When advice hurts

It's manga, so the speech bubbles go from right to left

From the CLAMP manga “Tokyo Babylon”, as translated by Tokyopop

I hope I’m not going to upset any of my friends by this post, but there’s something I need to say about how people react to depression in others.  It’s when, instead of listening to your problems and just being there for you, people feel they have to give a pep talk about how you live your life, usually including the phrase “get out of your comfort zone”.  Unfortunately, it seldom has any kind of positive effect — even if accompanied by “I went through the same thing” — and instead comes off as criticism, as though you shouldn’t be feeling this way and it’s your own fault, but hey, thank $DEITY you’ve got such a worldly-wise friend to rescue you from ignorance!

Yeah, I know, they’re just trying to help, and in a way I suppose I should feel like I’m helping them by indulging their armchair psychiatry, but really, things like that should be left to the professionals (I myself am seeing a counsellor at the moment).  What friends should be doing for each other is just listening, and being there for the one who’s going through a difficult time.  Advice from mere mortals like us should relate purely to mundane matters, such as how to fix your computer or who’s a good plumber in the area, because when it comes to psychology, we’re all just helplessly floundering around in a sea of confusion, and none of us know any better than anyone else how to cope when black depression clutches our hearts.  Everybody faces a different pain, and how arrogant to assume that we can know anyone else’s!

The above image comes from the Japanese manga Tokyo Babylon, the story of a shy 16-year-old boy who happens to be Japan’s most powerful exorcist and spiritualist, who in volume 4 goes undercover at a fledgling cult which teaches disaffected youths to “pray for forgiveness” in response to life’s problems such as bullying.  However, when a girl he has befriended fails to be helped by this useless advice, finally snaps and fights her tormentors, only to sustain a disfiguring injury, he confronts the cult’s bland and ineffectual “empathic” leader with righteous anger burning in his heart…

Anyway, that’s all I have to say on the subject — guys, go right on giving advice if it makes you feel useful, I wouldn’t change you for the world!  And if you have problems, I would be only too happy to listen, even if all you need to do is vent… remember, it’s all right to feel despondent sometimes, don’t feel ashamed if somehow you can’t feel happy even if things are going all right, and don’t let anyone nag you… er, including me!


4 thoughts on “When advice hurts

  1. Pingback: Potholes on the road to happiness | Dave-ros Lives!

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