When I say, “hurt feelings,” it probably sounds a little childish. Not that they aren’t important, but that phrase has become a little infantilizing, hasn’t it? Let’s try a different one: emotional trauma.
That may sound like a big jump, but the concepts are essentially the same. Hurt feelings—especially unresolved hurt feelings—absolutely can become traumas. I’ll never forget when I was just a little kid and my dad was told he needed open-heart surgery. Back then, that was a huge ordeal, and once you had it you would probably be the same again. Simply put, he snapped, and I happened to be there at the time. He started hitting me and told me over and over again that I would never amount to anything. Then he just walked away. He’d never done anything like that before, never did it again, and he apologized to me afterwards. But as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words, and for the next 15 years, that incident controlled nearly everything about my life.
Now, you may say that’s obviously an emotional trauma. But here’s the issue: I’ve worked with clients who were affected just as negatively by incidents that we would think of as completely insignificant! I once knew a woman who had grappled with some serious issues all her life, which we eventually traced back to a memory of a day when her mother had refused to give her a popsicle. I call them “popsicle memories,” after her. The unconscious doesn’t perceive the same scale our conscious minds do, and the reality is that pretty much anything that hurts our feelings can become a trauma. Mostly, it depends on whether we’re able to process it.
That applies to the other side too. Hurting someone else’s feelings can end up having a powerfully negative effect on you too. So today, I want to share my tips for working through hurt feelings—so they don’t become traumas.
First things first, you’ve got to break the cycle of action and reaction. I saw this all the time in marriage counseling—and even in my own marriage! One person does something that makes the other mad, so they do something in retaliation, and so on and so on until no one can even remember how it started. This is my first piece of advice because the rest won’t work without it. You’ve got to let it pass. Let the cycle end.
My second piece of advice is to pray your hurt. Like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, I think the best prayer is an honest one. If you’re angry, be angry! If you believe in God, it’s not as though what you’re thinking will surprise him. If you don’t, you can still make a request of your heart, and you can still be honest with yourself. Talking with a friend can be helpful too if you have a friend that you know loves you unconditionally.
I worked with a woman who had been raped once. Over time I was able to help her recover—it’s an amazing story, but the part that’s most relevant today is what she told me when she finally had her major breakthrough. She said something like, “I was able to look back on what happened and wonder what hurt him so badly that he could do what he did. I felt sorry for him.” The lesson I try to take away from this is that no matter what someone does to you, no matter how unfair or mean-spirited it may be, you can’t really know what their life is like, or what you’d have done in their shoes. Of course, that doesn’t make it right, and maybe nothing can make it right. What you can do is make yourself whole.
This leads into my next point, which is to seek the whole truth. When you’ve been wronged, one of the small comforts you have is in being in the right. It was the other person who did something bad, so you have the moral high ground—or at least you believe you do. Suggesting otherwise can make a person very angry, and it’s not hard to see why. But the reality is that in most cases, at least some of the blame is on both sides. Now, that’s not always the case. In the case of that woman, for example. Rape victims almost always have feelings of being at least partially to blame for what happened to them, even when they know intellectually that it’s not the case. What’s important, I think, is to value truth and reconciliation more than you value being right or getting payback on the other person. That’s not an easy thing, but the results are worth the extra mile.
Ancient manuscripts say to count it as joy when you experience suffering. Sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it? But the reasoning behind it is solid and simple: suffering forces us to grow. In my workshops, I often ask my audience whether they’ve ever been through something that was extremely painful at the time, but later turned out to be really good for them. I think I’ve had maybe two or three people ever not raise their hands. Everyone I know has had an experience like this—I’ve had two or three of my own. That doesn’t make the pain go away, but pain that has meaning is easier to bear, and the reality is that all pain has meaning, at least if we’re willing to search for it.
All those things should allow you to approach hurt feelings in a healthy way, with the right mindset. The next thing I would say is to use the right tools to heal the unconscious parts that you can’t just reach yourself. I have a program called Trilogy which, in three years of medical testing, has been shown to be 98 percent effective in eliminating physiological stress and negative emotions. My previous method, The Healing Codes, has been shown by five different rigorous clinical studies to be effective in those areas as well. It’s what I’ve spent the majority of my career doing.
Finally, I think the ultimate progression of all this should be to confront the other person in kindness, truth, and love. Now I should make it clear that love can mean different things. When I realized in my twenties that I had no idea what love really was, and eventually recommitted myself to truly love my wife Hope for the rest of my life, she wanted a divorce at the time! Does that mean I keep clinging to her and obsessing over her even if she pushes me out of her life? No! It means accepting her and wanting the best for her, no matter what. Even if the best for her doesn’t include me. But in doing this, you’ll find the kind of relationships money can’t buy. Deep, meaningful, intimate relationships—not necessarily sexual, but spiritually intimate. Those are the things that make life worth living. Those are the things that make hurt feelings worth the trouble.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!