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So, your friend is wailing about the miseries of her bush league job, failed romance, clunker of a car, and all-around lousy life. Instead of trying to cheer her up by saying something positive like "things will get better," you might be better off agreeing that right now her life does indeed stink.

Surprisingly, being a Debbie Downer might save you some angst, too, according to new research published in the July issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In a series of six scenarios involving some 1,000 participants ages 18-30, researchers found that people with low self-esteem don't want to hear your platitudes, and would prefer friends and loved ones see them as they see themselves. "Those with low self-esteem actually reject the so-called 'positive reframing,' or expressions of optimism and encouragement, most of us offer to them," says lead author Dr. Denise Marigold, an assistant professor at Renison University College at Waterloo.

Despite good intentions designed to boost spirits, people with low self-esteem "are simply more comfortable wallowing" in their misery, she adds. "What we think is well-intentioned support is really alienating for them. They feel as if people don't understand their issues and don't accept their feelings. It almost demonstrates a lack of caring."

The study showed that low self-esteem individuals would actually prefer "negative" validation, or an acknowledgement that their feelings are normal, reasonable and appropriate to whatever situation has them feeling down. The researchers do want to be clear that validating negative thoughts and feelings doesn't mean you are free to say, "Yeah, you are a loser," to a friend who is feeling poorly about a situation. Rather, it's a more productive to simply acknowledge the person is upset.

Although individuals with depression and anxiety may always score low on self-esteem, none of us are immune to bouts of feeling unworthy - even psychologists. When Marigold's children were infants she recalls being exhausted from lack of sleep. She told someone how tired she was and instead of that person acknowledging her exhaustion, Marigold was told that babies were precious and this time would be over quickly.
"I felt terrible after I heard that," she says. "I know that person meant well, but it was invalidating and dismissive."

The researchers also found that since positive reframing doesn't really help people with low self-esteem, those providing positive support often wind up feeling lousy about themselves when their efforts to cheer up a friend fail. But despite feeling lousy, it seems that people will keep trying the same positive tactics to cheer up their pals. "It's a huge disconnect since we know it doesn't really work, but we do it anyway," says Marigold.
The study results are making some folks reassess how they deal with some situations. "I was actually impressed the study was done in such a well-designed manner and it really does make you think about how you interact with people," says Dr. Niranjan Karnik, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center.

But he does wonder if there is a price to pay for wallowing in a friend's misery.

"The question remains as to whether you will be pulled into a negative space, too," says Karnik, though he does agree that putting too positive a spin on things doesn't help anyone. "Sometimes things really do suck for people, and it's okay to acknowledge that."
http://www.today.com/health/stop-cheering-me-some-people-dont-want-hear-it-1D79852039

I think this is really relevant for SAS, with the ever so common conflict caused by people posting their issues and other users trying to get them to see it all in a more positive light. Anyone that has participated or witnessed those knows what happens almost always; the low self-esteem, negativity oriented people shut down and feel that they're being attacked.

Perhaps the best we can do for those people is just to say something like "Yeah, I understand your pain" and let them be. However distorted or self harmful their ideas may be, trying to present them with more positive, alternative views only seems to alienate them.
 

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I feel this way. I often feel like I get some weird pleasure out of staying depressed and hating myself. Those negative thoughts feel right in a way.
 

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I feel this way. I often feel like I get some weird pleasure out of staying depressed and hating myself. Those negative thoughts feel right in a way.
I know I experience this too at times, and it makes sense based on what I've read. I've read that negative emotions and pain activate the reward centres of your brain, so if nothing else is activating that area your brain will cling to what does like it's crack cocaine.

But it's not healthy because feeling negative and stressed for long periods of times has been shown to physically deteriorate your brain and cause long lasting damage. I have no idea why healthcare everywhere doesn't take this a lot more seriously.
 

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This is so true. Unfortunately, I see a lot of that in real life and on here, especially in threads about those who hate their appearance and/or have been picked on over it. It's far more harmful than helpful.
 

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I suspect it depends on the specifics of the response given/the type of problem the person is experiencing.

Of course there is some truth in it - it should go without saying that platitudes aren't much use, and of course it's valuable to empathise with a person- but I think the study's conclusions could be taken too literally.

Offering suggestions and empathising don't have to be mutually exclusive.

The success or failure of an attempt to support someone is going to depend on so many variables.

