A Nuanced Perspective on Platitudes? – I tried but failed
I hate platitudes. They are invalidating of people’s pain and they try to shut people up when they are trying to show their emotions. Platitudes are short expressions that you can tell someone who is struggling. You want to show that you have listened, without really having to care. They are part of the toxic positivity culture that is known for shallow thinking, pushing away the negative realities of existence and invalidating people’s feelings. They do so by generalizing the idea of that all you have to do is to think positive, and everything is going to be alright. It has gotten to a point where I just see a platitude and I get angry. I am most likely not the best target audience for all the tree-hugging mommas out there.
Black and White Approach
But I think having this negative attitude towards platitudes, makes me sort of of incapable of realizing the nuances in them. The people sharing them, or even coming up with them, most likely didn’t see them nuanced. I assume they think that their experiences with life are representative how it is for everyone else on this planet. But I don’t need to be as shallow as they are. I could try and see the nuances in something. Because toxic positivity has just as much black and white thinking as depression or nihilism. And black and white thinking isn’t healthy.
So looking at the saying “April Showers bring May Flowers”, my first reaction was anger. If you think about it in simple terms, it means, you have to go through hard times (or work hard) to get experience nice things (or be successful). So you better be grateful for the bad things that have happened to you because they made your life better. Hey, I can totally see how this is applicable to many of life’s common situations. I am not denying that. Are you going through a bad break-up? You will most likely learn self-respect and be more careful with picking your partners in the future, which in the long-run will lead to some wonderful relationship experiences. Or even simpler: a painful bikini wax? You will definitely be seeing the beauty coming from that.
But I don’t see it being applicable to experiences that torment the human soul. Grief after the death of a loved one? Losing a child? Getting raped? Those experiences will most definitely not lead to anything beautiful. They will break you and you will never be the same. You might think those are extremes but honestly, they are pretty common experiences in society. Maybe in those instances you could use the platitude in the sense of that nothing lasts forever, just like nature goes through the seasons, so does your life. There are going to be darker times, and there are going to be brighter times. I can see that.
Still, a shallow platitude is often very unhelpful when it comes to someone who is going through a lot of pain and hasn’t reached a place of healing yet. I honestly don’t see how anyone would ever be grateful for having gone through something extremely painful, unless chosen and experienced with the goal of creating beauty (a tattoo for instances, or even a BDSM scene).
Seeing the Nuances
There could be nuances though, even if the toxic positivity cult might not try to bring them across. So I am going to approach it differently for once, and not right away push myself into the “this is invalidating bullshit” corner. I just realized that I have intellectualized and generalized things here again, to avoid talking about my own issues, as I so often do. So why not try to see the nuances in combination with my own life. Because there is nothing better than some self-exploration and self-awareness!
Mental Illness, Trauma and Places of Healing
I am in several support groups online, for trauma, for mental illness, for DID, for C-PTSD. And one of the most heated topics is when someone mentions that they are grateful for their condition. There could be a million reasons why they experiences gratitude, of course. If you have bipolar disorder, you get an emotional range that is superhuman, and your creativity lead to fantastic pieces of art, literature and thinking. PTSD and C-PTSD helps you (not always, but often) to stay away from dangerous situations and people, and it makes you more sensitive when it comes to understanding other people’s emotions. DID is a fantastic coping mechanism that has most likely protected you from a lot of emotional and physical pain, and is there to help you survive.
But if you are in a place of pain, of absolute struggle, and the illness is ruining your life, your relationships, your health, your sanity, then you get confused and maybe even angry at people who are grateful for the thing that you hate so much. And so it happens that there is a divide between those who “romanticize” their condition, and those who are too “weak” to work on themselves. I have realized that the people in the first group have been part of the second group in the past. It is all about where you are in managing your condition, how much help you have and where you are on the spectrum of healing.
No one experiences an illness exactly the same way like another person does. And some people might be so severely ill, or have no access to any sort of professional support, that they might forever be stuck on the suffering side of things. A lot of times they feel like being grateful for some things that an illness has given them, equals being grateful for the abuse that they have been through. And that just feels invalidating and somewhat masochistic.
What about my life?
I definitely don’t belong in the first category. I fucking hate being mentally ill, and I am nowhere close to any sort of healed place. Yes, I am suffering, while I don’t have the strength nor the support to get any better. It is a very hopeless and helpless place. I don’t want to be like this, I don’t want this to be my life. This is not beautiful, this is ugly.
I am nothing, I have never accomplished anything of worth. I wake up in panic every day. There is no energy for anything, not even to get help. My life is surviving, not living. And I am not very grateful for surviving on most days. I often think that I should have died when I was a kid so I didn’t have to obtain the knowledge that it doesn’t get better. It stays bad, just another kind of bad.
