome the new year there has been numerous statements and dialogues about 2020 and one of the funnies made me smile but also got me pondering on the impact.
2019 Stay away from negative people. 2020 Stay away from positive people.
I have been observing the detriment of being positive for some time and see the harmful impact all the time in my counselling rooms. It has been very interesting to see the need to prop everyone up, the constant wishful reassurance and the over the top hopeful dialogue to convince that all will work out.
Gratefulness, positivity and being hopeful are useful and are not the issue here. It’s the fact that without even realising you can discount others experiences in the process of being overly positive.
Have you ever been through an experience and felt like people don’t understand, you feel like an alien for having that reaction and what ever you say is overlayed with a ‘she’ll be right mate’ attitude? or some sort of cliche or quote are supposed to make it all feel better.
That’s what can happen even with the best intentions of being supportive. The thing is, life is the whole spectrum of emotions, experiences, behaviours and reactions and while it may be uncomfortable , awkward, a bit heavy or dark it is so so important that you acknowledge where you are at. If you avoid, discount and stuff it down or put it aside, it will reveal itself in other ways.
When you are with others who are expressing something, please watch your reactions to their experiences. Are you trying to rev them up with positivity to make them to feel better? Have you made it about your own experiences? Are you really listening to what they are saying?
One of the biggest detrimental things we have going on at the moment in our world is the expectation that life is perfect, we ‘should’ all over ourselves and have an unrealistic view that life needs lovely sunshine and rainbows all of the time. We not only do this to others but ourselves too. It needs to stop.
Please avoid discounting statements or words to the effect of…
There are people worse off – this totally discounts the idea that you are valid to have the feelings your have
I know someone who… and then rabbit on about someone elses experience
Things happen for a reason… At least…. Or any other finding reasons to justify
You can chose how you feel (don’t get me started on this one!) It just about your mindset, think positive and it will all be okay
Some useful things to do instead…
Acknowledge what they are feeling, right here, right now. Repeat it back to show your understanding or to get clarification if its something different to what you think.
Instead of saying let me know if you need anything – Ask – What do you need right now?
The most important thing you can do is be present and listen with your whole being.
Remember you don’t have to fix it – listen, seek help with anything that needs further professional knowledge. If my friend had a broken leg, I wouldn’t try and deal with that myself, I would do first aid, then call an ambulance and they would then take them where they need to get the best care – same goes for mental health.
Don’t underestimate your presence and the ability to help someone by being available in the moment and taking it from there together.
My wish for 2021 is that you can acknowledge the reality that life isn’t always smooth sailing – it is life. That you are validated for having experiences that are not all that fun to deal with but are a necessary part of life and that you can move forward, seek the help that you need to process and live this all of this thing called life.
And if you do need some more help and a space to unpack what is happening for you, I invite you to be in touch.