Only You Can Truly Hurt You
By: Deb Maes
April 28, 2020
We all have been hurt by things others have said, at one time or another, haven’t we? We even say things like, ‘their words wounded me’. And the logical thing to do seems to be to move away or blame them for our pain. That’s the way the brain is wired – to move us away from pain and towards pleasure.
But, this is like accusing a doctor of ‘hurting’ us when they press or poke to find the problem. If we have no injury, sure we feel the pressure of their pushing, but real no pain, unless there is something in us that needs fixing. Rather than being angry with the doctor and thinking, ‘all will be fine if they just change what they are doing’, aren’t we better to take action to fix the condition that is causing the pain?
So too, no one ever has the capacity to hurt us. We hurt our self by applying their words to our own wounds. It’s like if someone offered us a spoonful of chili powder. We can choose to leave it, or accept it and put it aside, or use it for our cooking, or we could even choose to rub it on our skin or eyes. It only hurts based on what we do with it. The chili won’t create the wound, will it? But, applying it to our wounds, that would hurt a lot, wouldn’t it?
No matter what anyone says to me, only I can hurt myself by the meaning I make inside my own mind. I’ll feel nothing about their opinion if I think it untrue. But if it hurts, at some level I must hold it to be true, even if I’m not aware of it.
For us to hurt ourselves with another person’s words, we have to be doing two things: presupposing certain things and making meaning. Unless I presuppose that there is some truth to it and that it means something I fear, the words can have no impact. And, this happens often unconsciously, which means that we aren’t necessarily aware we are doing this.
Recently, someone told me something I said had hurt them. They presupposed that I knew them well enough to know that they would be sensitive to these words. They thought it meant that I had recognised them to be worthless (their inner fear), and they presupposed that I was expert enough to be able to make this kind of evaluation. They hadn’t presupposed that I could be wrong or that I could be struggling with something in myself, or that I hadn’t paid correct attention.
What had really generated my interaction was my own inadequacy and self-doubt. My behavior was all about my struggle with issues. If they had taken this meaning, they would have not been able to hurt themselves with my words, would they?
This is not to say that I can be thoughtless with my words or deeds, but what it means is that I can be aware that when someone says something to me and I feel a twinge inside, I can take it as a signal that I’m making a meaning that is hurting me and I can look to where that is and I can adjust that inside myself.
What are some of the things you can do to remind yourself of this when you are feeling hurt?