Even the happiest of people show their darkest feelings. A death in the family, extraordinary life circumstances, or just a sudden change in brain chemistry can trigger a landslide of emotion. Our friend transforms before our eyes: who is this statue of a person who lays on the couch with a long face all day, and what did they do with our best friend?
Validate their feelings.
It doesn’t matter whether your friend’s dilemma is huge or tiny. Their emotional response is valid regardless. They could display symptoms of distress, depression, or fiery rage. Ensure that you avoid statements such as these below that can make a person feel unheard or invalidated:
If it makes you feel better, I’ve had worse.
It’s not that bad.
Don’t be sad.
Just be positive.
Other people have it worse than you.
As a note: Positivity and gratitude are essential to live joyous lives. However, as humans, we all through tough times. Your friend is human being and has the right to feel these negative emotions. When we guilt people into positivity or gratitude (e.g. you should be grateful, other people have it way worse), we often trigger an internal shame reaction (e.g. I’m bad for feeling bad). This can push them down further into their spiral of negativity, rather than bringing them comfort with love and care.
You won’t get stuck or buried in emotion if you allow the emotion to rise. On the contrary, we allow emotions to leave our bodies when we let them come up to the surface. Burying our pain only invites it to show up again and again, without our consent.
This quote from Pema Chodron explains this concept:
“Resistance to unwanted circumstances has the power to keep those circumstances alive and well for a very long time.”
“It sounds like you’re feeling helpless.”
“I hear that you feel angry about what happened. I’m right there with you.”
This allows the person to feel heard. Remember to accept your friend’s right to feel any way they are. Give them permission to cry without feeling like they have stop; just let them get it out and release the associated emotions and occurrences.