Applying Tough Love During Low Moods
Supporting someone who is stuck in a low mood isn’t exactly easy but there are times when a few well-chosen words, applied at the right time and with care, can be useful. Stubborn forms of thinking often come with low moods. The temptation may be to let the comments pass in order to avoid conflict. We might rationalize hurtful or irrational comments by viewing them as being not typical of the person we think we know. To some extent this may be true, but behavior doesn’t change without feedback or insight, so a reality check can also be in everyone’s best interests. For example:
Other people should anticipate my needs. This is an example of thinking that has become self-absorbed. It’s not unusual during low moods for people to become preoccupied with their own needs and to become sullen or moody if they feel others are being insensitive or ignoring them. This is a time to point out that the person needs to ask or point out what they want or need, at the time required. It isn’t enough to say it once and expect others to mind-read.
Everything is fine, so leave me alone. Denial is a difficult issue to deal with yet the person is clearly sending messages that everything is far from fine. It may be a case of pointing out the mixed messages and encouraging the person to open up a little. You don’t have to prepare yourself as if armed with possible solutions, just be prepared to listen and acknowledge.
You’re the cause of all this. In this situation the person is intent on making you, or others, take responsibility or feel guilty for their own emotional reactions. It is something you can’t afford to take on as it won’t help them or you. Quite how you point this out is really down to the person you know and the situation they are upset about.
What other choices do I have? Negative thinking tends to narrow perspective. Thinking becomes trapped in black and white ways of viewing the world and options can appear limited or non-existent. There are always choices and sometimes it’s a case of pointing this out and encouraging the person to come in at their problem from different angles and exploring the pros and cons of new ideas.
Why does it always happen to me? This is an example of victim mentality. The person feels painted into a corner and is feeling well and truly sorry for themselves. It’s a distorted picture that comes with low moods and you can help to reinstate proper perspectives by reminding the person of their successes and ways they may have overcome previous setbacks.
These are just a handful of examples. I’d also suggest that the best time to apply tough love through these forms of caring confrontation is when the person feels valued and listened to. For this to be effective there has to be trust between you. This isn’t about point scoring, or who is right or wrong, or told-you-so, it’s about choosing the right moment and saying the right thing in a way that offers food for thought or possibly a gentle jolt that is constructive in its intentions.