In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, Donald J. Robertson talks about the idea of Stoicism as a form of counter-rhetoric. I've written about this idea in previous posts. I'm going to continue the counter-rhetoric practice from my last post with a slightly more complicated exercise. Last time, I just considered very short emotional statements (generated using ChatGPT) and gave them a more neutral translation. I'll take short statements again, but this time, 1) the statements will specify some specific context for what's going wrong, and 2) I'll offer some critical comments about the language/metaphors and perspective, and 3) I'll propose a positive reframing of the situation. I'll only do 10 examples this time. Note that I'm not suggesting one should respond to people with this precise criticism IRL! This is an exercise about analyzing and criticizing statements, and is not communication advice!
|I was diagnosed with an illness, and now it feels like the life I knew has crumbled to pieces.||
Nothing has crumbled.
You're still alive and thus still have your life.
|Having to deal with an illness can make you realize things that you took for granted.|
|My partner left me unexpectedly, and my heart feels like it's been shattered into a million pieces.||
Nothing has been shattered.
Your real heart is still whole and there.
Lots of people feel this way for a while and then get over it.
|Someone who leaves you unexpectedly and without discussion shows poor character, and opens the way for a better partner.|
|I lost my job, and now the weight of the world is pressing down on me with every passing day.||There's no extra weight pressing on you because you're unemployed. That's in your head due to e.g. financial/career concerns. Being concerned can be reasonable but emotional metaphors don't help.||Losing a job can be the first step to better opportunities.|
|I've been facing financial troubles, and it feels like I'm drowning in an ocean of debt and worry.||You can't drown in debt. It can't kill you like drowning in a bunch of water can. The worry is self-generated and doesn't help. It'd be better to focus on solutions instead of being upset.||Realizing you are facing financial trouble is the first step in dealing with the problem.|
|My dreams were crushed, and I feel as if I'm wandering aimlessly through a fog of disappointment.||Nothing was physically crushed and disappointment doesn't manifest as a fog. You failed to obtain some goal important to you. Unfortunate! But it happens to many people and they manage to overcome.||Every failure is an opportunity to learn about what doesn't work and improve yourself and your skills.|
|I'm dealing with a major life change, and it feels like I'm standing at the edge of a cliff, with nothing but darkness below.||The darkness is in your mind. You're afraid because of the uncertainty of the situation. But it's better to focus on solutions instead of coming up with grim metaphors.||If you want to use a metaphor, a major life change could be viewed instead as a vast, exciting, unknown frontier.|
|I lost a cherished possession, and the loss feels like a piece of my identity has been stolen away.||The possession was ultimately just a thing. Your memory of it and it's significance to you can't be taken away.||Losing a thing important to you can be an opportunity to gain some perspective on the value of material things in life.|
|My child is facing bullying at school, and my heart aches with every tear they shed.||Bullying is a serious problem, but you experiencing emotional pain doesn't help.||This could be a chance to explore alternatives like home education or another school.|
|I had a terrible argument with my family, and the hurtful words exchanged still echo in my mind, leaving me feeling wounded.||The echo is only in your brain and an not actual echo. Many people get upset and say things that don't reflect their actual opinions, and you shouldn't dwell on such things.||This could be an opportunity to practice communication skills and managing your emotions.|
|I was publicly humiliated, and now I'm struggling to find the strength to face the world again.||Even for very embarrassing things, people's memory is very short before they're on to the next thing. The event in question is likely much more meaningful to you than it is to anyone else.||This could be an opportunity to practice learning to care less about what other people think.|