Our society’s fear of truth and pain and realness and emotions and depth divides us. It separates us and says “you feel your bad feelings and I’ll lighten the mood because I’m afraid of feeling it with you.” It denies empathy and keeps things at an arm’s length.
This is why I hate it.
If I’m opening up to you, and you’re allowing me to do so and I feel safe to do so, don’t then turn around and suddenly back out. Don’t now say that you can’t handle it, and so you’re going to lighten the mood with jokes or a change in conversation.
Worse still, don’t assume that I want or need you to. If I’m expressing something hard, it’s probably because I need to do so. It needs to come out and I feel safe doing so. You making a joke or shifting the tone doesn’t then help me at all. It just glosses over the situation or the feeling and leaves me feeling either misunderstood, rejected, denied, shunned, belittled or alone.
Of course, we can’t and shouldn’t aim to “fix” things for other people. It’s not our job to take the pain away or even allow someone else’s pain to become our own. That’s not fair or right to ask for.
But don’t push me away either.
Allow the mood to be as heavy or dark as is warranted for the situation. That’s real life. Some things are heavy and hard to handle, that doesn’t mean you should run or worse, run and leave me to deal with it alone.
- Ask if there’s anything you can do
- Listen and let me speak
- Comfort me
- Ask if there’s anything I need
- Say, “I know this is hard for you, and I’m here to support you through this“
- Be compassionate
- Don’t assume anything
- Practice empathy
So, rant over! I just want more people to embrace negative emotions and uncomfortable conversations. Think about it, if it’s uncomfortable for you to hear and be in these emotions, then it’s twice as bad for the person speaking and feeling these things.
You trying to lighten the mood isn’t kind or fair for someone you’re supposed to care about.