There are two kinds of advice: that which is based on your ego and needs and that which is based on someone else’s ego and needs.
Those people who tell you that their mother/father/grandmother/brother/neighbor had the same illness and how painful it was or the other horrible outcomes of similar situations: that is based on their ego and needs. The same type of people will tell you how to raise your kids, question why you did not have a budget, just take a pill, or were not prepared for the emergency. These kinds of statements are meant to minimize your fear and pain and prove that the other person has already been through it, read about it, seen it, and it is no big deal. But yes, they want you to know, it will be terribly painful and last a long time. That is not helpful. That allows them to prove that their knowledge is somehow superior.
You can antagonize, minimize, quantify, suppose, brush it off, equivocate, assume, and control when the priority is the person’s ego.
If someone tells you that they had a family member with an illness and how difficult it can be, and to please call if you ever want to talk about it, or be consoled, with a brief layer of sheltering: that is helping you ~ and takes their ego right out of it.
You can console, comfort, endear, protect, commiserate, empathize, and share when the priority is the person in pain.
Comfort is so hard to find when everything seems so bleak. Whether your pain is mental, emotional or physical, it is real and hurts very deeply. If the other person is not bothered by heartache, depression, unemployment, financial woes, or other tragedies, then more power to them. If they think you could overcome all by just snapping out of it or pulling up your bootstraps, it is not about you: it is all about them and their ego.
Genuine caring takes the focus off the person giving advice, and places it, gently, on the shoulders and into the hands of the one who deserves support. The words or actions have the ability to transcend anguish, if only for a moment, as there are now two souls bearing and holding the weight.
False sympathy nods its knowledgeable head and speaks in trite clichés, metaphors, and assurances that they have felt exactly what you have felt and it will pass. In this moment, and future ones, you can never know exactly what another’s feelings are, unless you are listening and not dispensing advice. Massaging your own ego is not the same as opening your hands to hug, to comfort, to embrace someone else in their weakest moments.
Time is endless and advice is circular. How long will this go on? How long will I feel this way? These open ended questions must compete with “I know. I have been there and back. Been there, done that.” These are the words that allow someone else to feel stronger. In the darkness of a tragedy, the anguish of some kind of loss, or despair, someone else’s false nature and hollow words stand out even clearer than when we are strong enough to ignore the superficial.
Comfort must be genuine. Caring must come from the heart and soul. Empty words come from the ego. I know the difference. Cry with me. Listen to me. Hug me. Let me speak. Your ego will not become smaller if you let someone else’s needs come first for a change, but it won’t take up all the space in the moment either.
Thank you for stopping by! It means more than you know.