I am told this so many times in my life, along with “you’re too sensitive” and “you worry too much”.
Just the other day I posted in a Facebook SAD support group about how I was feeling really low, reaching out for some support. I was upset to see people “liking” my post, especially now that we have other emojis we can use that are a bit more compassionate than giving the thumbs up to someone who’s just poured their heart out. I commented that on this and was told that I was reading too much into it and people were just acknowledging that I had posted.
There is is again “you’re reading too much into this”.
All of these phrases basically say “I don’t really care how you are feeling, your reaction is wrong”.
One of the many things I have learnt over the last few years is the power of validation. This is where we allow the person to feel what they are feeling and show that we care. We may not agree with their reasons, we may think they are over reacting, but in that moment the only thing that will help is to validate what they are experiencing in the moment.
When you tell someone that their feelings are wrong you cause one of two things; either you become part of the problem in the person’s mind, or you force them to invalidate themselves and feel self hate or shame.
How does this help?
Let’s face it, it doesn’t.
So, what do you do when you’re faced with someone who is really struggling and, from where you are standing, it’s not that big a deal?
First of all, allow them to feel the way they feel without trying to tell them they are wrong. Show that you see they are struggling and that you care that they are feeling so bad. Give them a hug, make them a cup of tea, give them a moment of your time. If it feels appropriate join them in trying to find a way to move forward, but the simple step of validating their feelings will work wonders.
Making someone wrong is never going to help. Try to remove these phrases from your vocabulary and work to help rather than hinder a person’s recovery. If this isn’t possible, just stay silent, even that is less damaging.