If You Are Going Through Tough Times and You Are Not Being Supported and Heard
This is what might be happening and how to solve it
Have you ever been in dire straits? Have you ever found yourself in such a situation that you were not able to solve easily? Have you been going through stressful events, or even crises, such as a job loss, death in the family, or perhaps fallen on hard times?
Tough times can befall anybody; tough times that are full of strife, difficulty, or uncertainty. It’s those times when everything you do just kind of flops, and it feels like your life is going downhill, which can have you suffering from severe fear, anxiety, or depression.
If this rings a bell, chances are you have been asking for help from others. Or sharing your pain, worries and concerns. A burden shared is a burden halved.
How did the people who had been made aware of your situation react? Have any of them used phrases such as:
- Time heals all.
- Try to look on the bright side.
- Someone out there has it worse than you.
- This too shall pass.
- What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
- Let it go already/Just move on.
- You are handling it like a queen/king.
- Everything is part of the unfolding plan for the universe.
- God works in mysterious ways.
- You are stronger than this.
- Everything happens for the best.
- That’s better than nothing?
Sounds familiar? How did it make you feel? Better or worse? Did you feel like you were being heard, accepted and acknowledged? Understood? Or did it trigger feelings of isolation, loneliness, and separation?
Such phrases are referred to as thought-terminating clichés. They serve as rhetorical devices, rather than authentic and well-thought advice.
The problem with these statements is that they are generic, overused and give off a vibe of a robotic answer. Sometimes people mean well when they use any of these expressions as they just do not know any better. Since thoughts are part of the general cultural space, most people have taken them over from others and do not give them a second thought. They say things unintentionally.
However, sometimes people use these phrases to brush others off. For example, when people say It’s all good, it’s rarely all good. But saying that brings the conversation to an end. People use it when they look for an easy way out.
And that’s the better scenario. For example, take the expression It’s all relative. What does it mean? What is relative to what? How does that provide any solution or offer any answer? You guessed it right, it does not. Some of the thought-terminating clichés can actually be used to manipulate others or situations.
In the light of this, the thought-terminating clichés do not seem so innocent anymore. They are actually a form of loaded language. In the end, all thought-terminating clichés have this in common. They imply that the situation cannot be changed or they reduce and over-simplify issues.
These phrases are a way of rejecting or dismissing someone’s feelings. And such invalidation sends the message that a person’s subjective emotional experience is inaccurate, insignificant, and/or unacceptable.
How to Handle Thought-Terminating Cliches
Context matters in these situations, of course. If you are talking to a trusted person and you are sure that you will be heard eventually, allow thoughts in. Reopen the discussion, and consider explaining why such phrases are not helpful. Often people will be surprised to hear that, and will genuinely be glad they have learned something new.
If you feel that you are being brushed off and the thought-terminating clichés are used as a form of conversation suppression, perhaps your companion is not the kind of friend you thought they were. Or they have too much going on in their own life and are genuinely unable to help at the time.
Whatever the reason, once you are able to recognize the thought-terminating cliches and acknowledge when someone is using them, you are better equipped to assess whether a conversation is worth pursuing or not. Be prepared to end the conversation if they do not hear you or want to hear you. It will save you time and heartbreak of looking for help in the wrong places.
What to Say Instead of Thought Terminating Cliches
Everyone will suffer at some point, but none of us deserves to have our sufferings dismissed as inconsequential or worthless. Using the thought-terminating clichés can be detrimental to the mental well-being of the person who is going through hard times. To show others that you are loving and compassionate and validate their feelings or emotions, try using any of these phrases :
- Your pain is totally OK to feel.
- Your feelings matter.
- I understand why you feel this way.
- This must be so painful.
- I totally understand that you’re upset.
- How can I help you?
- Is there anything I can do to make it better?
All of these phrases say I hear you. I see you. I get it. I care about your feelings. They tell the other person that you do not want to cover up or silence their human experience and what they are going through. Using such language helps us all to live authentically with ourselves and with the world.
About the author
Writing about well-being, self-care and psychology. Occassional poet and fiction writer. Based in Prague. Passionate about coffee, yoga, reading and Toastmasters. Native speaker of Czech, fluent in English (as a second language).