Wednesday, August 26, 2020

"It Could Be Worse."

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

“It could be worse,” they tell you.

And you know what?

It’s true.

Because if, say, you broke a toe, well, the potential reality in this universe of infinite possibilities is that at the exact moment you broke your toe Earth’s crust could have rent wide open and your body could have fallen at terminal velocity two-thousand feet down into the Earth right into a scorching magma flow.

When It’s Cool

I think there are times when it’s reasonable to use the “it could be worse” phrase toward someone who tells us of their troubles.

For example, if someone’s complaining as they always do like a “poor me” victim, they may well deserve to get this kind of unsympathetic kickback.

Maybe a coworker is complaining for the fortieth time in the last two hours that the boss is a jerk for the new uniform policies he’d enacted. Although the policies may make the job less enjoyable, not only are they probably not as awful as the complainer believes, but the complainer complains about everything all the time without ever actually trying to make his or her self or situation better.

Rather than getting caught up in the complainer’s negativity, why not make a silly comment to make light of the situation? “Well, yeah, the new uniforms really don’t feel that comfortable, but it could be worse. Imagine if we had to make our deliveries wearing fake beards and top hats, too…” (Assuming, of course, those aren’t the very uniform changes the boss had made.)

When It’s Not Cool

Where I see a problem is when someone isn’t merely being whiny but is genuinely reaching out for a helping hand or a listening ear but gets shutdown with an “it could be worse” reply.

The person is going through a painful experience and seeking empathy, yet those who are being reached out to don’t have empathy to offer because their emotions are too far repressed.

Suppose someone carries the “all is beautiful” mindset. This type of person refuses to think about or feel anything other than “what is good” and therefore cannot accept that sometimes life sucks.

Should someone bring an uncomfortable personal issue to them, they might use a phrase such as “it could be worse” in attempt to evade whatever they perceive to be “not good.” Completely oblivious to what the other person is feeling and what their needs are, they choose to deny what is for the sake of psycho-emotional self-protection.

“It could be worse” is a phrase that devalues what is happening circumstantially; it negates a person’s thoughts and feelings; it avoids the deeper nature of whatever is going on.

Closed Doors

Imagine, for example, a female in high school who was walking down the hall when some random dude suddenly reached out and groped her boobs while making lewd comments.

When she reported the incident to the school’s administration, they said they weren’t going to do anything about it. Then upon arriving at home, in angry tears she told her parents what had happened, and they replied to her with, “Well, kid, look at the bright side—it could have been worse. It’s not like he raped you in the back stairs, right?”

What an overwhelming sense of sadness, of powerlessness, the girl must have felt. In a different way, perhaps as bad as or worse than the initial incident.

In significant inner turmoil, she went to those she believed could and would help her—two of them being people she loves and believes love her—but they just lightly rolled away her distress and cries for help like rain off an umbrella.

Awful though the incident was, what’s more important to the parents and the school’s administration is remaining numb.

They’ve all spent a lifetime hiding their feelings from themselves.

Perhaps the greatest reason we (as a whole) hide from our feelings is because, were we to allow them to flow freely, we would be forced into action.

Taking action beyond what we know and what our loved ones and peers approve of is incredibly uncomfortable to most people. So uncomfortable, in fact, that parents regularly put their children through all kinds of hell, not because the children are in error, but because the parents aren’t willing to admit that they, themselves, are in error.

The kind of person who can nonchalantly tell their daughter who was just molested that “it could be worse” is in no way ready, willing, or wanting to take necessary action (cry, challenge authority, press charges, etc.).

As for the school’s administration, they have the same kinds of internal issues as any other numb individuals, but they also have potential publicity concerns to deal with.

If they think they can avoid the issue and that the girl will shut up, they could choose the “do nothing” option for fear of the school’s image being tarnished in the media and in people’s minds; they could lose power, they could lose students and financial profits, and their own repressed emotions could get in a wildly uncomfortable tangle.

To anyone with even the least ability to feel, the obvious choice would be the “do something” option. Even if there's publicity, at least everyone knows that action was taken immediately and nothing is being covered up. However, for the those who are the numbest, self-image and self-protection nearly always come first, and so the unkind way appears the best way.

Having now described things in this way, to say “it could be worse” sounds ridiculous. No, thank God the girl wasn’t raped in the back stairs. But by looking at even a small portion of the negativity that underlies and surrounds the initial circumstance, things are actually in really bad shape.

