"Healing is not about moving on or "getting over it," it's about learning to make peace with our pain and finding purpose in our lives again."Shirley Kaminsky
Some experiences and interactions have a significant impact on your life. Others are forgettable or leave you cold, even though everything you experience changes you in some way, no matter how small.
But then there are interactions and experiences that do more than change you. You're soaked, submersed – their impact is inescapable. It's hard to remember the "you" before it happened because it became part of every cell and fiber of the "you" that followed.
After one such painful interaction with a family member (which included them being untruthful), I set clear boundaries about certain behaviors because they had too significant an impact on me to ignore.
Months later, I had to remind this person of those boundaries when I noticed their behavior veering into a "no-go zone." The person seemed surprised and said, "I thought you forgave me for that?"
"I have forgiven you," I replied. Then came the kicker. "If that's the case, why aren't you over it yet?"
I wish I could say that I had sat them down and calmly explained the difference between boundaries, forgiveness and being "over" something.
But, almost instantaneously, I felt tears of anger, frustration and disappointment gathering behind my eyes. I didn't want to cry in front of them. So I mustered just enough energy to politely excuse myself from the conversation while still holding it together. And then I didn't hold it together anymore.
Later I realized what had most upset me: they had put my enforcing boundaries down to me not being over a situation, rather than them understanding how problematic their behavior had been. Blaming me was easier than dealing with the truth.
I had another experience with people needing others to be over something.
One evening in 2015, I was in a conversation at a Friday evening social gathering at my partner's work. The topic of politics and name changes surfaced. At the time, there was a spate of street and other names being changed from historically colonial and apartheid names to original geographical, cultural and ethnic names.
One of the men (also a white South African and an Afrikaner, like me) went on a bit of a rant about the name changes and ended with, "It's more than 20 years later! They (meaning, black people) should be over it (meaning, apartheid) by now!"
The comment was jarring enough in itself, but then it hit me: this man couldn't stand the English language or the sight of an English person. He was angry about the suffering the "scorched earth policy" of the British army caused his great-grandparents and other Afrikaner people during the Anglo-Boer War (also called the South African War) that waged from October 1899 to May 1902.
Do you spot the issue? He wasn't over a war that had ended 60 years before his birth (and certainly there are legitimate reasons as to why he wasn't over it), yet he expected black people in South Africa to be over apartheid after 21 years. So, I poked the hornet's nest and asked, "How do you explain your dislike of everything English in relation to how you think black people should be over apartheid already?" Oh my, the mayhem that ensued... it was quite spectacular! (He still doesn't like me much. That's OK – I'm over it.)
I'll share a few observations with you, and please feel free to share yours in the comments below. You want others to get over something quickly if you are in the wrong. I know because I've noticed this in myself. It suits me much better if others get over my wrongdoing quickly and we can carry on as if nothing happened.
We confuse the act of forgiveness with being over something. Even if someone has forgiven a perpetrator, it doesn't change them back to who they were before. And certain things we never get over; we just learn to live with them differently.
Events, such as the Covid pandemic, have had different effects on different people. Two people who both came through it OK and who didn't lose any loved ones, might handle the aftermath completely differently. One of them might not lose much sleep over it, while the other still has a visceral reaction when they think of that time.
Our values play a role in how we think about these things. Integrity is one of my top five values and when a person breaks my trust, I take forever to get over it. If upholding a certain image is one of your most important values, you might take forever to get over the "humiliation" if someone sees you in the street when you're not wearing a very expensive brand, for example.
You often want people to be over something because you find it hard if they become emotional. It's basically a selfish wish: you want them to be over it so that you don't have to deal with the awkwardness of witnessing their emotion.
Just as some people have a fast metabolism and others have a sluggish metabolism, people don't all process and digest events at the same rate. But people should have the space to process events according to their own personal energy and capacity.
The kindest thing we can probably do is to get over wanting others to be "over it" and to hold space for them to process things, however they need to.
