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  • Karen O'Moore

Hurt people hurt people

Updated: Feb 9



We all torment those we love while feigning unawareness. We all do things deliberately to hurt each other – by saying hurtful words, doing things, or withholding doing things. If we don’t recognise that we do, then it is going to be hard for us to stop. We cannot learn to control what we deny exists.

· Does your partner tell you are ‘stupid’, ‘crazy’ or inadequate?

· Do you often feel guilty and second guess your choices in friends, social activities, jobs etc because of your partners negative comments about these choices?

· Does your partner pressure you into sex or withhold sex from you?

· Does your partner know how to make you feel bad (i.e. which buttons to push) and use them often to hurt you?

· Has your partner ever called you names, put you down, insulted you, and/or embarrassed you in front of others?

Hurtful words and actions can cause us to feel invalidated, disrespected and diminished, all by the actions and behaviours of someone else.

Why do we say hurtful things? It actually all stems back to when we first began to communicate. Because we learn language during a time that we are completely dependent on others for survival, we learn to use language that serves our own needs first. Our language is intimately tied to emotion and discomfort – it is most often used to manipulate our environment – from crying to when we are wet or hungry to learning our first words. And very often the first word learnt by a young child, is the word ‘no’.

Fortunately as we grow older, we learn to use language in a less self centred way. We learn to use language for effectively to get along with others and we learn that the behaviours of a 2 year old, don’t work so well in the adult world.

Unfortunately that does not mean we forget how to be self centred and mean etc in what we say. In fact, because we have learnt self centred communication so early on in life, we get a huge amount of practice, doing just that. In a way it is our default setting. Not only do we have the ability to communicate in hurtful and manipulative ways, we now have the added ability of newer, more adult language skills. The more childlike ways of communicating are still there but we have learnt it’s pretty unwise to use them.

For the most part, as adults we communicate in non hurtful ways. Until our emotions are triggered. And in that moment, when we are angry or upset, our thinking gets murky and we revert to what we learnt early in life. It is in a way a kind of verbal ‘fight or flight’ response, and when we are emotionally upset, even if we aren’t consciously aware we are, we revert to what we learnt as babies. We act like small children. People who are hurting lash out at other people. When we react in this way, we are automatically reanimating a particular behavioural pattern and we do so without awareness.

And reacting is lazy. We don’t have to work very hard at getting reactive, at least compared to being non reactive. It’s as easy as sliding downhill. The awareness of it is a different ride – moving from unconscious reacting to reactivity seen, means it is then replaced by responsiveness.

The hurtful childhood language is the first reaction – it feels like it just blurts out. In tough conversation, slow down what is coming out of your mouth. Rather say nothing than hurt with knee jerk reactions. Give your adult self a chance to assert itself. When we stop before thinking/doing/manipulations, we allow our thought processes to moderate our child like emotional reactions, and therefore what we say.

For those on the receiving end - We can choose to receive that anger and then in turn, lash out at other people ourselves, we could lash back at the one who is hurting us, or we can step back and respond rather than react, with compassion and understanding. The latter is not saying that we are accepting it – there is not one soul that deserves to be abused. We are always allowed to walk way. That choice is always there. We always have the choice to stand up for ourselves. Letting it tumble into an argument is not going to bring any better of an outcome, but we could simply say ‘ I love you and I understand that you are hurting, but I cannot allow you to hurt me, so I am going to walk away for now and we can talk about it later once the emotion has gone’. Meet your partner without any sense of condescension – no shaming, no blaming, no overpowering and no crumbling.

Those who hurt us are usually hurting themselves, and their pain may be so strong that they are not even aware they are hurting us’ – Joyce Meyers

Remember, cheap shots at your partner, are emotionally expensive. We cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube – when words are spoken, there is no taking them back. Be gentle with them. And if you have said something unkind, fess up, apologise, make up and move on


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