A little note for people who are enduring a rough patch:
The advice. Land sakes. It will roll in like some freakishly giant wave, with you a tiny person clinging to a life preserver, ill equipped for the conversation that lies ahead and even more ill equipped for the sneaky whiplash this chat will give you.
When someone is in trouble, people get distressed and they want to help. It’s brilliant. What’s not brilliant is that difficult life situations are so nuanced that “out of the box” advice or judgements very, very rarely apply.
I, for one, love it that people care deeply enough to want to assist the person going through something perilous. I love that intention so freaking much. But the problem with advice is that it can often leave the struggler feeling a) misunderstood b) judged and/or c) confused.
Advice can ring in the sad person’s ears for days, weeks even months as they try to slot the pieces of their life back together. Particularly jarring sentence may stay stuck for years.
While it can be tempting to presume that the most accurate bits of bracing advice indicate the biggest truths, sometimes they actually indicate the biggest assumptions the well-meaning person has made. Or it might indicate the most oft-heard phrase from a self-help book or narrative from a movie.
When people are in trouble, these kinds of hopefully trotted out responses often make the person giving the advice feel empowered, because let’s face it, it’s horrendous not being able to help someone you care about when they’re having a crap time. But they very, very often make the person who’s trying their best to stay afloat to feel even more isolated.
Gosh. It’s hectic, right? I know. Sigh.
Advice is really problematic and doesn’t help the giver or receiver as much as either would hope.
The alternative to advice is listening and staying constant – and if you are a person having a tough time, I am betting this is what you need from the people in your life (at those time when you feel okay about being around people, that is.)
I don’t bring this up to critique the advice-givers. Rather, I wanted to let you know that if getting advice is making you feel WORSE, not better, it doesn’t mean you are weird. It means you are human and you need to be listened to – not told.
If advice has you rehashing things in ways that feel a bit panicked or feeling retraumatised as you relive dark days. If advice has you feeling like you need to comply with someone else’s plan for you or be rejected. If advice has you feeling like you need to FIX yourself in worrying ways you had not even thought of before the advice. If advice has you feeling 127 times more confused than before the advice. If advice has you heading under the doona and sobbing your heart out.
YOU ARE NORMAL.
Sometimes, very occasionally, a person who has the matching heart, brain and history/parallel life to us can help us make choices in difficult times, and not feel worse. But honestly, they’re few and far between magical sparkling genie type people. Most of us regular humans are not really qualified or enough across every single aspect of our struggling friend/family member’s life to give them truly informed ideas of ‘where to next’ or how they should fix themselves/their situation.
Things don’t play out like they do on TV or in books. Real human lives have all kinds of variables and challenges that mean the go-to fix-it strategies very often do not apply.
If you’re spending time with people who want to help you, but are not sure how to stop the wave of advice pummelling you into a bobbing, sobbing, sand in your underpants mess, it can be good to give some direction and to keep your inner circle small.
Be careful with your sad self and don’t feel you have to rush back towards social connections and friendships when you’re not quite ready.
It’s okay to tell those closest to you that you can’t cope with advice or opinions about your situation just yet. It’s okay to let them know that their excellent big listening ears is about all you can cope with at the moment. And to tell them that having someone who is kind and present and able to sit and nod would be the very best thing as you put one foot in front of the other.
Say “I am feeling fragile. I just need someone to listen and be there, without giving me advice. I just need to unburden a bit and feel cared for – and not judged or fixed.”
Okay. That’s pretty long-winded, I’ll admit, but you get the picture.
My point is – give yourself permission to NOT TAKE ADVICE.
And if you do find yourself on the receiving end of some well-intentioned words of wisdom give yourself permission to feel like you’ve been swept under again, because this is what advice can do. It’s not YOUR FAULT. It’s not the advice-giver’s fault. Rather, this is a thing that happens and it’s okay to feel knocked about by it, and to give yourself some time to recover.
All the sympathetic squeezes to you, friend. xx
[ From When Life Is Not Peachy ]