Embracing the Hurt Breaks the Pattern

It’s reasonable, when you encounter upsetting events, to think “how can I prevent this from happening again?”

But turns out that’s not the lesson we should focus on first. The first thing to pay attention is “how am I feeling?” And whatever it is that you feel — the best thing to do is to feel it. Some feelings are so uncomfortable you’d be tempted to distract yourself (that is, if you don’t have the automatic habit that’s already made the decision without you realizing).  Just see if you can hold off as long as you can.

Then the next worthy question is to ponder “why am I feeling the way I am?” You probably have ideas already but there may be a deeper reason. For example, if you feel stung by something someone said to you — could it be possible that there’s something there that you are afraid is true? Totally off-the-mark criticisms, for example, will not hurt your feelings, it’ll feel absurd. So if criticism stings, perhaps there is something there that you are afraid of, even if it is still untrue?

The thing is, history keeps repeating itself until you process all the emotional baggage associated with events of that kind.

The current culture makes us want to just prevent it from happening again, because the feeling is what we’re afraid of. But that’s a bit like treating the symptom and not the cause. Even if you manage to avoid/prevent the exact same thing, the chances are, you’ll have similar experience elsewhere.

For example, if you feel unheard and misunderstood by a friend, you can distance yourself from that friend, but you’ll probably feel that way with a colleague or family. If you attend to all the grief and anger that comes from being unheard and misunderstood, then the next time it happens, instead of feeling bad you’ll be able to see that the other party may just be having a bad day or may just not be capable of providing the reaction you seek. You just move on then, without feeling too upset.

The less emotional baggage you carry, the less things upset you. Which frees you up to see things in different ways of your own choosing. You feel more stable and in control, even though what you can control — just yourself — hasn’t changed.