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Why Must We Get Over Something?


I confess that I’ve blogged about letting go until I finally realized it’s just another nonsensical phrase that we have no business using. Another is to “get over” something. Really, where do people come up with this stuff? 

I tried to find the origin of “let go of” without, as they say, taking a deeper dive, but I came up with nothing. It appears that way back in the 14th century “get over” meant to recover from a physical illness. It’s unclear when it began to mean to stop being a ninny and start controlling your emotions.

The phrase felt wrong to a client who shared her reaction to responses to the recent death of her mother. Though no one actually said, “let go” to her (thank goodness), one person implied that she needn’t feel grief because her mother’s death was “God’s will.” What a subtle way of telling someone to stop feeling her feelings.

Another client was told after a devastating break-up with her life partner that she shouldn’t “feel badly because everything happens for a reason.” That seems like a way to say to quit hurting because some good might come out of your break-up or you might be very happy that things turned out this way sometime in the distant future. Well, it all sounds to me like saying “get over it” in a more subtle fashion.

My client who was grieving her mother’s death said these comments led her to feel wrong being herself and experiencing her feelings and that she ought to feel differently. What a horrible message when supporting someone’s mental health is about validating their emotional experience. She might as well have been scolded that she “shouldn’t feel that way”—another way of scoffing at our feelings so that we’ll disavow them.

Even the meaning of “get over” as recover from doesn’t ring true. It makes it sound as if what you’re experiencing is unhealthy at best and pathological at worst. As if what happened was a sick thing rather than a sad thing. We don’t ever “recover” from grief. It’s filed away as being in the past and, therefore, feelings are less acute and all encompassing and can become transmogrified into some softer emotions over time.

The ”get” part of the phrase irks me too, as if you could willfully leap out of the difficult present into a more tolerable future. The word is action generated by desire which is not how humans process emotion because it happens gradually. So please don’t tell yourself or others to “get over” anything—unless it happens to be a fence and you’re being chased and need to get away.