On my adventures here in Florida, I’ve met some really great people—and yes, I’m having a fabulous time! At an event the other day, I was talking with a couple of women. We were doing the usual who are you, what do you do routine. One woman (we’ll call her Jill) was still reeling from the unhappy ending of her twenty-something year marriage six months before. She said it had been a big deal for her to even come to the event since she didn’t get out much, but sitting at home alone wasn’t easy either.
Oh, I know how that feels! Dealing with the emotional, physical and financial fallout from a divorce can be a big challenge. Redefining yourself as a result of the it can be even bigger. We chatted a bit and I told her it would get better—she would feel better. I mentioned how hard it had been for me to go to the movies alone during my dark times.
Before I could finish, however, the other woman (Wanda) interrupted. “Every time I go to one of these things, somebody says something like that.” She shook her head in disgust and added a “you poor pathetic things” kind of sigh. “I just don’t get it. It’s not a big deal.” Wanda then proceeded to tell how she’d never been married but had had a couple of relationships, and when they’d broken up, she’d simply snapped out of it and moved along.
Well, okay, great—good for her. Glad she was able to do that, but when I was feeling gutted like a fish with my heart laid out for the world to see, I sure couldn’t. For those of us who’d been married for decades and then suddenly found ourselves not—and very alone—these things are very big deals. Wanda, however, had been single her whole life—that’s who she’d always been—so being alone was normal. Totally different experiences. One view isn’t right and the other wrong, just different. It would have been just as ridiculous for Jill to insist that Wanda needed to pull back and grieve feelings she didn’t have as it was for Wanda to think Jill should just snap out of it.
It’s easy to tell others to just “get over it” when you’re not the one who’s drowning in the middle of the emotional swamp—especially a swamp you’ve never had to navigate. Now, we all need wakeup calls—and I am The Tough Love Coach and those are my specialty—but just saying “get over it” doesn’t help. You’ve got to get clear on why you feel as you do so you can make peace with it and move forward. Until you do that, all the “snap out of it” and “get over it” comments just make things worse.
No matter how stupid, pathetic or ridiculous they might “seem,” your feelings are real and you’ve got to acknowledge and validate them before you have any chance of “getting over” them. Jill was already feeling bad enough about herself without Wanda implying that a stronger, better and more competent woman such as herself wouldn’t be thinking and feeling such silly things and would have the world by the tail.
After talking with both women for a while, I was pretty sure the only tail Wanda had the world by was a seriously negative one. Andy any “snap out of it and stop wallowing in self-pity” talk she felt compelled to give needed to be directed in the mirror. Because, unlike Jill, Wanda complained about everything—not one positive statement, seriously. And, she wasn’t looking for solutions either—there were none; she’d tried everything. She didn’t want things to be different. She was quite happy being miserable, thank you very much.
So, the bottom line is that someone like Jill who is fresh in the pain of a devastating experience needs validation and support—she needs to know it’s okay to have the feelings she is and that she can heal. On the other hand, someone like Wanda who has been complaining for years about the same old things and won’t do anything about them definitely needs a “snap out of it” talk. Then, once she’s off her high horse and out of muck of her own making, she too can face up to the reality of what is really going on in her life—and why. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll find the courage to fix it so she can truly be happy.
So, sure, snap out of it! Just know what that really means for you and do what you need to.