Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Well, how should we react?

In this post, I talked about how in Russia, people would be openly unhappy and no one was perturbed by it.

Sometimes in our (American) culture, it seems like we're supposed to feel certain things. The proper reaction is x. It could be mourning, or soul-searching. Or being so upset about something that you don't try to laugh or enjoy life.

Just because a person has gone through a difficult experience, doesn't mean that's their entire life, or should color their reactions throughout the rest of their life. That's not fair for me to determine how much power that experience should have over someone else (it's actually rather arrogant of me/one to assume how another person should react).

Recently, a friend was talking about a divorce (note to any readers who may be wondering, no regular readers/posters online), and how one of the people in the divorce was still giving upbeat status updates on a social networking site**. Oh, and keeping up friendships. My friend was distressed about the upbeat status updates.

It's true, the original person (getting the divorce) may be in denial. This can be a difficult situation, and very painful for everyone. I can't say.

On the other hand, if there's anything I'm learning, it's that I have no idea how other people are feeling or "should" be feeling.

I can give support and listen - but I'm not going to prescribe that someone wear "ashes and sackcloth" (isn't that from the bible somewhere??)

No doubt, if the person WAS constantly dwelling and talking about their misery over the divorce, people would judge and say they should just "get over it" and "stop being so negative".

A person can't win.

I appreciate it when people are trying to mourn their losses and show authentic feeling. And if they are happy and able to enjoy life (no matter what the circumstances), I say that's great. Not to be mean or spiteful, but to find some measure of serenity.

Worrying about other people's reactions to your happiness (or anxiety) will only drive a person nuts.

**If nothing else, people aren't always completely "real" on social networking sites anyway, so this may be a moot point. I'm certainly conscious of what I write, and share things with close friends, not with everyone on the networking site.


Kullervo said...


Aerin said...

thanks Kullervo.

Upon further reflection, I realize my original friend was just trying to express their feelings and needs...perhaps feeling that the "wronged" party in the divorce was not getting enough support from mutual friends or the ex.

Sometimes we (the royal we, or at least I) express these types of feelings about what's happened to someone else, because of what that means if we ever find ourselves in a similar situation.

That's true for me at least. In the end, however, the situations are almost always different.

Maybe I could have headed things off at the pass by expressing support for my original friend. If my further explanation isn't convoluted enough....

Rebecca said...

One thing I learned, oddly enough, from Mormon Education Week at BYU, is to mostly take stuff at face value. No, that's not ALWAYS a good idea, but when someone says they're okay and you have no specific reason to think otherwise? Assume they're okay. Be available in case they're not, but assume things are all right. If someone gives you a compliment, don't try to read between the lines - just assume they mean it. If someone says they're straight, take their word for it. It's just so pointless to constantly be trying to ferret out a hidden meaning that probably isn't even there.

Freckle Face Girl said...

:) Sounds like my situation. Although, having a spouse that is in denial about the divorce makes it easier for me. Dealing with his depression at this stage would be worse.