Finding Stability and Strength in Vulnerability

07/14/2017 10:29 am ET

When feeling hurt (offended, contradicted, diminished, fearful, or otherwise imposed upon), a common tendency is to respond and defend with anger (or perhaps hysteria, rage, withdrawal, or collapse). It is very difficult for most of us to speak from the deeper place within us that is actually feeling the hurt.

Some people are more capable of speaking from these vulnerable places than others. Some have hair triggers and are immediately angry, and this might even happen multiple times in a day. Some respond aggressively with arguments and confrontation on a frequent basis. There are others who don’t even show their hurt at all. They just show a tough exterior. They can come across as hard, cold, and indifferent. Some just hold it inside and let it accumulate until they finally explode. They can even hold it in for days, weeks, or months. Incredibly, there are even those who hold it in for decades until they finally go ballistic or perhaps have a health breakdown. In every instance, there has to be a better way.

The first step to that better way is to be willing to feel the hurt. We don’t tend to allow ourselves to do that. It just hurts too much. It feels too vulnerable or even weak. Instead, we instantly kick into a different emotion, like anger. If we can catch ourselves before or even after the anger kicks in, and allow ourselves to feel the hurt for what it is, then we have taken a huge step forward in the direction of emotional maturity.

The next step is to develop the ability to speak from that place of hurt. At first glance, it can seem like a weak stance. But the truth is, we can only really speak of the hurt from a place of inner stability and strength. It is only weak or irrational when we can’t hold the hurt from a stable, mature place inside. The way to speak from a place of stability is to give ourselves the time and space required to first find that stability within ourselves while feeling the hurt. Only then can we start to speak from it. If we find ourselves coming out of our place of stability, it’s best to stop talking until we can retrieve it.

Speaking with stability from a place of hurt elicits immediate respect from whomever it is we are dealing with. It may well take us some time to be able to do that. At first, we might shout back. If we’re the type of person who holds things in, then our first response will be to do that. Whatever the case, the thing to do is to gather ourselves, find the place of mature, inner stability and, when we’re ready, to speak from that place.

It doesn’t need to be a long conversation. It can be nothing more than a comment, such as: “You’re hurting my feelings,” or “Let’s give it some time and we’ll talk later.” There are unlimited possibilities. While resting into the place of inner stability, the goal is to give the hurt the space and time we need so that we can eventually sit with the person and hopefully talk it through. When doing so we don’t push the conversation, or try to win a point, or throw a passive-aggressive dart, or vent in any other way. But instead, if we can respond stably and maturely while being with the hurt, they will almost always come around. It may take them some time. They may continue to lash out for a while. This doesn’t mean we should allow ourselves to be abused; it simply means that we do not react in an inflammatory way. They will see that. They will respect that. And in time, they will almost always respond favorably.

Just know that the way of doing this is not a cookbook. It is something we have to find within ourselves. It is quite simply the path to maturity. It is the path to having a healthy relationship with our own inner feelings, whatever they may be. It is also the path to having healthy relationships with others.

Michael Mamas is the founder of The Center of Rational Spirituality, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the betterment of humanity through the integration of ancient spiritual wisdom with modern rational thought. Michael Mamas helps individuals and organizations develop a deeper understanding and more comprehensive outlook by providing a ‘bridge’ between the abstract and concrete, the Eastern and Western, and the ancient and modern. Connect with Dr. Mamas on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.

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