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Don't Try to Cheer Me Up, Man

Alexander Reed Kelly
Associate Editor
In December 2010, Alex was arrested for civil disobedience outside the White House alongside Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, Pentagon whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, healthcare activist Margaret Flowers and…
Alexander Reed Kelly

“Those with low self-esteem actually reject the so-called ‘positive reframing,’ or expressions of optimism and encouragement, most of us offer to them,” Dr. Denise Marigold, the lead author of a study into the issue, told Today.com.

“What we think is well-intentioned support is really alienating for them,” Marigold continued. “They feel as if people don’t understand their issues and don’t accept their feelings. It almost demonstrates a lack of caring.”

Writing about the findings, Janet Allon reports at AlterNet:

The study looked at 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 30 in six different scenarios. It tested the effects of “positively reframing” and “negatively validating” the problems of young adults with high and low self-esteem. Positive re-framing, in case you are wondering, consists of “reassurances that the negative event is ultimately beneficial to the recipient’s growth, that improvement is very likely, and that the problem is minor and ultimately insignificant.” Perhaps you can already see the problem with saying that to someone, although it is understandable, since many people are just uncomfortable with negative emotions.

Negative validation, the study explains, “communicate[s] that the feelings, actions, or responses of the recipient are normal and appropriate to the situation” and “express[es] appreciation for the recipient’s predicament or for the difficulty of the situation.” 

Negative validation won. People with low self esteem felt more affirmed and supported by just being heard and validated. They did not want to look on the bright side. So, practice saying, “It’s normal and okay for you to feel sad. That’s really hard.”

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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