No one is immune to hurt feelings. Girlfriends and boyfriends break up; husbands and wives have disagreements; employees get wrongfully fired; creative work gets criticized and on and on. Getting hurt is an inevitable part of life in general and relationships in particular. And when the blow to the ego comes, sometimes unfairly and frequently unexpectedly out of the blue, the ache is magnified by feelings of vulnerability and anger.
Typically that’s when we search for justification and flail about in frustration looking for scapegoats to blame in an effort to tamp down and avoid the pain – strategies that can work only temporarily; because as you have heard me say many times, the only way to get through it is to go through it. We have to surrender to our hurt feelings, not in defeat, but in recognition that they are part of life, not all of life. When we feel our feelings we allow ourselves to be vulnerable; we allow ourselves to share with trustworthy friends, family and therapists; and we allow the healing process to begin.
Try this new take on how to respond to hurt feelings: listen to them and then surf them away.* What is it they are telling us about the decisions we made and the actions we took that brought the pain on? Maybe the ache we feel is telling us we need to set a boundary or accept one that exists or that the direction we’re traveling has taken a wrong turn and it’s time to stop and reassess where we’re heading. In this context, our pain is simply a symptom of a less than successful choice we made previously.
Perhaps some of you may have read “The Four Agreements,” by Miguel Ruiz. Its subtitle is ‘A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,’ and indeed it is an excellent guide to freeing one’s self from the missteps and misunderstandings that lead to hurt feelings. 1. Be impeccable with your word. 2. Don’t take anything personally. 3. Don’t make assumptions. 4. Always do your best.
Understandably, we don’t want to feel any more pain than might await us in the course of our lifetime, but when it does arrive it need not devastate us if we recognize its presence rather than deny it. We have the capacity to deal with hurt feelings and as the pain evaporates, joy feels the space.
*If you don’t know or remember how to use the Surfing Technique, check out that section of my book, The In-Sourcing Handbook: Where and How to Find the Happiness You Deserve.