Inspirational cliches exist for a reason: there is often some wisdom behind the quick platitude. However, we tend to use them most often when those around us are feeling pain, depression, or just plain need our love and nothing more.
When we encounter bad experiences, we are quicker to respond than when we encounter positive things. This is a survival mechanism, from an evolutionary perspective. However, we live in the modern world, and just because our friends are in trouble doesn’t mean their lives are in danger.
The following are the things you will be tempted to say when a loved one is facing emotional distress, and why you should say something else instead. Or better yet, say nothing and give them a hug.
You Can Choose To Be Happy.
While this is partly true, and common advice in the world of spirituality, when it is said to someone who is already down it has the opposite effect of what is intended. Think about it: if you’re really struggling, what do you want to hear?
That you can wave a magic wand and reverse the emotions you’re feeling so deeply? This phrase, spoken at the wrong moment, is deflating, not uplifting.
This may be true, but not everyone believes it.
It is therefore unwise to speak it to someone in distress, who is having a hard time seeing the larger picture to begin with, unless you know for a fact that they believe it as well, and you are certain that they need a reminder.
Or better yet, leave it for another time. A good rule to follow when attempting empathy: when in doubt, say nothing.
When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade.
This phrase applies more to the myth of the ‘American Dream’ than to someone dealing with pain, grief, or etc. Everyone knows this saying, it is common. However, that does not make it true. For example: you can’t make lemonade when you are dealing with loss or sadness. The best you can hope to do is recover from what has happened to you. Again, zip mouth, throw away key, proceed with hug.
What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger.
This statement actually misinterprets a real psychological phenomenon, in which certain stressful situations (i.e. work, school, improvement-oriented situations) can enhance overall performance and make us grow as people.
However, a person’s resilience to extreme stress actually depends on personality. Simply, some are more resilient than others.
However, for the others, when something really bad happens, they tend to go down for the count.
Time Heals All Wounds.
This is the one phrase in this article that is patently untrue, and there’s no denying it. If someone is dealing with extreme grief, no amount of time will end that grief.
Sure, they may go on and put a good face on their life, but the hole inside them caused by that loss will always be there.
Lastly, the most unfortunate part of this saying is that it leads people to believe that if they never heal, then there’s something wrong with them.
All that time does is allow for one to come to a rational acceptance of their situation. This, of course, has nothing to do with emotions.