The danger of reassurance

You’d think that one of the kindest things we can do for our partners, friends, and children would be to give them some reassurance. Of course I love you; It will be all right; No, you didn’t upset me. But sometimes, giving too much reassurance does more harm than good.

If your partner is constantly asking you if you love him or her, then there could be a problem. Perhaps you’re not great at saying those three little words. Or maybe you’re not acting in a loving way. Most worrying is the possibility that your partner is feeling insecure and needs some reassurance. It might seem simple to just say: Of course I love you. But then what? If your partner is feeling insecure, they will start to worry that you only said it because they asked. They may feel the need to ask again and again and again. Far better to focus on the reason why they asked you. So if your partner asks you if you love him or her, why not gently turn it around and ask them why they are feeling a bit insecure.

If your child tells you that they are nervous about something bad happening, it’s easy to quickly reassure them by saying: It will be all right. But by simply reassuring them, you may be missing the possibility that your child is often feeling anxious and doesn’t know how to manage it. They can become dependent on your reassurance instead of learning the skills to self-soothe. So if your child says they’re nervous about something bad happening, grab the opportunity to talk to them about anxiety – what it is, how common it is, its purpose (to protect us from danger) and how to manage it with some relaxation exercises and self-talk.

And if your friend has a habit of ringing or texting you after you have been together to check that they haven’t upset you in any way, you will not be doing him or her any favours by saying: No, you didn’t upset me. Far better to gently ask why they would think that. It’s easy to become addicted to reassurance, which only leads to a rapid decline in confidence and an increased fear of negative evaluation.

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