If You’re Trying To Talk Someone Hurting Out Of Their Pain, Iyanla Vanzant Says You’re Doing More Harm Than Good

July 16, 2018  |  

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July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and even though conversations surrounding mental health are increasing, advice on the best ways to deal with disorders like depression and more on the day to day, outside of seeking out professional help and the vague “practice self-care” statement, is limited.

But leave it up to Iyanla Vanzant to offer tangible, relatable ways to not only deal with with your own sadness and mental struggles, but the sorrow and issues of those you care about.

At Essence Fest, in the wake of high-profile suicides, Vanzant encouraged the audience to acknowledge their pain and their feelings, but not stew in them.

“Validate what you’re thinking. If you feel bad and you have that thought, feel bad, just don’t dwell in it,” she said. “That’s why we lost Anthony Bourdain, and Robin Williams, and Kate Spade. Because we sit in and stew in and just massage the negative thoughts. And if that’s going on up there, if you have a negative thought, a heavy thought, tell somebody.”

But for those who end up being the ear for people sharing what they’re going through, Vanzant said it’s important to listen without trying to change the way a person is feeling. Often times, just being heard and understood is enough for them to start moving out of a very dark place.

“We have to learn how to sit with people in their pain,” she said. “You don’t have to do anything about it, but you’ve got to know how to be present with somebody who’s hurting. So very often we won’t let people hurt in our presence because it makes us uncomfortable, so we try to talk them out of their pain. ‘Oh don’t think like that. Don’t say that. Don’t feel that way.’ No, no, no. You sit there, you pray, you breathe. We’ve got to learn how to be with each other in our pain because too many of us are suffering. There’s people right here in this room who are going to leave up out of here and suffer because nobody knows how to be with them in their pain, and most pain is temporary. It don’t come to stay. Ain’t nobody been hurting forever. You hurt for a little while.”

“You’ve got to learn how to just be present with somebody,” she added. “How to look them in the eye and not want to fix anything, change anything. Just learn how to be with them. Change your posture and your position about people’s pain.”

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