People are so quick to say I’m stubborn when it comes to the wording used towards those who are in pain, that I am super defensive for no reason. But there is a reason – I’ve been on the receiving end of hurtful words, and had my intentions questioned too many times in my life not to be instinctively defensive. I’ve also been the one to say hurtful things due to my own pain, so I understand where some of it may come from. I won’t cut them off at the first opportunity and take away an opportunity for them to take accountability. And I don’t always defend right away because I don’t want to jump to conclusions about what is truly happening for another person. And I don’t always think that what is comforting to me is going to be comforting for another person. But leaving someone without anywhere to turn for comfort is never okay, in my opinion. Which is why I always aim to ask instead of assuming. It isn’t me attempting to aggressively question anyones motives. It is my way of trying to ascertain what it is someone may need without jumping to provide a solution that may be more harmful than helpful. There are certain motivational phrases and quotes that I find motivating, and others that I find discouraging or disingenuous. And what I find motivating and encouraging others might find discouraging or disingenuous based on their personal values and upbringing. Forcing someone else to live by your own is manipulative and abusive.
This past week, I was contemplating on why certain phrases people said to me after a really bad breakup weren’t helpful even though I know they may have meant well when they said them. There was no one asking what I wanted, what I needed that would make me feel better. They assumed I was fine. And the impact of some of these phrases are so subtle in their differentiation that it’s understandable. That doesn’t make the impact any less painful or traumatic. Most of the “support” I received was just validating my worst fears and preyed on my insecurities.
One phrase that has bothered me for years, and still does to this day is when someone says to move on after a painful experience. It comes across as dismissive, and invalidates that someone is still in any emotional distress. In my opinion it also seems to demand that you are able to immediately process your feelings, come to a conclusion and go on with life as it was before. And that just isn’t realistic, especially if this phrase is said to someone dealing with trauma. I honestly think this phrase is said more to satisfy the one saying it, because they are uncomfortable seeing someone else in pain and don’t want to (or maybe can’t) reconcile with how much of that suffering they may be at fault for due to blindly following different harmful systems of oppression. That is their own shit to deal with and it isn’t fair to put that discomfort on someone else.
I’ve also seen several places online claim that the phrase, “Move on,” isn’t dismissive of pain or that the pain didn’t exist, just that someone or something isn’t worth the pain. And that still doesn’t resonate with me. Because it is saying someone only has worth if they never ever cause anyone pain at all. And that also is not realistic. It comes off a little delusional to expect to go an entire lifetime without any painful experiences at all ever.
The fix to me is simple and so, so subtle: saying to move FORWARD instead of demanding someone move ON. Move forward comes across as much more compassionate, kind and caring. It acknowledges that someone is still hurting and in pain. But it also encourages them to process those feelings in a way that is less shameful, working on dealing with those hurt parts in pieces safely over time so that they are not overwhelmed and flooded with emotions. It doesn’t demand immediate answers or conclusions and allows for real inner peace and relational healing, in my experience. It also acknowledges that sometimes the things that caused their pain maybe weren’t entirely their fault. Maybe it was, but is shame really the only motivator we can use to get someone to take responsibility? That seems to be causing way more harm in our society and in our interpersonal relationships than I think we’re really ready to admit.