Don't take away my special too
Sympathy is hard. It's even harder if you genuinely care about the person. In those moments, we struggle for the right words and facial expressions and pre-verbal cooing noises that will make the situation a little less painful. And maybe for the other person as well.
A common sympathetic tactic is the "appeal to community": the aggrieved is reassured that they are not alone, that others have gone through similar states of mind, body, or circumstance, and one should try to draw strength from their brothers and sisters in arms against this particular sea of troubles.
Maybe this is my introversion talking, but saying that I'm the same as a bunch of sad strangers does not help me when I'm feeling down. My sense of individuality is my last remaining spark of light. By grouping me in with a bunch of assholes that I don't even know (and you probably don't either; you're probably just making some bullshit rhetorical point), it smothers my carefully constructed lifelong fantasy of being a combination Golden Child-Neo-Last Starfighter. I want to feel like my survival of this current catastrophe is due to my near-freakish collection of emotional talents.
In other words, don't make me a statistic.
The tactic of "you're not alone" also carries with it the implication that the world is full of suffering. "You know how bad you feel right now?" says the sympathizer. "Well multiply that by many, many. There's that much more of this out there. So take heart!"
And by implying that the scenario is more common than the sufferer thinks, you increase its perceived likelihood of reoccuring. Even if one does not clutch at narcissism when in pain (as I do), they might still clutch at probabilities:
"I may be experiencing something terrible, but I'm just one person in this whole crazy world who managed to walk into this specific set of...what's that you say? I'm not alone? There's other's like me? So instead of this being a 1 in 7.5 billion chance, it's is actually many hundreds of percent more likely than I thought it was just a moment ago? Okay thanks. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings."
This blog has always had a stealth agenda to teach everyone in the world how to treat me better and generally improve my life for me, without me having to do anything icky like "share" or "connect". So I'm not simply complaining about the people who are trying to be nice to me when I am in need. I'm trying to help you help me.
What I'm trying to do is complete the feedback loop that would be inappropriate to complete in the midst of sobbing, emotional crisis. Digital soapboxes like these were designed to make it easier to communicate with those whom we could not otherwise. In this case the distance separating me from my audience is my own discomfort. Same difference.
Alright, I'll own that my approach here involves somewhat abusing the intentions of my well-wishers, but I maintain that this is in a good cause. I, like most people, want my pain to be something more than just a point in time and space to be survived. I want it to have some lasting positive impact on my life.
In my case, the impact I'm looking for is the reinforcement of my ego-oriented fantasies and delusions. Under normal circumstances I'm able to tend to their care and feeding myself. But when I'm under duress I must depend on the kindness of others.
So if you ever find yourself in the unenviable position of being in my presence when I'm having a bad time, please do not fall back on that old saw about how I'm now a proud member of some Fraternity of Suffering.
Instead, treat it as if the emotional weight I'm carrying were an actual physical weight. Be impressed with my ability to stand it. Talk about how heavy it looks, and how little you would enjoy such an activity. Remind me that one day I'll find myself not having to carry it anymore, but that until that day I'll be the world's sole expert in how to hold it. A light ovation would not be uncalled for. Don't offer to help, because that would lessen the accomplishment. Recognize my feat.
Be proud of me.