Negative emotions are part of existence and resistance too

Some anonymous advice for resistance* that is making the rounds on the internet says: “No more helpless/hopeless talk,” with an insistence on “positivity” that sounds like it is being marketed by the self-help industry.

Expressing helplessness or hopelessness doesn’t make someone a bad person, or bad for the resistance.  It just means they are human, and understandably having negative feelings about very negative circumstances.

It is really not helpful to judge people for their feelings, suggest that they ought to judge themselves for their feelings, or suggest that they need to keep quiet about having such feelings.  Helplessness and hopelessness aren’t things people can just turn off or ‘snap out of’. The worst we can do for someone who is feeling that way is shame them into believing they have to do it alone, in silence.

We don’t need to look/be “positive” while we resist, any more than we need to have nice-looking makeup. If wearing makeup personally helps YOU feel more ready to face the world and get stuff done, then by all means, go for it. But don’t pretend that wearing makeup is a proven effective strategy or a moral imperative for the rest of us!

No, I’m obviously not suggesting that we should strive to say helpless/hopeless things to each other all the time. But clearly you realize that having a totally helpless/hopeless world and a world that judges and forbids all helpless/hopeless talk are not our only two choices?

If someone expresses helplessness/hopelessness to you, whether about the news or something personal, you can help them cope with these feelings by understanding and acknowledging them. (If you also want to suggest ways the person could change to feel better — like focusing on small concrete actions or taking breaks to focus on pleasant activities and relationships – great. But keep in mind that people rarely welcome being told what to do unless the advice is coming from a place of compassion.) Of course if a friend’s helpless/hopeless talk is really too much for you, you need to set limits to protect yourself from that. But if you can, first tell your friend that you’re concerned about the frequency of their helpless/hopeless talk, and maybe bring up the possibility of seeking professional help.

We’re all in this together — even those of us who sometimes feel helpless/hopeless, or angry, or fearful, or otherwise not so “positive”.  Don’t let silly self-help crap decide for you what thoughts/feelings are welcome and acceptable during a national crisis.

*Note that the version of the anonymous advice that I read yesterday had an additional (12th) line saying that we have to be “positive” and not angry/fearful. For the record, I thought the other 10-11 points on the list were good suggestions.

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