Strip Out The Nonsense Optimism
You hear a lot of meaningless platitudes when you hit hard times. It could be worse. It can only get better. Someone out there has it worse than you.
The first time I sought counselling through the NHS, I had to go through the young persons process and be assessed by someone face to face to decide which kind of therapy would best suit my needs. When he asked me why I was there, I said that I didn't feel like I had any other choice; I didn't know what else was there to do.
'Of course you have other options. Right now, we could walk out the building go down the road, and score some heroin1. Cope with your issues that way. You're choosing not to.'
That was a new one for me.
Similarly, I've been having a tough week with my anxiety. I hit a boiling point Friday night when I came home and just cried.
I decided to finally re-start my self-therapy this morning, and part of that is to list everything that's stressing me out. I write this out in different inks - black for the questions, blue for my notes and feelings, and red for any response to that. It took up best part of an A4 sheet of paper, and ended with 'I can't get it to stop.'
When I wrote that last line, I started at it for a few minutes, switched to my red pen, and wrote 'I haven't got it to stop yet. I have a 100% success record on getting it to stop eventually'.
Both have a tinge of nonsense optimism about them. They're equally as true as the idea that my life is better than those of the starving kids in Africa. But they feel more real, more concrete than the vague notions of worse circumstances and better times ahead. It's the difference between the store-bought greetings card and a personal message direct from the sender, and equally as effective.
Clichés have a place, that's why they last. But if you really want them to work, strip out the nonsense optimism. Make it personal. Make it real. And watch for that smile.
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And we almost definitely could. Within a 10 minute walk from the doctor's surgery was a street of houses priced individually over a million pounds, one of the best schools in the county, and a popular pick up spot for drugs and prostitutes. Not to mention the pub that later got closed down for selling pot and shrooms in the back, and the park a little further away affectionately known as the 'skag head park'. My town is nothing if not eclectic.↩