It’s Personal

To describe the girl’s inner turmoil, I used the word “significant.”

“Significant” is not to be interpreted on an absolute scale. This is to say, what you or I or the next person perceives to be “significant” could be very different from the next person. Regardless of a given circumstance’s appearance, a person’s psycho-emotional state must be considered above everything else.

Although the girl in the example above was deeply hurt, maybe some other girl would have quickly grabbed the guy’s hand and broken it backwards, kneed him in the stomach, and then walked away having let go, this latter girl never even mentioning the incident to anyone again.

Significance depends on the experiencer’s perspective.

This—subjective perception—is the very thing that must be taken into account when dealing with someone who’s reaching out for empathy.

To anyone with a reasonable capacity for feeling, this would come more or less naturally, as would they be capable of discerning whether someone is genuinely asking for help or just seeking attention.

There Are Others

“It could be worse” is comparable to other phrases that can be and are commonly used at completely inappropriate times.

One of them is, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Again, it’s relative. I’ve no doubt there are people out there who could unexpectedly lose their houses in monstrous sinkholes and tell their sobbing families not to sweat the small stuff. In this case, the usage of this phrase has nothing to do with at least having one’s life or seeing that material possessions are transitory: it’s simply an unwillingness to feel. Everything is made “small” in order to repress emotion and hide from reality.

Another is, “You worry too much.”

Yes, most people do in fact worry way too much, way too often. However, this is a phrase people like to use when then don’t know how to deal with what others tell them. Maybe they feel like they should give advice but don’t know what to say. This is because they have no access to the inner empathetic space that would provide it. Saying “You worry too much” ends up being just another way of telling a person, “I don’t like the feelings that you’re stirring up inside me. They make me uncomfortable, so please stop talking.”

See also: Childhood Trauma: Name-Calling

Helpless Help

Whatever phrases may be used, they all boil down to an unwillingness to feel and a consequent inability to offer empathy or lasting help—if any at all.

The simple fact of the matter is, a person can’t truly help another if they are at that same level or lower.

It’s like if someone is depressed and they ask a depressed friend for consolation. Maybe some smiles and laughter arise when they’re together, and maybe some seemingly good advice is offered.

But by the nature of life, it’s simply not possible for someone who is, say, at level 3 (0 being listless; 10 being blissful) to raise another up even so much as to a level 3.1 beyond the very short-term. A person cannot give what they don’t have; they cannot take a person beyond where they are themselves.

In some situations, the state of so-called “help” is at its worst when the ones who genuinely seek empathy and help may actually be seeking these things from people who reside at a level lower than they are.

How You Can Help

What about you?

Do you use phrases such as “It could be worse” at inappropriate times while thinking that you’re doing something good?

Again, there are times when these kinds of phrases fit just fine.

But when they don’t fit fine and we don’t realize that they don’t fit fine, we can put a great deal more hurt on people than they’re already in.

So, pay more attention to what you’re really feeling—and open yourself up to feeling it. This will allow you to be more aware of what others are feeling and to respond to them more wisely.

Being a feeling being is the only way to truly be of positive service.

That’s all for the main topic, but I see a need to further address an issue I’d mentioned above in greater detail.

Helpless Help: An Expanded View

To those whom it applies:

Feel. Stop hiding, and feel.

I said above that if we’re at, say, a level 3, we cannot raise anyone above a level 3.

What came to mind when saying this is the way soooo many people, who are at a level 3, or 1 or 2 or 6 or whatever fairly low number, tell themselves and others day in and day out, “I’m happy,” and “Everything’s great,” and so on, and then expend massive amounts of energy to act out the same false role.

This matters because, obviously, such an act is a big lie.

What matters about this even more is that the lower a person is (that is, the more psycho-emotional pain and suffering they are in, if largely subconscious), the more likely they are to seek help from someone who is as low as they are (and thus can’t actually provide help).

Since this is a matter of vibrational resonance, the attraction is subconscious. The person imagines that they’re reaching out for help, but they have no conscious awareness of who (or what) they’re actually reaching out to.

If someone’s feeling mega depressed and wants to feel uplifted, they’re less likely to call over their friend who’s also always visibly mega depressed. Who they’re more likely to call over, due to the urging of subconscious resonance, is the friend who is also mega depressed but forces his- or herself to constantly wear a facade of “happiness.”

In these low level states (with uncommon exception), a person cannot see beyond appearances. They live in a cloud, and so their vision, their perception, is always in a fog. To them, perceptual appearances, which are based on relevant prior held beliefs and fears, are factual.

