Do catchy one-liners aimed at making you ‘Feel Better’ actually make you feel worse?

These catchy one-liners are called aphorisms. Don’t get me wrong; generally I like aphorisms. They can be eye-catching, thought-provoking, conversation starters.
There is one in my kitchen, “The problem with common sense is that it’s not all that common.”
Philosophers and other great thinkers used them to great effect and many are still in use, proving how salient and relevant they are.

What is an aphorism?

It’s a short sentence or phrase expressing an opinion or a statement of wisdom. The word literally means “definition”, and was first coined by Hippocrates.

What is the problem with them today?

They are becoming part of society’s information overload. You can buy books of them, they’re on Pinterest, posted on Facebook, printed on greetings cards, and most other print formats.

They are commercially produced for profit. Many that I read are fun and carry a sound message. But far too many are about serious health issues created by people who know little, or nothing, about them.

They often trivialise situations. With their clever use of journalese and background images they appeal to the eye and the sensibilities.

They offer one size fits all answers – perfect solutions but for imperfect situations.

They are so often used to ‘help’ individuals with mental health, neuro-diversity, and other diversity issues. How do they fail us?

Here’s some examples … and they come with a Health Warning.

Your illness does not define you. Your strength and courage does.

Really? … “define” = to describe, explain, interpret. When we rock, cover our ears, wear ear defenders, or cry in public, people will define us in their own terms within their own points of reference. And when you’re not feeling strong, nor courageous, nor positive – what then? You are left in limbo with nothing to shape how to feel about yourself.

This aphorism fails us on both counts.

Everyone is struggling. Some people are just better at hiding it than others.

Well, that’s meant to make us feel a whole lot better. Especially when you can’t hide your pain, curling up in your room because you can’t face anyone, showing the ravages of fearing food because you hate your body. Yep, some of us are lousy at hiding it.

Words fail me on this one.

When “I” is replaced by “We” even illness becomes wellness.

This one really explains where we’ve all been going so wrong. We only had to stop thinking about ourselves and our own struggles to get to the end of another long day. We only need to spend our energies thinking about the struggles of others – real, perceived, or imagined.

Never realised it was that simple.

Mental Illness is not a choice, but Recovery is.

Tell that one to those of us with diagnosed Schizophrenia, Bi-polar, OCD, Personality Disorder, Clinical Depression, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and so many more conditions. Tell that one to those of us on a cocktail of medication, undergoing various Talking Therapies, Activity Therapies, Electro-convulsive Therapy.

Tell that one to those of us who battle each day.

Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.

Kahlil Gibran

I admire Gibran’s writings. But this one has been taken out of context to be used as an Inspirational Quote. That I do not like.

Anxiety? A need to control? When you’re in the throes of it is seems anything but. It is more likely to control you. Knotted insides, rising panic, thoughts racing – are all more likely to encircle the present with the future a million miles away.

Only those who know nothing of the real state of anxiety could produce this.

Despite all the sayings that are produced on cards, on posters, as downloads; sent to you by well-meaning family and friends, colleagues and bosses, many of them should not be given a second glance. Some are even toxic to good self-awareness, self-esteem, and positivity about your true self.

If in doubt – throw it out.🤔🤾‍♀️