Human nature is to want to make people feel better when they feel bad. There are just a couple of problems with this. The first one is that people can only feel better if they have thoughts that create positive emotions. We can offer thoughts to them, but they choose whether or not to believe them. The second problem is that emotions, positive or negative, are like lights on our car dashboard. They give us information about what’s going on inside. So if we just get distracted from our emotions or try to resist them, it turns off the lights prematurely, and we may be missing an important warning light.
I, like most people, have an urge to try to “make” someone feel better when they are sad or having other negative emotions. However, I remind myself, “I don’t have to make this all better.” Most of the time people know what to do to feel better. The answers are inside of them, and just having someone to talk it out to helps them come to their own answers. (We tend to think that good listeners are very wise because after we talk to them we have come to some answers that were inside of us all along, but it feels like they gave us the answers.)
Next time someone is upset, instead of telling them all of the reasons they don’t need to be upset, maybe ask some questions. Let them tell you details and more details. Be curious of how they are going solve this problem, or what thoughts are causing these emotions, or if they’re going to choose to just feel negative emotions for awhile, and know that you don’t have to make it all better.
Emotions aren’t harmful. They are just chemicals released by your brain traveling through your body that create sensations that are sometimes pleasurable and sometimes uncomfortable, very uncomfortable. But emotions can’t hurt you, so just take a few deep breaths and feel them. Another time I can talk to you more in detail about how to do this, and why it’s so important, but for now, you don’t have to feel all better.