Sceptical of the study's methodology and the conclusions drawn.
 

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Pastry Case
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This article is absolutely spot on!! To help people move forward you have to acknowledge the place they're currently in; you have to accept that they are where they are. To do anything else is insulting and cruel. You are in effect denying who they are.
 

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There's an obvious communication issue though to be honest. I do think people should expect to get positive upbeat advice and comments of that nature unless they specifically ask people not to post messages like that.

Some people do want that positivity and I think it's more damaging to go into a thread with an attitude of 'yeah you're right that does suck' when someone was really in need of advice than the opposite scenario.

Basically as long as everyone is clear in their OP about what they want from responses to their threads things would be a lot easier on all sides. If people still post responses that the OP doesn't want (which is inevitable because sometimes people don't read the first post properly) then they should just be ignored.

I have seen threads though where people clearly have an 'I don't want advice' attitude but people still try to shove advice down the OPs throat, and then get annoyed with the OP for not listening, which does seem very counter productive. It's hard to see other people suffering and it's Human nature to want to fix problems, but sometimes you can't.
 

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I know I experience this too at times, and it makes sense based on what I've read. I've read that negative emotions and pain activate the reward centres of your brain, so if nothing else is activating that area your brain will cling to what does like it's crack cocaine.

But it's not healthy because feeling negative and stressed for long periods of times has been shown to physically deteriorate your brain and cause long lasting damage. I have no idea why healthcare everywhere doesn't take this a lot more seriously.
Oh crap, do you know what parts get damaged? Is it just parts that control emotional **** or can I become stupider from staying depressed?
 

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Yeah I see this a lot, I know people think that pretending everything is great is supposed to help but sometimes they just plain aren't and all anyone is asking for is a little sympathy and understanding. Instead of just mindlessly telling someone it's gods plan or there is always a silver lining, why not say "Hey lets go to the titty bar, my treat!", really cheer the guy up instead of just giving cheap pointless words.
 

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Oh crap, do you know what parts get damaged? Is it just parts that control emotional **** or can I become stupider from staying depressed?
I don't think long term effects on intelligence should be too severe (assuming you recover from the depression), but while depressed it certainly has an impact on cognitive function.

The brain is fairly changeable throughout life, but I have read some things before that suggest that shrinkage in the hippocampus region can remain for years even after depression is symptomatically cured :(

I think the main problem is elevated levels of glucocorticoid hormones in the brain when you're stressed.

but! There's still a lot we don't know about the brain, and a lot more research to be done. I wouldn't say most Humans really know how to look after their brain efficiently at this point, so who knows what people could do to help shape their brain.
 

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I have felt this way many times. ESPECIALLY when I had lost the woman I loved and was mourning our relationship. People wouldn't acknowledge my suffering, how badly I was hurting, how awful I felt. I didn't want to be cheered up with flowery phrases or empty platitudes. I wanted someone to come into the darkness with me, and feel it for one moment, and hold me. Don't tell me it will be alright if it won't. Don't piss on my back and tell me it's raining. Tell me you know it hurts because you've been there too. Tell me you'll ease my pain. Tell me you'll try to understand. That you'll try to get my mind off it for even just a moment, and in that moment I'll know blissful peace and relief.
 

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Cool, now I don't have to feel bad about not comforting people.
 

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I can understand what the article is saying and I've seen it a lot on this forum. Sometimes though, people really are trying to help in the best way they know how- even though they don't completely understand that it apparently isn't helping the other person.

It's just with this place that's supposed to be a support forum, that simply validating the person's negative feelings and opinions about themselves seems counter-intuitive to many.

I think many confuse what the people in these situations want to hear with the the following excerpt from the article:

The researchers do want to be clear that validating negative thoughts and feelings doesn't mean you are free to say, "Yeah, you are a loser," to a friend who is feeling poorly about a situation. Rather, it's a more productive to simply acknowledge the person is upset.
 

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Everyone should read this article. It's far more comforting when people understand you, than when they are telling you stupid phrases which just annoy you.
 

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It's always darkest before the dawn! :)
Every Cloud has a silver lining! :D
Oh cheer up, it's not that bad! <3
There's a light at the end of the tunnel! O:)
You'll be fine! ('')
Don't worry! *^*
It's okay! @@
You'll get there! oo
Chin up! OO
Have faith things will get better! 0<0
It can't be that bad! G-G
 
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