I think to be able to move forward, to heal, to work on yourself, and to handle the pain, you need to have faith. You need to believe in your own strength, you need to feel that you deserve to get better. There needs to be a bit of hope, and a trust in that professionals can help you. And also something to fight for, a dream, a goal, or something in your life that is worth getting better for. I don’t have any of that. And I also know that putting effort into therapy, into even going through the process of getting help, takes a lot of energy. It would be hard. To get better, you first have to suffer more. That is unfortunately how it is. I don’t have that strength, I don’t have the push that is needed. I have given up.
So I am stuck in the corner of that it will never get better. And I grieve for the life that could have been. A life where I would have thrived, not suffered, lived up to my potential. I know that that sort of life is unattainable for me. On a scale from 1 to 10, my utopian life is a 10. I am maybe at a 3 right now. So why would I put in all the energy I have, all my strength, to only get to a 5. It doesn’t makes sense. And it isn’t worth it. It takes too much to get to a place I don’t want to be in either.
This reminds me of when I was in a different place in life, when I had alright professional support. And my psychiatrist said that she couldn’t cure me but she could help me improve my quality of life. I believed her, and I felt that was enough of a carrot to try. But I don’t have professional support now, and starting over and go through all that pain and invalidation that would come with it, to get to a 5? Oh fuck off. I rather lie here and stare at the wall and wait for death. I don’t think “April Showers bring May Flowers” is applicable to my life here at all. The May flowers are not beautiful enough to suffer through the showers for them.
Lessons are not the same as the knowledge you gained from them
So maybe I need to look at it differently yet again. Because I don’t totally disagree with those are often told off for “romanticizing” their conditions. They are not grateful for the lessons, but they are grateful for the knowledge coming from those lessons. It is about how much importance you still want to give to the lessons, how far you have come emotionally, if you were able to let go and move on from the pain. If you have been through abuse as a child, it will define you for the rest of your life. There is absolutely no way around it.
But once you are healed enough, you might be able embrace you the way yourself are, even if it means that who you are is based on trauma and pain. It is a sort of acceptance and healing point, where self-love and self-acceptance beats self-hatred and using destructive coping mechanisms.
I am not in that place. At all. But I can see how others in that place can say that they have been through shit, but that is in the past, and they now embrace the beautiful being they are, despite the pain that happened in shaping them. I am not one of those people. And I don’t think I feel like I can be grateful for my C-PTSD and DID because they helped me survive. Most days I am angry at still being alive, and at only surviving and never being able to actually live.
There are many different things that I could be grateful for, despite the abuse that happened to cause them, or the pain that comes along with them. Mental illness makes me more sensitive to other people’s emotions, so I am a pretty good listener and support of others. Part of my creativity definitely comes from my mental illnesses. I can tell stories that will help others to feel understood, and I can spread awareness. A lot of people find me “fascinating” because of my mental illnesses which often leaves me in the spotlight. I have a lot of skills and talents, and I see the world in a way that healthy people will never be able to.
I don’t dismiss those things. And I can even sometimes try and work on self-love and self-respect. But none of it outweighs the lessons. I don’t see myself to ever embracing the feeling and idea that the lessons happened, and they were terrible, but that they created this vulnerable and fascinating person that I am. No. The fucking lessons didn’t have to happen for me to become beautiful. I don’t want to be the person I am in the first place.
Nope, platitudes don’t work for me
I can’t emotionally stand behind the idea that April showers bring May flowers, and that those showers were worth it. Because that is the implication that I get from this platitude. That it was worth it. That life has seasons, but that better times come. Knowing that good moments will follow bad moments, does not make me feel better about the bad moments. Especially if the “good” moments are pretty disappointing in comparison to who you could have been without the bad moments in the first place. The good moments are actually a painful reminder of that the bad moments, the lessons, happened.
I am not dismissing that some platitudes, if looking at them with a nuanced perspective, hold some truth in them. And if applied to life situations that healthy people experience, they most likely can make some people feel better. But even when trying to approach them with an open mind, like I did here, I still can’t get to a place, where I feel that they would make me feel better.
I just feel defeated, and it made me realize that I am so far away from the emotional experiences of healthy people, that I can’t even apply a silly platitude to my life. That is why I dislike platitudes, they are not applicable to everyone’s lives, and they can make some people feel pretty bad. I should have stayed on the shallow level, and been grateful for the pain that my Master inflicts on me, and that eventually leads to wonderful orgasms, eh? Yet another lessons learnt.