When a Loved One Hurts Us

We often respond to hurt with anger or withdrawal, but there is a better way.

It happens to everyone. We all get hurt by those we love. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen. couple_not_talkingOf course, we also hurt those we love, but we’ll save that for another article.

When we get hurt, we respond. We can’t help it. But, the nature of our response can make all the difference. Our response can influence the future course of the relationship, and our sense of well-being.

Our natural tendency is to become defensive or self-protective when we get hurt. We try to protect ourselves to avoid further pain. It makes sense. Unfortunately, a defensive response often worsens the situation.

We can divide our defensive responses into two categories; anger and withdrawal. For some, hurt is quickly, and subconsciously, turned into anger. They voice their complaint to the one who hurt them. Their words, tone of voice, facial expression, and posture convey that anger. They may even use the word “hurt” to express their feelings, but the non-verbal message is clear, “I’m angry.” The anger is often the only emotion the offending party hears.

Other people tend to respond to hurt with withdrawal. These people distance themselves. They may stop talking or physically leave. They distance themselves emotionally. They may avoid eye contact, busy themselves with some activity or focus their attention on others. They may harbor resentment for the hurt, but they don’t discuss it. With enough hurts, they may leave the relationship altogether.

So, what is a more effective response to hurt from a loved one? How can we respond to hurt in a manner that promotes healing and avoids further damage to the relationship? The answer is to simply and honestly, express the hurt. For this to be effective, our tone of voice, facial expression and body language must convey hurt, not anger. This is difficult, and we have to be conscious and deliberate about it. It is difficult because it makes us feel vulnerable. It takes a lot of courage to make yourself vulnerable to the person who has just hurt you.

Expressing hurt in a vulnerable manner can promote a more productive conversation, deeper understanding, and eventually, an improved relationship. Expressing hurt as anger or withdrawal usually creates conflict, distance, and a wounded relationship. There are exceptions, but this is usually true.

Now, please remember that we are talking about hurt from a loved one. We’re assuming that the other person is not emotionally dangerous and unstable, and is not intentionally trying to hurt you because they enjoy doing so. We can usually tell the difference.

So, next time you are hurt by a loved one, try to express that hurt only as hurt. Let them know that their words or behaviors hurt you, and do so without anger. Make yourself express the hurt, rather than withdrawal, detachment and silence. Try to express your feelings in a more vulnerable way. Chances are, you’ll begin a healthier conversation, and eventually, an improved relationship.


Comments: What do you think? Have you seen the benefits of expressing hurt rather than anger or withdrawal?

Self-Esteem Wounds From A Distant Parent

This "Fresh Prince" scene illustrates the pain of an unavailable father.

Many children experience the pain of an unavailable parent. The child mistakenly believes that he or she is the blame. The question, “Why can’t he love me?” is all too common. Of course the problem actually rests with the parent, not the child, but the child doesn’t know this. The self-esteem is wounded, as the child feels unlovable. That feeling of being unimportant or unlovable follows the child into adulthood, maintaining the self-esteem wound.

This scene from “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” provides an excellent example of a rejecting parent and a hurting son. We need to recognize that the problem lies with the parent, not with the child. Will Smith does a beautiful job of depicting the reaction of the rejected child. First, he acts cool, as if there is no problem and it doesn’t bother him. Then he expresses anger at the parent for not being there for him. Finally, he becomes more vulnerable to asks the ultimate self-esteem wound question, “Why doesn’t he want me?” He shows the very strong tendency the child has to blame himself.

Unfortunately, far too many children and teenagers have to deal with a distant or absent parent. Of course, adults know that the problem lies with the parent, not with the child. The child blames himself.

Letting Go Of Other’s Opinions

Worrying about other's opinions can limit your life.

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”

                                                                                                  Lao Tzu


It can control, stifle, limit, or even destroy us. It can lower self-esteem and create anxiety or depression. It’s the angry_old_womanalmost universal human tendency to worry about other people’s opinions.


We watch the expressions on other’s faces. We try to analyze what they meant by certain statements. We imagine what they might be saying behind our backs.


We do some things because others will think less of us if we don’t. We avoid other things because they may disapprove if they find out. We make our choices based on our predictions of their judgment.


Some people live their entire lives under the shadow of other’s opinions, totally sacrificing their own dreams and goals. The opinions of others blare loudly in their minds, drowning out their own thoughts, values and dreams.


Here are several truths that can help us lesson our concerns with other’s opinions.


  1. No one knows as much about your situation, and the factors leading to your choices as you do. Unfortunately, people make judgments without knowing all the facts. Since their opinions are based on ignorance, they shouldn’t count.
  2. Most of the time, people are thinking about you less than you imagine. They probably have no opinion about you one way or the other.
  3. It is true that there are some people who tend to be very disapproving and judgmental. They are going to find something wrong no matter what you do. It seems to me that they are actually the ones who have the greatest problems.
  4. Others are simply human just like you. Why would you consider their opinion to be superior to your own? They are just as likely to be wrong as you are. Actually, more so since we are talking about your life choices, not theirs.


Try to do the right thing. Try to be kind and loving toward others, when you can. Try to live your life consistent with your true values. Learn to live your life deliberately. Then try to let go of your worries of other’s opinions. You won’t be able to do it immediately. You will have to practice it daily. Hard work, but worth it!



Comments: Please share your thought about our tendencies to worry about the opinions of others.

The Power of Persistence in Forming New Habits

Persistent practice is the best way to form and maintain new habits.

January first is known as a time of new beginnings. A common topic is one’s new year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, choicesmost new year’s resolutions drop by the wayside before February begins.

Why is it so hard for us to break bad habits or form new habits? Why are we so prone to gravitate back to the old and familiar? What can we do to increase the likelihood of creating a new, better, or healthier habit?

One NASA experiment provides some insight. In the early days of NASA, researchers wanted to see how astronauts would respond to the disorienting conditions of space. They created sets of convex goggles, which flipped everything in their field of vision 180 degrees. In other words, their seemed to be turned upside down. They made the astronauts wear these goggles 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, even when they slept.

As expected, the astronauts did become disoriented at first and displayed symptoms of stress, such as elevated blood pressure, respiration and other vital signs. Gradually, however, they began to adapt to their altered vision and were able to negotiate most tasks fairly well.

Then something amazing happened. Somewhere between day 26 and day 30, the astronaut’s brain flipped the image back right-side-up. Even though they were still wearing the goggles, and the image hitting their eyes was still flipped, they began to see the world the right way.

The researchers discovered that after 26 to 30 days of continuous input, the astronaut’s brains formed new neural pathways, causing them to see their worlds normally again.

NASA then did a second study. They had half the astronauts wear the “flipped” goggles for 30 days, as before, and as before, their brains corrected the image after 26 to 30 days. NASA had a second group wear the goggles, but after 15 days, they told them to take them off for 24 hours. This group’s brains didn’t correct the image for an additional 26 to 30 days. Taking the goggles off for 24 hours reset the brain back to day one.

The researchers discovered that it takes the brain requires approximately 30 days to form new neural pathways – for new habits to form. So, to form new habits, we need to consciously and deliberately maintain the new behavior for at least thirty days. If we do a new behavior, and then revert back to our old behavior periodically, we start the clock all over again. The new, desired behavior never becomes engrained, new neural connections are never made, and we break all those resolutions.

Make a commitment to alter your behavior for at least 30 days. Try to avoid any “days off” and see what happens.


Comment: Please share your experiences in trying to form new habits. What worked for you?