It Doesn't Matter If Others Have It ‘Worse’

Pain isn’t quantifiable, let alone comparable.

Jessica Ball
Nov 11, 2019 · 3 min read
Korney Violin on Unsplash

I’ve been enamored with the theme of ‘toxic positivity.’

I frequently return to it in my endless thought chews: the unintentional negating of someone’s truth in an attempt to soothe them.

In particular, I’ve been drawn to gratitude shaming as a point of interest. That’s basically where you lock on to a sad sushi roll friend and berate them with how good they have it until they cry out the safe word: thankful.

Doesn’t matter what they’re thankful for, your mission of steering the conversation toward comfortable subject matter is complete. Strap on the positivity blinders and sally forth to smooth hangouts.

Except by derailing situational processing and rerouting emotion, you may actually make their healing more difficult.

While gratitude is a splendid thing, by swiping a friend’s struggle off the table and essentially bullying them into fake optimism isn’t productive long-term.

Yes, they have things to be thankful for. But what about the validity of their low truth, right now? That has value, too. It’s part of their human experience, something to be honored and carefully put to bed in its time.

Lows can be scary for all parties involved, but they don’t have to be. Sitting with a loved one and acknowledging their pain makes it easier to set aside.

Pain is just another aspect of life, made bearable when others offer a loving, “I see you.” Being allowed to experience and share the full beautiful range of human emotion is where real healing hides.

So be thankful with your loves, just be sure to allow them their experience without comparing to others. That can lead to a whole host of negative self-talk you may never be privy to if you lose their trust.

People are messy. We’re supposed to be. Our wondrously complex emotions and intellects are operating largely without the roadmap of accepted science at this point in time.

And that makes compassion for ourselves and each other exponentially more important than hashtag emotional perfection.

While I hope to never linger in the deadly lows again, I’ve had to learn how to rein in the annoying optimism that saved my life. My silent self-talk requires it, my friends not so much.

I’m grateful for the loves who had the patience to guide me in how to help them through their own lows. The art of learning to sit in another’s truth is the closest I’ve come to feeling divinity.

I invite you to shift away from knee-jerk fear of the low, heavy end of the emotional spectrum. You don’t have to know what to say or do for a friend experiencing it, your presence and simple love language in your dialect is the only requirement.

“I see you. I don’t know what to say, but I’m here with you.”

Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Jessica Ball

Written by

City mouse in a country house, training the trauma out of the family tree. Sharing 20 years of intentional observation with my kids and the eternally curious.

a Few Words

A few words can change lives.

Jessica Ball

Written by

City mouse in a country house, training the trauma out of the family tree. Sharing 20 years of intentional observation with my kids and the eternally curious.

a Few Words

A few words can change lives.

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