Throwback Thursday is a thing right?
AM I right about this or did I make it up?
Or did it end and I am more than fashionably late to the party?
whatever the outcome, I am going to repost my views on relativity. Not the Einsteinian concept that is bot awesome and complicated beyond measure, but the concept that it is possible to make someone feel better by telling them that “it is all relative…someone has it worse than you somewhere”
I know it is not entirely health and fitness related, but it relates to wellbeing which is a sort of mental fitness 😀
Originally posted on 12th March 2011 on a previous blog Concerning the Nature of Things
Concerning the Notion that Everything is Not Relative
Recently, someone said to me “it is all relative” as I am sure they have said it to you and I am sure they will continue to say. But it is this notion of relativity that I want to talk about today. Not going to get into Einsteinian physics because I am just not that good, what I do want to talk about is the concept that something can increase or decrease in merit purely because of the things around it. I am sure that there are no absolute answers when it comes to this, but it is something worth thinking about.
If I break my leg, does it hurt less because someone else breaks both of theirs? I don’t think it does,I think that each case has its own inherent properties. If I am sad, the fact that someone else is sadder doesn’t make me happier. I do not think that every case of misfortune is equal, it is evident that loosing a limb is worse than loosing a sock I am not trying to belittle anything that has happened to other people I am just saying that the scale of someone else’s bad luck doesn’t change that of yours.
It is interesting that when people use the “it’s all relative” statement they are normally trying to make you feel better. You never hear some one who is happy about having passed an exam being told, “well it’s all relative…someone just won the Nobel peace prize”! I think it is important to recognise the magnitude of something for what it is. Telling someone that they should feel better about something bad because some people have it worse is insulting!
It is a truth that can be applied to many walks of life, a tall building doesn’t get shorter because the on next door is taller. A piece of art is as good as it is, it is not suddenly worse because someone makes a better one!
It was tricky to find a photo, to go with today’s postulation but I thought I’d go with this. It is a picture I took of the London Eye and I like it. There are hundreds (thousands/millions) of pictures of this subject, I do not like mine any less because there are thousands of better ones or any more because some are worse. The quality of the picture belongs to it and cannot be changed by comparison.
Incidentally I do have to be careful to not take this principle too far, there is still room in life for perspective, just be aware that by telling someone that “it could be worse” it may make them feel worse because it makes them feel they have no right to feel the way they do.
4 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday”
Very interesting subject, Sam! I think you nailed it with your comment that using the phrase, it’s all relative, as a means to make one feel better about a (presumably) bad situation can be dismissive and insulting.
I think objectively if asked, what’s worse: losing your sock or losing a toe? The answer would inevitably be losing a toe.
Or even in the case of subjectivity: placing to photographs of the same subject side by side, which photo is better, the left one or the right one? The answer is subjective, but there would be a favourite. To your point, it doesn’t degrade the quality of the photo that wasn’t chosen, but it does relegate it to the worse pile, versus the better.
Ah, this is very complicated, isn’t it?
But, moving to your case in point, a situation where someone feels badly: Let’s say they have a horrible migraine and are writhing in pain, it will do them absolutely no good to hear, “well, you could have stage 4 cancer. it’s all relative.”
Wow this is complicated. Thanks for making my brain hurt this morning, Sam!!
it is massively complicated and I don’t pretend to have the answer for every situation, I just get so cross when people who are sad / hurt get made to feel that they shouldn’t feel that way because there are worse things in the world.
It is immensely damaging for people with depression etc to beileve that they “should” feel better because they have no right to their feelings.
It is less relevant in the case of photos and that is a matter of opinions and subjectivity, and is much more open to interpretation! It served a purpose though 🙂
I think I was also quite cross the day I wrote this because it was the first anniversary of my mum’s death and someone was trying the “everything is relative” conversation on me…
I am glad it made you think 🙂 that is the point 🙂
I think in the scenario above (the person saying that when you were sad about the anniversary), they probably genuinely thought they were making you feel better by pointing out that things could be worse. Clearly it did not work! I, for one, am not good with death and I know that I tend to say nothing for fear of saying something inappropriate to someone who is grieving.
You’re right, there’s probably never a really appropriate scenario to use this phrase – so I wonder why we do, as a people. Interesting.
I think you are right, people genuinely think it is a thing that will make someone feel better.
no one is doing it out of malice, I just wish people would think what they are really saying sometimes.
People don’t (well rarely) intend to give the message that your grief/pain etc is not worth anything and you should pull yourself together, it is just unfortunate that is often the outcome.