Facebook: you love it and you hate it.
You love seeing what your friends are up to and checking out pictures of their cute kids.
But you hate it when people post about doing or having something that you want so badly. Especially when they don’t appreciate what they have. Or worse yet, they complain about it.
That’s how Facebook inadvertently serves as a harsh reminder of all the things we don’t have, yet desperately want. Essentially, Facebook triggers our emotional sensitivities when we’re least expecting it. And that hurts. Badly.
So, the women who have suffered infertility and miscarriages feel pangs of sadness and jealousy when their Facebook friends announce pregnancies, post pictures of their little ones, and just generally experience motherhood in ways they can’t. “I wish I was the one talking about my morning sickness. And I wouldn’t be complaining about it, either!”
Women in unhappy marriages feel disheartened when their friends and family share pictures and updates of their happy relationships and perfect husbands. “Why can’t my husband be more thoughtful and romantic like him?”
And women suffering from anxiety or depression feel glum when their Facebook friends talk about their seemingly joyful, easy-going lives. “Everything is so hard for me! Nothing ever works out. Why can’t my life be easy like it is for her?”
Almost all of my clients bring up Facebook at some point in our conversations—but not usually in a positive reference. Instead, it comes up as an example of how badly they feel that they can’t just move on with their sadness or other unwanted emotions.
They talk of seeing pictures or status updates about people who have exactly what they want. They bring up how perfect everyone else’s lives look. And how alone they feel after checking Facebook.
But although it may seem that Facebook is just unnecessarily triggering your pain, I think it’s actually helping you…if you let it.
How can that be? I believe your experience of feeling crappy after checking Facebook is showing you areas you need to explore in order to continue healing your pain. It’s like the massive social site is holding up a mirror, reflecting back at you what you most need to focus and work on.
When you feel jealous, sad or just unhappy while checking Facebook, that’s an opportunity to look to your own life and consider why you’re experiencing that feeling.
That’s exactly what I did earlier this year when I learned that three close friends were all pregnant (and were posting about their pregnancies on Facebook). Although I had already made peace with my infertility struggles and miscarriages, I still felt triggered when I read on Facebook about how these friends were entering new phases of motherhood.
So I spent several days considering my own underlying sadness, while allowing myself to experience my feelings without judgment.
I gave myself space to really feel unhappy about my own reality. I felt the sadness deeply, and I didn’t judge myself for continuing to feel that pain. I was sad and that was all that mattered. No judgment….no criticizing myself. I just felt whatever came up and accepted it. And loved myself through it.
The result was amazing growth as I continue along my path to heal these deep wounds. I encourage you to do the same thing. Here’s how to start:
1. The next time you see a Facebook post that makes your heart hurt, don’t just blow past it.
Often times, our instinct is to push past the negative feeling that arises when we’re scrolling through Facebook. But if you can take some deep breaths and just allow yourself the time to really experience the emotion that has bubbled up to the surface, you’ll actually move past that feeling much faster than if you pretended you weren’t upset at all.
That’s why it’s so helpful to sit still for a few minutes and think about what specifically is bothering you. (If you don’t have time to sit still right away, jot down all the information about or take a picture of the post so you can follow the rest of the steps at a later time.)
Even if you can’t quite articulate what you’re feeling, just allow your emotions to come organically without trying to stuff them away. So if, for example, you feel annoyed that a Facebook friend is posting about their amazing job, let yourself truly feel that annoyance.
Now that you’ve really felt that feeling, take some time to write down every thought you’re having related to the Facebook post. Don’t censor yourself here. Let the thoughts flow freely, no matter how negative they are. Don’t stop until you’ve dumped all of your thoughts on the paper and you have absolutely nothing left to write.
Then, try and dig a little deeper. If you noticed, for example, that a friend’s Facebook update about her seemingly ideal marriage sparked some jealousy in you, don’t just journal about how your friend has a great marriage and you wish your own marriage was like hers.
Instead, really identify the one aspect of your friend’s marriage that you admire and/or pin down the main reason you don’t feel happy in your own marriage. Is it that her husband is extremely involved with the kids? That she has quality time with her husband? That they communicate openly and honestly? Then figure out a way that you can incorporate what you want into your own life.
3. Determine why you’re feeling bothered, upset or jealous (or any other emotion).
This is the step that will help you pinpoint where to focus your energy so you can continue healing and growing. So spend a few minutes reading everything you just wrote. See if you can identify any underlying pain that needs to be healed. Perhaps there’s something that you need to mourn. Or a reality that you need to fully accept. Or a part of you that you need to love no matter what.
Write down whatever you recognize as your deeper pain. Then commit to taking action, even if you don’t know what that will be, to start healing.
These steps are one tool that can help you scroll through Facebook and actually wish your family and friends love and happiness—even when they have something that you don’t. But please know that this isn’t a one-time process. Healing your wounds, moving past your emotional pain and gracefully handling any triggers that arise is a journey.
Author: Dina Overland
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Alexander Lyubavin/Flickr