Should We Just Get Over It?

What matters is that the individual himself accept the time and energy needed to metabolize and integrate the psychic change in order to continue with life in the present.
05/20/2016 04:22 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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How many times do we hear from a friend or acquaintance, the irritating advice, "Oh, just get over it."

The list of "it's" can range from a loss of a loved one to divorce to financial troubles to a trivial event like a bad haircut. In general, the advice-giver has heard your story several times and is frustrated at his/her own inability to "do something," as well as your inability to move on from the traumatic event.

If it's a serious matter, we may dwell on it for a while, continuing to mull it over and view it from a variety of angles. Mourning the loss of a loved one can last as long as a lifetime. A person with post-traumatic stress disorder may revisit and relive a trauma in repeated nightmares and flashbacks that can last for months or years.

Some people hold on to an "it" as a life-defining experience. For example, Ms. W's mother died in childbirth, and shortly thereafter, the father blamed and abandoned her. One does not 'get over' these transformative tragedies. Nevertheless, repeating the story at every social gathering can repulse or drive away people, leaving the unfortunate one feeling alone and desolate.

Sometimes well-meaning sympathizers won't let us forget the unfortunate event, even though we're ready to move on. A woman whom I met in India had lost her son in a highway accident. Paradoxically, it was her friends who repeated the events of the tragedy and couldn't allow her to get over her loss. As a result, she had to distance herself from them and found a gratifying project--opening her home to tourists for whom she could prepare her gourmet dinners.

That said, most of us could use people around us who can reflect and provide words of advice, pinning down a theme, or pointing out a tendency to repeat and isolate.

To return to a trivial event: I obsessed about a bad haircut for a few days to various people who were most helpful. "I have a stylist to recommend," someone said; another suggested, "Go talk to your hairdresser." This kind of concrete suggestion served us all. I received sympathy and my audience felt useful.

The 'it' only becomes problematic when the individual is unable to re-engage in a productive, rewarding life - joining activities and socializing.

In summary, an awareness of the impact on others, with an eye toward the kind of response we'd like, can help us decide to "get over it."

Only the individual can decide to "just get over it" or take it to another dimension such as one of these options:

1. Move the episode from center to off-stage in your relationships.
2. Join a group that focuses on the theme.
3. Keep a journal.
4. Find a role model who has negotiated a similar event.
5. Recognize the need for psychotherapy or counseling.

Conclusion: What matters is that the individual himself accept the time and energy needed to metabolize and integrate the psychic change in order to continue with life in the present.