Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Why Saying "It's All Okay" Isn't That Reassuring

It's a gut instinct.  Someone tells you about something bad which has happened and we automatically seek to minimize or dismiss it.  Doctors always order these kinds of tests, I'm sure you'll get another job quickly, this could be a great opportunity for you.  We don't like seeing people hurt, especially not those we care about, and thus we want to make it better.

Sometimes, that's exactly what people need.  They want someone to tell them it's not as bad as they thought.  The ex-boyfriend was a jerk and you're better off without him.  The job was a dead end.

However, there are situations where pain is the appropriate response.  Constant messages to "look on the bright side" or 'it's not as bad as  you think' end up leaving the person feeling isolated and pressured into putting on a false front.  Or feeling as if they can't cope as well as other people.

I deal with a lot of newly diagnosed parents in my job and while I tell them that things will get better, I don't make the mistake of telling them everything is okay.  They need the hope to know it won't always be this overwhelming and frightening (and it won't) but they also need someone to acknowledge that it is overwhelming and frightening right now.  I think that's why they can accept what I'm saying.  I've been there and I'm not making any promises of an easy ride but I am saying it's possible to get their feet back on the ground and start moving forward.

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