There’s a case to be made for positive thinking. It keeps your spirits up, helps you forge forward, gives you energy. It can lower rates of depression, increase your life span and even help you fight of the common cold.
But if one more person shares a meme proclaiming ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ or ‘everything happens for a reason’ in response to some awful situation, I swear I might explode.
Positive thinking doesn’t insist you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s unpleasant situations.
Just think about how insulting that is to the victim of a terrible situation: If you are bullied or sick with hunger and told ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ it somehow implies that the awful thing you are going though is not only okay but is good for you.
I call bull on that kind of thinking.
Sure, if something awful happens, it pays to make the best of it. You can’t turn the clock back, it can’t un-happen, so using positive thinking about it can help you face it. But that’s not the same as accepting it happened for some mystical reason in order to help you grow as a person. It didn’t – it happened most likely because someone made a poor choice and you were on the receiving end of it.
Think of some of the dreadful things that happen every day:
Got hit by a speeding driver? ‘It happened for a reason.’
Job paid poorly? ‘It happened for a reason.’
Burgled? ‘It happened for a reason.’
Beaten by someone? ‘It happened for a reason.’
So hungry it hurts? ‘It happened for a reason.’
No! No, it most certainly did not. It happened, sure. But not for some ethereal reason.
You might learn from whatever happened, and you might grow from it, but correlation does not equal causation, and to imply it does is cruel to those who are actually crushed by whatever happened to them.
No-one deserves to be a victim. It is not for a reason.
So please be careful when reacting to someone who’s had an awful thing happen to them. Please, no platitudes and no memes. Instead, listen to them, take their feelings seriously, and ask what you can do to help.
If you need support:
Kidsline is New Zealand’s original telephone counselling service for all kids up to 14 years of age. Kidsline operates from 4pm to 6pm Monday through to Friday. When kids ring they will speak to a Kidsline buddy – a specially trained teenage telephone counsellor.
P 0800 54 37 54
W www.kidsline.org.nz(link is external)
Need support or want to talk? Contact Youthline.
P 0800 37 66 33 or Free Text 234
W www.youthline.co.nz(link is external)
Lifeline’s telephone counselling service provides 24 hour a day, 7 day a week counselling and support. Calls are confidential and free and you will speak to a trained Lifeline counsellor.
P 522 2999 (within Auckland)
P 0800 543 354 (outside Auckland)
0800 726 666