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“Get Over It”: A Brief Skillful Means Primer

“Get over it” is an interesting turn of phrase. It’s more skillful than it might seem.

“Over” implies that there’s actually an obstacle, something one has to scale over. (In my experience, one rarely scales back down, except perhaps for occasional valleys or when facing relapses). “It” implies something of substance. “Get” implies that there must be actual action taken.

When someone says, “Just get over it” (in the context of serious pain and not very minor annoyance), what they are effectively saying is, “Just climb that mountain”.

Moreover, that addendum I offered about minor annoyance? There are many experiences or pains that might seem minor externally, and may even feel minor to the person who is experiencing them, but are actually major. If someone is struggling with a minor problem at work, for example, their struggle is likely due to that minor problem at work being representative of broader career challenges or fears that are actually serious.

When someone replies, “I can’t just get over it”, to some extent they are saying, “I can never climb that mountain, no matter the amount of time I have, the skill of my hippy rock climber guide, my gear, or training”.

Our emotional and cognitive issues, even seemingly minor ones like having a habit of biting fingernails, are conquerable. But they take leaps of faith to address, they take an action plan, they require an accurate inventory of where we’re at, and they even require that we admit that our issues are interconnected. In fact, much of the time, our emotional issues are like a tangle of computer wires. You can’t just get your mouse free from that pile; you end up having to untangle a good portion of the whole mess to get progress even on one issue. That having been said, this means beginning the process actually means straightening out a large amount of our souls, not just one issue.

So how can we use this phrase skillfully?

How about, “I’m sure you can get over this, and even though it’ll be challenging I know you can succeed”. You know, exactly like you might say to someone planning on scaling a big climb.

Or, “Getting over this is going to be hard, but I’ll be here to support you every step of the way”. Like you might say if you were their partner.

It’s always possible to communicate to someone else that they are capable of resolving a problem without trivializing or minimizing that problem. And one very easy place to begin is just to short-circuit that instinct we have to provide solutions up front and just say, “Wow, that sucks. Sorry that you’re trying to get over that, it sounds like a bummer”.

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