" The researchers, from the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, ran a bunch of experiments involving how to best support people with different levels of self-esteem. They found that so-called "positive reframing", which, as the name suggests, is an attempt to put negative events in their "proper" perspective, not only doesn't resonate with people with low self-esteem, but can actually fully backfire and make the "comforter" feel worse about themselves because their comforting is not working, potentially damaging their relationship with the person they're trying to comfort."Source : nymag.com
This got me thinking. Like real deep thinking…which went on for weeks…almost months.
What was I thinking? Or Did I even think? Yes – loads. Day and Night – non-stop!
Despite believing my understanding - I ended up using the typical – “positive reframing” way to deal with the situation. I guess we all do that. That’s the default way of dealing with a situation. We try to show the positive side of everything to someone in distress. It may or may not work. I am not saying it’s the wrong way of dealing. But we need to understand the situation before we bombard someone in distress – may be depression and anxiety or just low mood - with “Get over it”, “It’s not that bad” kind of reactions. There's a plethora of encouraging phrases most people turn to when trying to cheer up a friend or loved one.
I am guilty too.
I understood it the hard way. I had to introspect. I had to research. I had to read – loads. I had to experience it myself. Then only I could understand the difference and impact of “positive reframing” and "Negative validation". I am still struggling with differentiating between varied reactions that pop into my mind in real life situations. I still struggle with deciding on what’s right and what not. And more often than not I end up saying something which is not very welcome at that moment. But I am learning.
"Negative validation" — that is, "support behaviors that communicate that the feelings, actions, or responses of the recipient are normal and appropriate to the situation" — did resonate with people with low self-esteem."
"Negative validation" - is the way to be when you know your partner/friend needs more than just a ray of light to get her going . In such cases, the impact the “positive reframing” leaves is way worse and pushes away the person or leads to an invisible wall in between. Saying a “Cheer-up” turns out to be most negative thing to say at certain times. It might encompass the deepest and most genuine concerns you might have yet it backfires. You would most probably be left shattered and in tears at such times. But give it a moment and try to understand where it was coming from. It may sound a little counter-intuitive that some people would prefer not to be cheered up, but it really does make sense. Every negative event in their life seems to them as a reflection of their self worth. Hence any effort of telling them its not that bad may actually seem like a criticism of their own perceptions or feelings.
If you are the one in dip - this doesn't mean the friends or family trying to cheer you up are bad friends or partners, or that they lack empathy. In their favor - It can be exhausting dealing with someone who “appears” to simply refuse to feel better. In no way does that show people don’t care about each other. In no way does that reflect that the person doesn't understand your situation. Do not shoo them away for not being understanding enough.
How often have you been tempted to just say – Get over it. It will get better tomorrow! It’s a natural reaction when you see your loved one worrying about a past event or dreading a future one. On other side – its also natural that people are more inclined to think more negative and poorly about themselves in any given situation. And even more so - if they are going through a bad phase.
So when a loved one is having a rough phase (not in case its just a day once in a while), avoid telling him/her that things aren't so bad. The truth is if they feel its bad, its bad for them in some way. So what is appropriate is to just affirm that he/she has the reason to feel the way he feels. On the contrary, if you’re the one who’d rather not get any preaching, try to gently explain to your loved ones that what you really need is some sympathy and confirmation through a rough patch, rather than well-intentioned attempts to counteract it.