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Call to Care: Avoiding “Pink Thinking”

January 20, 2015

Today's post is from Concordia Chaplain Rev. Roger Nuerge and is part 15 of the "Call to Care" series. Concordia's Chaplaincy Department actively contributes to our residents' well being.

To help caregivers relate to those who are suffering, Dr. Kenneth Haugk, in his book entitled Don't Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart, includes a chapter called "Pink Thinking." "Pink thinking" can be just as harmful as "words that hurt, not heal" - but it is more subtle.

Pink thinking is optimism run amok. It denies the reality of another person's suffering and glosses over their pain. It tries to banish dark and gloomy thoughts by urging the sufferer to "think positive" regardless of the situation. Pink thinkers believe their role is to get the suffering person out of their despair by helping them to "look on the bright side."

Here are some ways pink thinking can sabotaging your caring efforts.

Cheering People Up    

On the surface it seems like "cheering people up" is a good thing to do. In reality, however, trying to cheer people up who are hurting often makes them feel even worse. This happens because when caregivers try to cheer them up, hurting people:

  • don't feel they are really being listened to and understood.
  • feel their caregiver is not really interested in them and just wants them to get over it.
  • might feel better for a moment but often feel worse after the caregiver leaves.
  • feel that cheering up is meant more to help the caregiver than them the sufferer.
  • feel that it is unacceptable for them to feel as bad as they do.

Glossing Over    

This is a form of pink thinking that tries to minimize or trivialize suffering. To say, "It's not so bad" to a hurting person makes them hurt worse because their suffering is not being taken seriously. They are made to feel that they are not worth being taken seriously, and all they really need to do is "snap out of it." Glossing over is a form of giving easy assurance that everything will be all right. Some of the most hurtful glossing-over statements are:

  • “You'll get over this in time!"
  • "I had the same thing - it wasn't that bad."
  • "Just trust God. It will get better."
  • "You'll be fine."
  • "There are other people worse off than you."

Words like these can sound patronizing to a hurting person and make it clear that the caregiver is not acknowledging the pain.

More on “pink thinking” next time.

For more information on the health and senior care services offered at Concordia, message us through the Contact section of our website or call 724-352-1571.

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