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Thursday 17 July 2014

Just Get Over It! (Already)..... Not!

by Stephen B.Chadwick, MA Counselling Psychology.

 The caption for this entry is “Just Get Over It!”and I think it needs to be spoken about because so many people use or have used this phrase that people assume, that there is something to it.

What I mean by this is, many people either consciously (like they state it aloud to others, almost in complaint) or think it about themselves when struggling to get over a loss. Like.... “I should be over this already it has been ..... (fill-in-the-blank)  days/weeks/months/years”.

So someone has suffered from a loss, of any description, and they think that they have a due-date on their grief... kind of a like a best-before date on a carton of milk or a due-date on a library book.  Like, it’s okay to be moaning and grieving but after a certain date, the milk in the carton goes sour or the library book starts incurring fees.  So after a while your friends to whom you may pour out your heart or your grief, think you have turned into sour milk or that you are like a book that should go back to the library. See my post on whining to friends!

They’re  right. But they are also very wrong.

Hunh? What are you saying? I hear you ask.

 Let me explain.

First of all, take a look at this clip. I am not keen on the film Moonstruck. I love the films of Norman Jewison, a Canadian director. But I am not keen on this film. Regardless, there is a classic scene with Cher and Nicholas Cage that helps to illustrate this post entry.

So Cher’s character acts pragmatically. She slaps Nicholas Cage and tells him to “snap outta it!” The problem with this is... when one experiences a loss, one can’t just “snap outta it!” So, as I mentioned above, when well-meaning friends say this or “get over it/suck it up” or says “She (or He) just needs to get over it” or something like that... they are seriously ignoring the lived experience of the person who is grieving and trying to wipe it away. Wrong.

With the character of Nicholas Cage, he is angry, very angry. He has lost his arm in some sort of accident and still clings desperately to the past, hence he can’t just “snap out of it”. Unfortunately with people who are still grieving it is important to acknowledge where they are in the process of accepting their situation as it is. It also has a lot to do with how they currently identify themselves. Remember, where I talked about identification in the posts: Can I have your identification, please? Well, this is where it comes in.

The character of Nicholas Cage still identifies with his past hurts and experiences, hence he cannot let go of his pain and anger and so when he finds love with the character of Cher he clings to her like a drowning victim.

 And speaking of drowning victims, this is a very good analogy. Again when someone casually tosses off a “Just let it go” comment, it’s usually a pretty good indication that the speaker is not understanding the person’s intense grief. Dollars to donuts.

So, when a person is drowning, they are obviously in a highly agitated state. Their very life is in danger. And what typically lifeguards tell rescuers when they venture out to rescue the person is to literally  push the person away from you, if they start to grab onto you. Makes sense. Otherwise both of you will go under and both of you will drown. However, you also need to consider what is going on for the person in distress (but not drowning). He or she had been clinging to their past experience of life and identification: mother, husband, career designation, boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever and now all of a sudden they are out, abandoned, in the middle of the (emotional) ocean, without a life ring.  They are scared and they are terrified. (and maybe angry and confused) OF COURSE they are going to cling to whatever they had or had lost. And of course, they will be “clingy” to their friends or those who will listen. Or the first half-way good situation which comes along, which is also why people get into similar relationship patterns over and over and over.  This is perfectly normal.  Let me say this again. This is perfectly normal.

I remember very clearly, an experience of one individual I knew who had suffered a severe relationship loss. The individual had lost not one but two relationships of some significant time (3 or more years) over 10 years. The individual struggled to overcome his loss. And yet was told: “Just get over it!”, “Let it go!” , etc, etc. Wrong. The individual could no more let it go, than the poor person, who could not swim, abandoned out in the middle of the ocean with no dry land in sight and with only a life ring. The individual was absolutely clinging therefore to the last valid relationship in their life. This was normal as there was no other relationship on the horizon.

So.... If you are in a loss of some sort. Reject the comments that say: “Just get over it” , because it just makes you feel worse. Why? Because the implication is subtle that one just needs to do some simple step in order to overcome the loss. Nope.

There are other gurus out there who say that this is what you need to do, but I believe they are wrong. One cannot let go of your life-line, until one feels safe enough to know that there is something to replace it. Full stop.

Now, that having been said..... They are also right. ..... Hunh???


Yes, they are right. Quite apart from the fact that your well-meaning friend has somewhat callously or insensitively told you to “get past it”, he or she is kind of right. I won’t get into the fact that perhaps your well-meaning friend may also not have a whole lot of emotional space internally to show you empathy and that they may be a significant problem for they themselves. But they are indeed right. How, you may ask?

I’ll tell you.

When a person begins to identify so much so with their past and past experience, it begins to create a vicious circle. You identify as _________ (fill-in-the-blank) and so you continue to act like the person you have been and the experiences you have had.  You subtly recreate the same self-perpetuating experiences you have always had. With of course the same result.  And sometimes, by sheer will, by sheer necessity, as in the case of the character Cher plays in Moonstruck, one needs to ignore (or try to) what one is currently feeling in order to create a new identity. This is sometimes how people who have grown up in the most horrendous social upbringings are able to completely change their lives and throw off the past chains of their history.  

 So, you need to think of yourself differently. However the problem is, just like the person clinging to the life ring, UNTIL they start to let go of the ring and start actively paddling they will always be dependent (not co-dependent!) upon  having that life ring.  And unfortunately learning to let go and swim can only be accomplished when you feel relaxed enough that you aren’t afraid you are going to drown! It’s a paradox.

Put it this way, say you have lost a relationship, a job, a physical function for example. You will feel a tremendous amount of anxiety, you will grieve, be angry, will wish you could go back in time and change things back to the way they were. And your identity and emotional state will be locked into where you are and where you were, when things were “right”. And of course you will not be feeling relaxed and calm. Not at all.

But! If you can “get over it” or “let it go” --- which usually happens after all the acknowledgement of grief. THEN! You can feel confident enough to find a new relationship, a job or a way around your physical disability. And that involves being creative and open.

The ironic part is people can rarely find creative, fun, nifty solutions to their problem(s), when they are stuck and afraid and still identified in their loss.  Because, surprise! surprise! Anxiety/depression run absolutely counter to a creative mindset.

So acknowledge your loss. If you are down in the dumps. Don’t let anyone tell you: “ Just get over it!” You will get over it in direct proportion to the decrease of fear you feel when you look at what your loss means to you and to how you identify. Creation is a courageous act of sheer will. And the more courage you can muster and/or creatively you can think, the faster the change will come.

And think of this ABBA song. You’ll be dancing once again and the pain will end.

I welcome comments, questions for clarification and dialogue respectful to this post and any others.

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Take care,


P.S., here it is:




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