This is the most critical initial step—in my limited experience. The less there is a solution initially, the better. The point is to acknowledge, without a solution. This, because solutions that are thrown reflexively are a form of resistance (distraction). “Solutions” are the equivalent of this:
A: Hey. My dog died over the weekend.
B: Oh. I’ll help you book its funeral.
I mean, it’s nice that B wants to help A take care of the dog’s funeral. Funeral arrangements solve a lot of problems, sure. But do you see how outrageous such “problem solving” is, when it’s the first thing that’s thrown at A, almost like an auto-responder? What B is doing can be done by any primitive AI assistant.
A more human initial reaction, in the above situation, would be this:
A: Hey. My dog died over the weekend.
B: I am so sorry to hear that.
And this initial reaction must last for some period of time. Otherwise it’ll be like ChatGPT trying to be polite. (It does. It really does try!) Depending on how close B is to A, this initial reaction might last 5 minutes or 5 hours or 5 days or 5 weeks–so long that the initialness of the initial reaction may seem to disappear. This initial reaction may also be mixed with problem solving. (Just because funeral arrangements have started doesn’t mean that the “feeling sorry to hear that” stops entirely.)
With this initial reaction, A’s sadness fades on its own. All that this sadness wanted was to have its existence accepted.
The only exception that I can think of is, if B were to own a dog funeral business… But hey, even then, I think B would increase B’s revenue tremendously by responding with “I’m sorry about your loss” instead of “Let me book that funeral for your dead dog right away.”
All this said, we can’t rely on outside sources to acknowledge our feelings. Even if they do provide acknowledgment, so long as we don’t give it to ourselves, we will never feel like we’ve been given acknowledgement. (It’s the same old same old example of, say, the kid who needs to win the medal to feel validated. We all know that medals aren’t in infinite supply; even if it were in infinite supply, so long as the kid does not actually feel, internally, that it is worthy, no number of medals will give it a lasting or meaningful feeling of worthiness.)
The most reliable path is to do it for ourselves. We are born alone and we die alone. The only person with whom we will always be together is us. From the moment of birth to the moment of death, we are with us. So, it seems like a good idea that we learn to acknowledge our own feelings; then, even if B the Dog Funeral Director doesn’t say “I’m sorry for your loss,” we won’t be so shocked and hurt at the complete insensitivity.
In any situation, we can take care of our own shock, hurt, and sadness, instead of presenting a solution.
Presenting a solution:
- Why don’t you go do some volunteer work to cheer yourself up?
- I used to think that, but not anymore. You might change your mind later, too.
- Wow, you must be so privileged to have time to waste on such depressing thoughts. First world problems!
- What a negative person you are! Try to be more positive!
- Set up a strict schedule and stick to it, then you will stop being influenced by your emotions. (Hey, you may even be able to pretend that you accept the coming and going of your emotions! You may even be able to ignore the fact that the same exact emotions have been haunting the entirety of your life, not because they left and then came back, but because they never left–which proves that you never accepted them!)
- Go on Youtube and look up this and that channel for purposeful education. (Or read a book. Watch this movie, follow this person, even listen to a particular music!)
- Everything will be all right, so it’s weird that you feel so compelled to feel like shit. Think logically.
- etc, etc.
Meanwhile, no-resistance acknowledgement:
- Ah, I see. That’s how you feel.
And, butterfly hugging helps. It really does! Haha. It might feel a bit cheesy, but it’s basically… you hug yourself. It feels nice. You become both the hugger and huggee.
After that, the desire to find solutions will arise on its own, because the “problem” feeling will go away on its own.
This is solving by not solving. Helping by not helping. There is zero attempt to shift myself to a new state, and thereby I move to a new state.
Sometimes this is easy, at other times it’s difficult. When it feels difficult, I acknowledge that first.