Stop Trying to Cheer Me Up

This article on dispenses, in my opinion, some very accurate information. It talks directly about people with “low self-esteem” but, hey, that’s one of the side affects of depression so I think it applies. Here are a few snippets:

[R]esearchers found that people with low self-esteem don’t want to hear your platitudes, and would prefer friends and loved ones see them as they see themselves. “Those with low self-esteem actually reject the so-called ‘positive reframing,’ or expressions of optimism and encouragement, most of us offer to them” …

Despite good intentions designed to boost spirits, people with low self-esteem “are simply more comfortable wallowing” in their misery, she adds. “What we think is well-intentioned support is really alienating for them. They feel as if people don’t understand their issues and don’t accept their feelings. It almost demonstrates a lack of caring.”

Here, I think I must take an exception or two. First, “wallowing” is never comfortable in a depression. It is agonizing. As I said here, “it consumes our time, our energy, our mood, and threatens to literally destroy us.” Second, saying something is “comfortable” seems, to me, to imply a choice. Yet, for me there was simply no choice to make. The “wallowing” was literally all I could do.

I do, however, agree with the rest of the paragraph. “The sun will come out tomorrow” aphoristic platitudes really are alienating. And depression is already so incredibly alienating to begin with. They do show a lack of understanding and caring because, to be honest, I’m not sure tomorrow will ever get here. What these trite nothingisms fail to take into consideration is that, when I’m depressed, I have no future so there is no tomorrow so there will be no sun!

The study showed that low self-esteem individuals would actually prefer “negative” validation, or an acknowledgement that their feelings are normal, reasonable and appropriate to whatever situation has them feeling down.

Ditto for depression. Trying to cheer me up is the same as trying to fix me which is the same as saying “you’re broken and that’s not ok.” Unfortunately, that’s a common mass attitude toward a lot of things that are deemed abnormal. To be honest, if you can’t or don’t want to empathize and try to understand what I’m going through, just keep moving along. I’d much rather you flat out ignored me than tried to cheer me up with drivel.

3 responses to “Stop Trying to Cheer Me Up

  1. Yup, positive reframing is an un-asked for solution in the moment when what is wanted is presence, connection, empathy. Or as the Nonviolent Communication principle states, “connection before solution.” Positive reframing is a lot like “Don’t complain. Let’s brush that under the carpet.”

    • “Connection before solution.” I like that. Also sounds like sound advice when dealing with political issues, racial issues, gender issues, transgender issues, cultural issues, etc., etc., etc.

      Thanks for reading and sharing!

  2. My husband left me unexpectedly in September after 18 years. I was blindsided -clueless. It’s been horrible, a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Mostly I feel sad, hurt and betrayed. It’s not just that he left me but he also broke apart our family w/out consulting me.. I walk around crying, on & off all day. I felt hollow, like a shell of myself during the fall-it’s slightly better now but still a lot of crying and shame. I’ve lived with depression, abandonment issues and trauma since I was a child-this brought it all swirling back. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful therapist as I don’t have many friends. I’ve never been a confident person. I’ve been sober and in AA for 24 years but I mostly keep to myself-the few women I talk to (friendly but not really friends) frequently interrupt me and tell me, “This too shall pass”, “This is God’s Will” “This will make you stronger” and other ridiculous platitudes that feel empty and don’t help. I know this will pass – but when, I want to say. I can’t tell you how many times they’ve repeated the same things. “you’re a good mom! hang in there! This after I’ve been crying in front of my son for 6 months. I realize they don’t know what to say to me-they are uncomfortable with the depth my feelings, my sadness. I just want people to listen-they don’t need to agree with me when I say I’m worried about the future, the change in my finances, after 16 yrs cause one of us wants out-2 of us have to move from the home we love. I’m upset that at my age I’ll suddenly be worrying about money & supporting my son, who will want me at 53-especially as I not only don’t drink but I’m alcoholic? I don’t need them to sit and dispel me of all of it-It’s ok if they spend some time trying to help me reframe negative thinking but In my heart I really wish they’d just listen….and without looking away when I speak. I’ve noticed that when I speak about my situation people look down, away, any place but my eyes. Often I feel as if I’ve said something that’s considered too personal or shameful and they must look away. This happens in person and at AA meetings. I always try to look people in the eye-especially when they’re pain-I’ve always thought that’s when they need that contact the most, so I don’t understand it and it bothers me. I’ve taken away a lot from this experience about really listening to people-I don’t think people want you to rush in fix their problems, they just want someone to really listen and be present without passing judgment…

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