After a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings, Friday was a real learning experience for me. The topic of the day: Hurt Feelings.
As ridiculous as this sounds, I have hurt feelings about having hurt feelings. My failed attempt at communicating my hurt feelings elicited the following response:
“But your feelings get hurt all the time!”
As it turns out, “Nadia the Well Adjusted” is actually “Nadia the Way Too Sensitive”. Well then, if I could only find that pesky feelings switch and shut them off, we could all carry on our merry way. I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately, I felt chopped to bits – as if he had no understanding whatsoever of what I was struggling with, and further, as if he didn’t care to find out.
So, I did a bit of research on feelings, what they are for, and how to control them. Personally, I don’t actually think that my feelings get hurt “all the time” but I will recognize that my feelings get consistently hurt by the same catalysts – in my case the feeling of rejection or abandonment.
The first place I went is back to The Love Dare. Chapter 3 is “Love is not Selfish” and it says that love asks us to deny ourselves for the sake of someone else, but selfishness leads to becoming “higher maintenance” (ironically, another phrase I’ve heard more than once!), more needy, overly sensitive and demanding.
Yep, I can see all of that. I felt (see, there I go again!) overwhelmed Friday by I series of probably innocent comments, varying in topic from laundry to work to marriage, compounded by the busy season of work, and my own lack of self-worth.
Then, I went to the book Boundaries, which is another really great foundational book. It details a story quite similar to mine – a husband dismisses his wife’s feelings because she has feelings too often. Boundaries states that we are responsible for our own feelings but to one another. So, it’s not anyone’s place to take the blame for my feelings, or for me to assume that they caused them or had any control over them – they are mine to own. However, the authors’ position is that we are all still responsible to connect with each other in a loving way. I’ll try to work on that today.
I think that most of us who have hurt feelings from one thing or another feel three basic things:
1) I don’t want hurt feelings.
2) I’m not sure why I have these feelings.
3) I don’t know how to stop these feelings.
I Don’t Want Hurt Feelings
Some people just like to have something to be upset about all the time. I’ve been accused of this, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m happy to go on my merry way, with no bumps in the road. As soon as my feelings get hurt, my chest heats up, my heart starts pounding, and I want to get on the next flight to Australia. But I have seen the opposite personality – the ones that revel in drama and just loves to create situations out of thin air. I feel like I have a short list of topics that I am sensitive to – so my plan is to work on those things.
Being aware that the world around us cannot be fully controlled by us is the first step. Ultimately, I cannot control any other person’s words, feelings, or actions. I can, however, note trends in what causes my hurt feelings and have a contingency plan in place.
I’m Not Sure Why I Have These Feelings
Do you ever look back on situations and say “WHY was I SO upset back then?” I do. The truth is, I cannot put my finger on the “why” of my hurt feelings in this place. Here is one important thing to always remember: Not knowing why your feelings are hurt is not a good reason to ignore them. Hurt feelings should neither be ignored nor placed in charge.
Ignoring your feelings leads to a snowball of emotions that will eventually manifest itself in one way or another, and likely on some innocent bystander wearing the wrong colour of socks. However, putting your hurt feelings in charge leads to hostility, harsh words, and misunderstanding.
I tend to feel vulnerable and easily hurt when issues touch on how I define myself. In this example, since I want to define myself as a good wife, my self-esteem is connected to my perceived performance in this regard. I’m more likely to be hurt by criticisms on my spousal responsibilities, parenting abilities and work performance and less likely to be hurt by criticism about the clothes I wear, the books I read, this blog and if I’m actually a good stand-up comedian.
One theory is that hurt feelings caused by the exclusion of another is a primal and evolutionary response that we have very little control over. In The Highly Sensitive Person author Elaine Aron discusses that back when humans were hunter-gatherers, “being excluded from the group was very dangerous.” The concept back then was that “you might have starved, or even gone insane from being ostracized.” Aron’s further position is that we record emotional wounds in the same part of the brain as physical pain.
So, THAT’S why.
I Don’t Know How to Stop These Feelings
Sometimes, I’m told to “just be ok” and I feel like crying. Thankfully, after yesterday, I finally understand that men just don’t understand. Men, as we know, are “fixers” and want to make everything better by some tangible, logical and rational “thing” and us women sometimes just need a hug and some time. Thankfully, our brains can actually learn to process hurt feelings despite history and genetic predisposition to being sensitive.
Here is a game plan:
1) Eject! (Temporarily) – I would never suggest to bury or hide your feelings forever. But, a few things to keep in mind as you process through them. We have all heard the famous Lawrence J. Peter quote “Speak when you’re angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” Sometimes, 24 hours makes everything better. I will one day research why a pounding heart and tight chest causes foolish words to exit our mouths.
2) Reject with Positivity – Make a list of all the great things about yourself, write it down, and keep it handy. This list is now the Master List. The more aware you are about the positive things about yourself, the less likely you are to disintegrate when criticized.
3) Engage in Pleasure – go for a walk, notice the sunshine, read a book, have a bath. I can see most of you rolling your eyes and saying “how cliché.” TRUST ME THESE WORK! Just do them. Excessive focus on what hurt your feelings makes them seem larger and more difficult to resolve. Find a positive, healthy distraction.
4) Forgive, trust, and be vulnerable – Seems pretty backwards, doesn’t it? The truth is that those of us who are closed off and unwilling to open up are the recipient of more criticism, anxiety and depression than our open-book counterparts. Accept an apology, then say “Thank you, I forgive you” out loud. Magic will happen.