Kayla’s conscious mind is saying, I feel like total shit. But, hey, Jane is happy all the time, so I’ll ask her if she can talk for a little bit. She can probably give me a boost.

Simultaneously, Kayla’s subconscious mind is saying, Kayla is consciously unaware that I’m in charge, here. I’m super perceptive, and I’m choosing to call on Jane because I recognize that Jane’s “happiness” is super fake—she’s actually depressed, and that resonates with me.

What Kayla’s subconscious mind is also saying is, I'm choosing Jane because I’m depressed as shit and not yet ready to be truly happy. I know Dave is truly happy, and I know he could probably help me. But I’m not going to ask Dave for help because, like I said, I’m not really ready to change yet.

For people in Kayla’s position, the only way out is to really, truly, deeply want an end to the suffering. It’s the only way to resonate with true help.

A Victim Is as a Victim Does

There are two paths to look at at this point:
  1. the person receiving help, and
  2. the person giving help.
If you’re the person receiving help, you have to question if you really want it or if maybe you’re just looking to play the victim card and get attention or some other selfish thing.

If you’re in the described position, you may take great offense to this suggestion. How dare I suggest that you would use other people as unwitting puppets to actively maintain your own misery?

Well, you might. People do it all the time, and I did it for no less than two decades myself. I know it all too well from experience, and I can see it’s workings clearly in others.

If, say, for some reason (probably during your childhood) you’d decided that your best bet for getting attention is to be mega unhappy, you would have needed a psychological mechanism to accomplish this. The victim mentality and its associated subtle-control-oriented behavior is the perfect thing.

You need to acknowledge this or you will never heal, you will never be happy, you will forever selfishly suck the energy of others who imagine they’re helping you but who’re actually doing nothing both because they’re incapable and because you don’t truly want to heal—you just want to be an energy vampire.

On the other hand, if you’re the person giving help, or, well, what you and the other imagine to be help, it’s critical that you drop your facade and begin accepting your feelings.

Since you are lying to yourself, you are automatically hurting others by pulling them into your subconscious game. You are hurting people while telling yourself that you are doing something good. You appear to be helping other people in “kindness,” yet what you’re really doing is using such circumstances to bolster your ego’s desired self-perception of being “okay.”

Someone might ask you for help, and you might say a few things that make the person smile, but because you have your own facade of smileyness up to cover your inner pain, you can’t clearly see the true depth of pain lingering beyond the other person’s smile.

You think, perhaps, “They’re smiling. That means I helped. Things will get better.” But really you’ve done little to nothing. Their smile is no more than a shadow, and their misery will return as heavy as ever.

If you truly want to help someone, you must clear out your own pain first. Pain cannot heal pain.

It’s Awful

I can tell you from first-hand experience that in the past I’d been in the shoes of the helper—often referred to as the “savior”—far too much.

In one extended incident, I’d spent basically every day for a year in the position of imaginary savior for the same person. This one year was one of the worst years of my life.

There were plenty of other hardships I’d experienced during this time that also pulled me down, but trying to help someone who didn’t truly want to be helped left me chronically stressed, depressed, worried, and just all around miserable—every aspect of my life was affected adversely because of it.

The other person sucked me right in to her wretched, self-inflicted victimhood, yet I kept on upholding a victimhood of my own.

Fake helpers are merely self-inflicted victims who use “saving others” to try to prove to themselves that they’re not actually wounded. I was a fake helper, as fake as they come, and at the time I had no clue of it. Like any other, I was blinded by my belief that my perspective was the correct perspective and the ambition that if only I said and did enough then everything would clear up and we’d live happily ever after.

She gave me the proverbial time of day over and over again, and by outward appearances we looked like close friends. But by the end of the year, we basically walked away from each other as strangers. Not because we’d had a fight or anything, but because we were never really friends to begin with: we were a victim-savior pair—nothing more and nothing less.

The pay-off (at least until I got my ass in gear some years later and started self-helping and learning from the experience), was only heartache.

It was an awful experience, and I don’t recommend it to anybody. Being a helper or savior is always a no-win situation.

If any of this resonates with you as an issue you have to deal with, even just a little bit, I can’t encourage you enough to look into it, to look into yourself, and see what’s really going on.

Don’t put yourself through the suffering, and don’t drag other people along with you.

It’s lousy thing to do, and it’s never worth the effort.