by Madison Asher
It’s so cliché to believe that a cliché is a vapid generalization. Hear me out.
Clichés are the common denominators that allow the collective to connect across seemingly isolated experiences. It’s a shared understanding that facilitates the conversation between two vastly unique realities – yours and mine. A cliché, when in the form an individual moment is extremely unique. It feels almost impossible that someone else can grasp what I’m going through. This is what gives rise to the shared language we deem cliché.
Why is it that love songs ring so much more true and personal when going through a breakup or falling in love? Why is it that being stuck between a rock and a hard place feels spot on when you truly have to make a tough decision? To the collective, these sound cliché and we’re quick to categorize cliché as devoid of freshness. With further examination and sincere curiosity, we may just discover that a cliché is a bid for connection when the uniqueness of a particularly potent experience seems impossible to bring into the shared space.
At times it can feel isolating to experience something so unique that we may be longing for a way to process the potency of it via connection. Our innate desires for belonging and progressing are intricately connected. It’s via our bids for connection that we attain more feelings of progress. This doesn’t look the same for everyone – it certainly doesn’t mean we're all social butterflies constantly in conversation with others to feel that we belong. It does mean that we share the collective sentiment that “I long to belong” and are all executing on that desire in different ways.
Next time you hear a cliché from a friend, a coworker, a stranger or even yourself, before you jump to a judgment that this is a surface-level conversation, perhaps ask yourself “how is this person bidding for connection by bringing this up?; what experience might feel so alone for this person that the most readily available tool to connect about it lives in the cliché?” After all, the cliché is a conglomerate of individual experiences neatly packaged into a single statement precisely because it makes it that much more accessible to talk about. It necessitates an easy way to be brought into the arena precisely because it can feel so unique and isolating to experience on our own.
Changing these responses in our own minds by first becoming aware of how we instinctually respond, is the route toward creating new neural pathways and therefore new ways of being. It's the route towards stretching and flexing new muscles in our minds so that our capacities for experience are greater. If we can change how we relate to cliché conversations, what new connections might we make with others? What new connections might we make with our own experiences?