“It could be worse.”
Every time I endure challenging moments, someone reminds me not to despair. That my already miserable situation isn’t as awful as it could be.
And I hate it.
The moral compass inside me is holding back the anger, stopping me from telling that person where to go. But I can’t ignore this urge. The frustration. The annoyance. The way I don’t feel any better at looking on the bright side. Or, as it’s technically known as, finding the silver lining on the dark cloud.
For a long time, I’ve listened to my moral compass. I’ve promised it that I will keep my cool. But lately, as life makes some very unfair swerves and turns, I don’t feel like finding the silver lining anymore.
And I’m telling the world that is ok.
What is a silver lining?
“Every cloud has a silver lining”
So many of us use this phrase without really know what we’re saying. The idea of a silver lining is engrained in our culture for as long as I can remember. We’re guilty of using it without knowing the impact of our words. It’s become something you say.
Silver linings are what we attribute to situations. We highlight something worth being hopeful about during an otherwise dismal situation. We, by doing this, hope to cheer the person up and make them feel better about their situation.
Silver linings are everywhere. Often someone will use the words “the silver lining is…” In those moments, we know what is happening. But often we aren’t presented with such clarity. The most used phrases are:
- “At least…” For example, “At least you still have your house”
- “It could be worse.” For example, “It could be worse. You could have lost your house.”
- “Think of the flip side…” For example, “Think of the flip side. You could have lost your house.”
- “On the bright side….” For example, “On the bright side, your house is still standing.”
There are many more, too many to list. As you can tell, the words ‘silver lining’ don’t require uttering for the intention to resonate.
Who ‘finds’ our silver linings?
There is a misconception about how silver linings occur in our life. We understand them to be there, they just exist, and it’s our role to find them. Yet, this isn’t the case. Far from it.
Silver linings are what people attribute to our situation on our behalf. It’s other people who highlight the positives in the negative situation. They analyse our situation with hope and pull out positive qualities we should focus on.
We rarely experience the hunt for silver linings during happy times in our life. They usually occur during our negative self speak. People hear us talking about an unfortunate event or circumstance and counter the argument.
We’re less likely to experience the opposite to silver linings, whatever that may be. We are less likely to have someone point out the negatives of a situation during good times. And if someone does, it’s usually social unacceptable and admonished by bystanders.
For some, it’s impossible to resist pointing out the positives. We’re conditioned to find them. We find them for other people in our life, as we’re all guilty of having done this to someone. In many ways, we’re ingrained to find silver linings. If we decide to be less of a silver lining generation, it’s going to be a hard habit to break.
What silver linings do for us
There are moments when finding the silver lining benefits us. It’s easy for us to become trapped in negative cycles, where we focus on only the bad things happening to us. As our negativity becomes unable to break, we need a reprieve, a way to cut the chain. Finding the silver lining can help us do this.
But it isn’t always guaranteed to work.
Silver linings, in my experience, do more harm than good. And it’s the mental health expert, Brene Brown, who articulates why perfectly.
But by trying to silver lining someone else’s pain completely invalidates her experience. It’s as if we are saying to the person, ‘Your pain is so trivial that mere words can change it.’
Invalidation is the concept that most resonates with me. It’s so easy for the people around us to trivialise what we’re feeling and to make it sound so insignificant. We have many episodes in our life when this happens to us, during times we aren’t suffering. Yet, when we’re at our lowest, we’re made to feel bad for feeling bad.
What is worse than the invalidation is the way people think they’re helping. The silver lining is never mentioned out of malice or harm to the person. It’s said to help or alleviate the negative situation. But many people don’t realise that they aren’t helping. They’re making the situation worse.
You don’t have to the hunter of silver linings
The wonderful thing about silver linings is that we don’t need to accept them in our lives. And I apologise for finding a silver lining in this issue. I’m conditioned, remember?
But what I’ve come to realise is that we are in control of silver linings. We have the ability to:
Stop finding the silver lining for other people
We can’t rightly object to someone treating us in a certain way that we do to others. It’s hypocritical to engage in this form of emotional torture and then reject it from others. We need to set the standard of behaviour if we intend to change it in the long run.
Quit acknowledging the silver lining in our situation when someone else finds them.
Every time someone utters a silver lining to me, I’ve found myself nodding along and agreeing with their observation. Very rarely have I stopped the other person to correct them. Or tell them that their silver lining hasn’t helped at all. I haven’t acknowledged the pain it’s causing me.
But as I approach my mid-thirties, I’ve learned silver linings need to stop and I have to be responsible. I need to tell people when to quit finding the joy that isn’t there. I need to let them know that their trivialising of my emotions and feelings isn’t supporting me. It’s hindering me.
And whilst I’m at it, I’ll put in a good word for you too. I’ll tell them to stop doing it to you. Because I know it isn’t helping you either.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. The silver lining isn’t curing your depression or sorting out your chemical imbalance. And it isn’t curing the bipolar you’ve had since birth.
I’ll make sure they know that silver lining doesn’t work for anyone.
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. I write about figuring about love and relationships by analysing my experiences. Some of the stories are altered to protect the people in my life. But my feelings are never compromised.
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