Hurt Feelings. They're like noses. We all have them. They come in all shapes and sizes. They can come suddenly like a cloud and bring the rain or build up slowly and then consume us like a tornado. They can be so powerful that they can make us lose complete perspective of our reality. You overhear your colleagues are having a get together at the end of the day, but you haven't been invited. You feel excluded. Hurt feelings show up. You find out that someone you thought was a good friend has been talking about you behind your back. You feel betrayed. Hurt feelings show up. You're having dinner with your girlfriend, and she says she wants more space and wants to date other men. Clunk. Couldn't she at least have waited 'til after dessert? You leave dinner feeling hurt and abandoned.
Wouldn't life be so much easier without hurt feelings? Well, maybe. But I believe that hurt feelings can also provide a powerful opportunity for self-awareness and healing. If outer reality is a reflection of inner reality, then when hurt feelings show up, we can take the opportunity to ask ourselves what has been suppressed and unexpressed. If in my outer world there is something that produces hurt and pain, then there must be something inside me that is still unresolved. The question then becomes what to do with hurt feelings when they show up, and what can we learn from them. The theme of this blog series and of my new book is how to use everything that life puts on our path as a way to unbind our hearts. Hurt feelings can then serve as a tunnel, through which we can come to the other side to the freedom of our heart.
Here are the some of the ground rules to deal with hurt feelings that can help:
1. There is nothing wrong with you because you have hurt feelings. We all get them. They are a part of life.
2. There is nothing wrong with your hurt feelings. They have a right and a reason to be there.
3. They need to be expressed. It's not the hurt feelings themselves that cause long-term pain and issues. Keeping them bottled up is what causes problems, in ourselves and in our relationships.
4. They need to be accepted. Judging ourselves for having hurt feelings only makes things worse. By coming into acceptance, we can more clearly see them for what they are and learn from them.
5. We have a choice to let them go. We don't have to let them run our lives. We can accept them, learn from them and then move on.
The first step to coming into acceptance of our hurt feelings is to take ownership of them and not blame someone else. No one else is responsible for our feelings. We are responsible for our own. To say that someone else "hurt my feelings" is to give our power away. It is saying to yourself that another person has the power to make us feel a certain way. Not true at all. It is only so because you say so. It's more accurate to say, "In this particular situation, I allowed my feelings to get hurt," and to be in the driver's seat.
What makes it hard is that when we have hurt feelings, we judge ourselves for having them, and we most likely judge the other person in the circumstance. If we have the wit to forgive ourselves for judging ourselves the minute we have them, then we are shifting the gear to neutral, and there is not going to be as much charge. From that place of observation and non-judgment, we can start to let go of them and have some altitude about the core issue, which could be lack of control, making comparisons, lack of self-love, feeling excluded, feelings of unworthiness, and placing tremendous value on external circumstances, or simply good old entitlement.
When I used to get hurt feelings, I would try to pretend they weren't there and shove them down. I used to think I was superior to them, and they were too petty for me, and I would try to eat them away. There is nothing that Haagen Daaz Rum Raisin ice cream can't "cure," I would tell myself. But unfortunately, ice cream isn't a long-term solution. Something would occur, and I would get hurt feelings. Instead of acknowledging it, I would pretend it didn't happen, and my energy would be depleted and unavailable to be productive, and the whole day became more stressful and difficult. I would walk around feeling like I had a beehive in my stomach, which might erupt at any minute. One day, I realized that my hurt feelings could be a big part of my self-healing and growth.
What I learned was that if in the moment that the situation happens, I instantly admit that I just got hurt feelings, and give it a voice, at least to myself, I immediately felt more empowered. If I can handle it right there and then, then I can take responsibility for it and stop being a victim. The way to take responsibility over them is to give them a voice and accept them. That is the beginning of unbinding our hearts.
Sometimes hurt feelings need to be cried out, and it helps to have a person we trust that we can do with this. Sometimes, depending on what the circumstances are, it might take a little while for healing, but we don't have to build a monument for our hurt feelings. We can recognize the part that hurts is ultimately a part that needs to have our love and attention. It is a part of us that hasn't been healed and needs to be embraced. If there is a part of ourselves that hasn't been fully claimed, then we cannot experience the fullness of who we truly are. The times that I have felt whole in my life, and I was fully present, there was no lack. Therefore, the things that could have affected me when I was in a more needy and lacking place just did not affect me as much. Our hurt feelings are an incredibly powerful tool, because they bring our awareness to places within ourselves that are still needy and lacking. This awareness is the first step into healing.
Hurt feelings can also make us aware of our deeply-ingrained emotional and behavioral patterns. If we keep experiencing them or responding in a certain way to similar circumstances over and over, then there is likely a limiting pattern we still need to work through. There are two things that perpetuate a lot of hurt in our lives: judgments and expectations. We expect that people are going to act a certain way. Usually, this looks like we expect people to act in exactly the way we want them to. When people inevitably fail to act the way we want them to or the way we think they should, we experience hurt. This is when we have an opportunity to shift our perspectives. We can realize that people are going to behave and act according to their own rules, and commit to just love and support ourselves regardless. Let's be our own best friends! If on some rare occasion, others act in a way that fulfills our expectations, then hurray for us! If they don't, then so be it. If we give ourselves the latitude to realize that each person we encounter has a whole other movie going on inside of their heads, and their own script they are following, we can accept that we have no clue about what their reality is like, what is present and important at that time for them and not make assumptions about their motives. We are the authors and the stars of our own movie, not anyone else's.
The most important thing to realize is that your hurt feelings are not more powerful than you. This can be the most liberating knowledge and affirmation for us. You can have them, you can feel them, you can own them, but you don't have to drown in them. When they come up, welcome them! Don't sweep them under the rug. Don't shut the door. Say welcome! Come sit on my lap and let me comfort you, like the most loving grandma. Listen to that part that hurts. Nurture it, love it, give it its voice and forgive it. And when you are ready, and only when you are ready, let it go. Fill that place that's been hurt with an abundance of love and affection. This is the path to unbinding your heart.
Share with us how you deal with your hurt feelings.
More about how to unbind your heart at www.unbindingyourheart.com where you can download the guided meditation
For more by Agapi Stassinopoulos, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.