For a few weeks now, I’ve been noticing a theme among my clients. This isn’t new; in fact, it’s often true that there is a common issue among many clients, be it general or even specific. But this theme is very specific, and it’s not just limited to clients – I’ve been hearing it from colleagues and friends as well.
The theme is injustice.
Injustice – not like a whining child complaining, “it’s not fair!”; more like a hurt adult wounded and confused by something another adult has said or done (and maybe keeps on saying or doing). Though the situations vary, each one is the same in that the person talking to about it me (let’s say Person A) is in a sort of shock that the other party (let’s say Person B) is actually behaving this way…and “this way” can be anything from insensitive and thoughtless to downright mean and cruel. In each scenario, Person A is truly and deeply hurt – both by Person B and by their own expectations of Person B. Granted, some of these expectations may be far-fetched, but in my recent experiences they are not. These expectations include: being nice. Caring that you hurt someone. Wanting to and/or being willing to stop hurting someone. Being sorry you hurt someone. Wanting not to hurt someone. Maybe even wanting to make it right with the person you hurt!
But we are all human, and we all hurt…most of the time the hurt-OR is also a hurt-EE. It’s never black and white, right? Riiiiiiiight…except for one thing: you can always acknowledge another person’s hurt without giving up, away, or out on your own. It doesn’t mean they’re right and you’re wrong – it means you SEE them – which is probably all you want from them too. And when it all boils down to the nitty-gritty, that’s all anyone really needs. Of course we’d all like to never be hurt by those we care about (or even those we don’t care about, thank you very much), but the reality is we have, do and will hurt each other – sometimes on purpose, but mostly not.
What I see as the biggest factor in healing is this simple act of acknowledging the other person’s hurt. Start there – that might be all you can do, or all you might need to do. Even if you are hurt deeply yourself, two hurting people locked in a standstill just stay that way unless someone is brave enough to reach out and take a risk – to hear the hurt of the other and say: I see it. I see you. Even if I don’t understand or agree – even if my intention was the direct opposite of the way you took it and that’s more hurt for me that you did take it that way – I see your hurt is real.
That’s it. There are few things more painful and/or enraging than being told you have nothing to be hurt, angry or upset about. In one fell swoop that invalidates you and ignores you, at the same time. It’s a dead end, with nowhere to proceed.
Some relationships should be a dead end. The catty coworkers who continue to talk behind your back may not be worth your emotional energy to try harder to make things better. In those cases, a nice duck’s back may be your prescription – just let it roll right off you. It’s their stuff, not yours, even if it’s directed at you. Many of my clients have these situations, and we work on seeing where their emotional energy is best spent, and remembering that you can’t rationalize the irrational into rationality. You can’t reason the unreasonable into reality. Sometimes you just have to stop, breathe, and realize that whatever this hot mess is, it isn’t yours – and you’re not going to join in and make it yours. Hence the duck’s back.
But for other, more primary relationships, you have to seriously weigh the risks of being vulnerable versus the risk of emotional distance. It may very well be that, when you reach out, Person B is still invalidating and insensitive. Okay. That stings – but that’s them, not you. Sometimes the best you can do is to conduct yourself with your own high level of integrity, apologize for hurts you may have caused, and realize your feelings are valid even if that other person can’t validate them for you – and often this is the case.
The point is: when you go asking the person who hurt you to make it better and validate your hurt, you may get more hurt if they are unable or unwilling to do that for you, or if they can’t see beyond their own hurts to even try. But when you acknowledge and claim your own pain as well as whatever hurt you may have caused, you empower yourself from even needing their validation in the first place, freeing you to accept whatever that relationship is going to be.
Does that make sense? Let me know what you think and comment below.