It’s always been my intent to foster personal growth, both as a therapist and as the woman I am. It’s a personal passion of mine as well as a daily intention. While the current political and social landscape is inspiring the energy from which I write, my motivation is still to encourage each reader to consider how they might move forward on the road to self-actualization.
People don’t wake up and think “Wow, I’m so happy I think I’ll punch someone.”… No. When someone throws a punch, it is generally because they have just felt fear or insult and their instinct is to fight or fight back. Please understand… it’s HURT people who HURT people.
Let’s define HURT.
Mirriam Webster defines hurt as “to inflict with physical pain” and “to cause emotional pain or anguish”. Some hurt is easy to identify. We can see bruises, broken bones, and blood. Sometimes, we can see emotional pain with tears, downcast eyes, and sorrowful expressions. But often, emotional pain is hidden deeply in the core of our being, in our memories, and in the stories of our lives. These pains are the ones doing the most damage. These pains are the invisible and silent motivators of hurtful behavior. These pains are at the core of hatred.
Recently, Oprah Winfrey started a discussion “Where do we go from here?” I was so happy to hear her begin by saying “we can’t even begin until we acknowledge the hurt and the pain”.
Please read that again…
When I am helping clients heal a relationship, it is imperative that we begin by acknowledging the past pain.
Acknowledging is not the same as agreeing about the pain’s origin, it is not about determining that someone is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, and it is not about turning it around to talk about how much you were hurt. Acknowledging is listening and accepting that each individual had a personally unique experience of that point in time. People may never see eye-to-eye about a painful event as there are always a variety of perspectives but healing cannot begin until people are heard.
When we don’t feel ‘heard’, we seek validation in other areas…
- We talk to other people.
- We project our feelings onto something else.
- We become demanding.
- We give up.
- We shut down.
- We surrender.
And when that happens… nothing constructive can be attained. When feelings are not addressed, the pain stays rooted in our psyche and becomes the catalyst for our behavior. It’s noticed in resentment, bitterness, defensiveness, passive aggressiveness, and anger.
The answer is multifaceted with both individual and compassionate components:
- KNOW YOUR PAIN. I cannot say this enough. Self awareness and self understanding are central to addressing your behavior.
- SELF-MASTERY. Again, I cannot stress this enough. No one – ever – at any time – makes you behave in a particular way. YOU are the master of your behavior; your reaction, at all times.
- TAME YOUR REACTIONS. When you develop self-mastery and become proficient, you can tame your reactions so that they don’t escalate into screaming matches or violence.
- SHOW COMPASSION. If you’ve done your own work, you’ll immediately notice that aggressive or withdrawal reactions are consequences of pain. Compassion and empathy go a long way in de-escalating heated scenarios.
- BE HUMANE. There is never a reason – ever – to treat another human being in a way other than what is globally considered humane.
When we truly understand that it’s typically ‘hurt people’ who are lashing out, shutting us down, or denying us… we might find the courage and strength to react from a place of love and compassion – changing the outcome significantly.
Oprah also spoke about “ [the] collective grief and anger” that has accumulated over generations of pain that has been shared via our stories. Stories play a vital role in our pain and I’ll be discussing that in the next post so stay tuned!
I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.
You can also listen to me on Try This at Home – a series of conversations about making life better.