During Friday's #MTtalk Twitter chat, we discussed why people want you to be over something, what it means to be over something, and how we can better support people who find it difficult to cope with life events. Here are all the questions we asked, and some of the best responses:
@ColfaxInsurance (Alyx) Depends on the situation! It can be a feeling of annoyance and frustration that can cause you to just throw your hands up and walk away. It can also feel like a major relief and weight off your shoulders. And it can sometimes feel bittersweet and make you sad.
@ThiamMeka2Gogue Being "over something" sounds like to accept, to feel better about, to move on from, or come to terms with something, someone or some relationship that has failed or turned out badly.
@MarkC_Avgi When we get over things quickly, we are often dismissive of what that something should mean to us, or what we should have learned from it. Things happen which we can learn from, if we do not quickly dismiss such things.
@BRAVOMedia1 Self-preservation is always important – so if "we" get over things too quickly, perhaps we're negating ourselves OR we just keep moving forward!
@greatergoodgeek I have heard that – especially when working through grief. There is no "right" speed.
@Dwyka_Consult It is possible to prolong your own pain if you get stuck in a certain type of thinking. Acknowledge your pain but keep moving forward.
@SoniaH_MT We want others to be "over" something because it makes US feel better.
@MarkC_Avgi Far too often people tell others, "Get over it!" That is usually for the benefit of the person saying such things rather than the other person. In the same respect, sometimes telling someone they must put something behind them is for their benefit.
@MikeB_MT I guess I rarely feel this way. Pain, grief, evolving, adjusting, are personal journeys. I try to listen with empathy and encouragement.
@Midgie_MT I feel that my feelings are being invalidated, that the person is judging me against their speed of processing things, and that they think that something is wrong with me because I'm still processing.
@_GT_Coaching Grateful that they have offered their opinion because it may lead to change.
@SarahH_MT It's frustrating as it shows a lack of empathy. But more than that it can feel invalidating and cause you to question your own feelings, resilience, and judgment.
@DrKashmirM As in nature, too, everything has a time period. As they say in a quote, "Flowers grow and bloom in quiet rains and not speedy hailstorms." Same applies for human beings, too.
@ZalaB_MT It's YOUR life, YOUR journey, YOUR feelings, YOUR process. Nobody who's not walked in your shoes or experienced your trauma, loss, grief and challenges can tell you how long it should take.
@BRAVOMedia1 How to get beyond "IT" (from personal experience) – Forgive Yourself. Be gentle on yourself and others. Relinquish expectations. Set no time limits. Steady-Steady-Steady. GO TO WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY.
@TheToniaKallon Whatever helps you get centered. Journaling, unplugging, taking a walk, fresh air/sunlight are a few ways to decompress. Thinking about what you've experienced and allowing yourself time and space.
@eriphar When you need help; need to set boundaries; need to warn others that you may still hurt them (emotionally)... It's unhelpful if there is no empathy from others.
@Yolande_MT It's helpful to disclose if it will make a meaningful difference in how you interact with people, or if you need them to "hold space" for you while you're dealing with heavy stuff. It's not helpful to disclose if you do so with a specific expectation, because expectations often lead to more disappointments.
@ColfaxInsurance (Alyx) If they're willing, ask them to tell the story. The whole story. The way they tell it (their tone, wording, expressions, etc) can lead to some very important details as to why it's still bothering them.
@ThiamMeka2Gogue "What's the best way I could support you?" is a great question to ask. Even being honest about the fact that you don't fully understand the condition, but you'll be there to offer support, is a great place to start and make room for more conversation and understanding.
@_GT_Coaching It depends on the relationship because they may not want support, but assuming they do, understanding where they are and showing them other possibilities without expectation can be useful.
@eriphar We can start with the question, "What do you need me to do?" and respect their answer at the time. Let them know where you will be and BE THERE if they reach out.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat.
Traumatic and painful situations rarely come across our path without bringing uncertainty along. The effects of long-term uncertainty should not be underestimated because it can impact your physical and mental wellbeing. In our Twitter poll this week, we'd like to know how you tend to react when you're faced with a major life event that causes lots of uncertainty.
Note that you will need to be a Mind Tools Club or Corporate member to see all of the resources in full.
Supporting a Friend or Co-Worker Suffering From Stress
Lifeshocks: And How to Love Them
Meditation for Stress Management
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