How often do people tell us to think and be positive when we tell them that we are feeling low about something? Not that there is anything wrong with being positive; it would be wonderful if we were all able to always count our blessings and ignore that gnawing feeling inside, hoping it will go away!
I truly believe in the power of positivity. However, I know from experience and training that to achieve a positive mindset, one has to first feel understood. We all need our feelings to be acknowledged by someone who cares for us. Thus, if I tell someone close to me that I feel sad, all I really want is for them to hear me out and maybe comfort me. It took me a long time to realize this and be able to verbalize this.
In my work, I frequently come across individuals who have lived their lives being told they are "overreacting", "too emotional" or of course to "THINK POSITIVELY". I believe that though well-intentioned, most people do not know how to help when someone close to them expresses sadness or any negativity. Therefore, in their attempt to "fix" the problem, they come up with solutions such as "be positive" or "don't cry". Really, all they need to do is sit down, calmly listen and try to understand. We are not meant to be anyone's "fixers", just companions through the good and not-so-good times.
I find that when I feel understood (and not told what to do), I am able to come up with my own solutions to problems at my own time and pace. Being validated and valued makes me feel more confident in my own ability to problem-solve rather than be dependent on others to do so for me!
I urge all of us to practice JUST listening, both with adults and children. Tears and sadness are not harmful; harm is caused by the feelings that fester unresolved, sometimes for years.
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Sujata V, Ph.D, MFT
Always Learning..through the good AND not-so-good times!