The need or desire to fix something that is broken, even another person is a pretty strong instinct. However should that desire override the feelings of the person that they are trying to fix? If a person is ‘just trying to help’ then does that mean that we need to grin and bear it?
I’m in two minds about this one. On one hand I think that when you put it out into social media specifically, that you have to expect that there are going to be people who are going to offer their help and suggestions. However on the other hand I think it’s not fair to expect someone who is feeling mentally unwell to have to take all advice in case someone feels offended. I think in the second case, that it’s presumptuous to expect them to ‘see the light’ with a suggestion you have made.
It is my belief that one of the most important things you can do for a person who opens up to you about their struggles with their mental health is to listen. However that doesn’t translate well on social media. People have different understandings of what ‘listening’ is and sometimes not knowing what to say leaves a deafening silence. In person of course there is the non verbal cues can help, especially when you don’t know what to say.
Listening doesn’t fix anything though and I think that is what makes it so good. I know for me personally, when I talk to Paul about something that has been going on with me lately, the moment he starts trying to ‘fix’ it, that is when I shut down. I feel like screaming at him (and I have on one or two occasions) that I don’t want him to fix it, I just want him to listen. It seems like a foreign concept to him.
While I think that offering suggestions definitely has its place, and I don’t think that people should be shouted down for offering their help, I think it’s also important to remember that sometimes an ear or a supportive ‘sending love’ can be enough. Sometimes it really is enough to know that you are being heard, that what you are feeling is pretty crappy but people are their to support you.
Next time you see a tweet or a facebook status from someone who is struggling, try to pay attention to what they are asking for. Sometimes a sympathetic reply is enough, and the beauty (and sometimes the downfall) of social media is that you don’t have to engage if you don’t feel comfortable.
What do you say when someone is struggling? Do you feel the need to fix a loved one’s problems?