“I know this sounds stupid but…”

25 Sep 2018

Have you ever used the seemingly innocent little phrase, “I know this sounds stupid but…” (or else its close relative, “I’m probably being stupid but…”)?  “I know this sounds stupid but…” is a  little phrase  that is common enough to pass more or less unnoticed.  But don’t be fooled. It is a little phrase can be very, very bad for your emotional health.  In this article we shall look at the reasons why this phrase can be so harmful to you.

“I know this sounds stupid but…”

“I know this sounds stupid but…” my client said, causing my antennae to go into overdrive.  Consciously, my client was telling me that she was trying to look at something like a mature, sensible adult (three words that already give me pause for thought). She just needed a mature, sensible, adult nod from me and she would dismiss whatever she was going to tell me next.  (Or else make herself really miserable in the attempt to do so.)

You don’t need to labor the mature, sensible adult piece

Now my client – let’s call her Gabbie – is a grown-up woman.  She is an abuse survivor, which already means that her life has been far from easy. She has had to learn to take ownership of a life that has held a lot of pain and rejection.  She has done so without a great deal of support.  That is enough to make anyone as adult as they ever need to be.

Gabbie did not need to labour the mature, sensible adult piece – for me. But, clearly, she did for herself. So, what was really going on?

At the unconscious level, my client was telling me that she was struggling badly. She was telling me that she had a framework in which to understand the things – and people – that happened to her.  According to that framework, she should not be feeling upset at the people and things that were upsetting her.  Therefore she owed it to her framework to minimise her upset.

Do you see what is going on here?

What is really taking place

Something had happened in Gabbie’s life that she experienced as “off”.  However, Gabbie was not able to listen to her own feelings.  Rather, more or less automatically, she started to invalidate them.  Because her framework – that is key loved ones – trained her to invalidate her feelings.  That framework dismissed her feelings and taught her that she should, too.

“Oh! You feel like that! Don’t be stupid! You should feel like this.  Not like that.”

It’s already hard for a person to cope with being dismissed by a loved one.  When your only choice is whether or not to give the dismisser cause to add the “stupid” label into the mix, you do what you can to avoid them  – quite literally – adding insult to injury.

The short-term strategy

Now, disregarding your feelings is a useful short-term strategy for coping in difficult situations where you have precious little power or redress. When you know that voicing your feelings will only create more trouble, then disregarding and silencing them would be a sane short-term strategy…

If only it were only a short-term strategy.

If only it were possible for you to shove those feelings under the carpet for, say, an hour or two.  If you could then unpack them fully and respectfully with someone who can offer you the sensitive hearing and unconditional support you deserve.

The long-term problem

Unfortunately, that tends not to happen. Rather, the key – dismissive – loved ones in your life tend to exert a lot of influence over you for a LONG time. As a result, the sensitive, unconditional support that you need does not materialize. So, that reasonable short-term strategy grows into a damaging long-term pattern – a pattern that becomes more or less automatic, with time.

That leaves you with a problem, just as it did Gabbie.  That “I know this sounds stupid but…” phrase destroys your trust in yourself and, likely, the people you could safely trust.

As for my – violent – objection to the mature, sensible, adult piece.  Well, just think for a moment about who in your life claimed the moral high ground for themselves? Who told you that your feelings were immature, childish and stupid?

If they were really so mature, sensible and adult, do you not think that they might have registered that your distress was important and reacted appropriately?

The underlying message

Without being aware of what she was doing, Gabbie was telling me that she was experiencing a strong feeling that what was troubling her was not alright. If I had colluded with her, she might well have been able to stuff those feelings back down. For a while. She might have been able to stick with a situation that was not working for her for a while longer.

I did not think it was alright for her to label her own feeling as stupid. Whether or not I agreed with them (actually, I did, 100%) the point remained, they was her feeling.  That feeling had come about for a reason. That reason mattered to her.  Therefore it mattered.

Your feelings matter to you.  They probably don’t matter as much as they would if you had not been taught to view them in a framework of disregard. However, they still matter.

They should matter.

In reality, the inconvenient feelings that pop up – often when you would really prefer them not to – are a direct message from your intuition.  Your intuition has just registered that something is quite wrong and it is trying to bring you up to speed.

The real problem in the situation

If those mature, sensible, adult loved ones try to undermine the importance of your feelings and your intuition, they have a problem.  They are making their convenience more important than your feelings.

That is NOT alright.

That one little phrase, “I know this sounds stupid but…” points to all of this and more.

So, if you find yourself saying, “I know this sounds stupid but…” first off, open up a respectful dialogue with yourself.  (That might already be a first for you.)  Tell yourself, “No, this does not sound stupid, at all.  It sounds important.  Please share what you can and I will do my best to listen respectfully.” Then, ask yourself what needs to change for the icky – allegedly stupid – feeling to go away.

When I helped Gabbie to listen to her own “stupid” feelings, she not only saw what was not alright, she could see her way forward. If she could do that, so can you.

Take your feelings seriously

You are not stupid and your feelings deserve to be taken seriously.  If you struggle to take them seriously, or make sense of what is troubling you, chances are that you need some professional help and support. You are worth of  your own care and consideration. Don’t let “I know this sounds stupid but…” get in the way of you finding peace of mind.

“I know this sounds stupid but…” is a phrase that destroys your trust in yourself and, likely, the people you could safely trust. Trust your feelings.  Not the people who trash them.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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