Feeling wronged can lead to deep hurt that may cause short-term to long-term emotional pain, depending on the nature of the triggering offense. The question is often asked, “how can I begin the healing process after I’ve been hurt?” This is a question that many wrestle with, wanting to find a way to recover emotionally from perhaps the most destructive consequence of conflict – emotional hurt.
Emotional hurt can occur in any type of relationship or association with others; the family circle, the workplace, and even within the context of the faith community where disagreements are sometimes mishandled like anywhere else. To be candid, emotional hurt is not always the result of a wrong done by an offending party. There are scenarios where hurt is experienced where there is no wrongdoing, but the mere perception of wrongdoing. Then there is the assumption of wrongdoing, as well as the reality of people feeling hurt because of their own internal issues and personality challenges, such as borderline personality disorder.
This article focuses on healing from hurt caused by an intentional act of wrongdoing on the part of a willful offender. This distinction is vital, since the healing process varies based upon the cause of the hurt. Conflict-based hurt is perhaps the most common, of course. So, how can you recover from the hurt that you’ve experienced? Here are three suggested steps that you may find helpful: (1) acknowledge the reality of your hurt, (2) assess and understand the nature of your hurt and (3) plot a productive path of recovery from your hurt. Now to break these steps down.
Acknowledge the Reality of Your Hurt
One of the worst possible things that one can do when experiencing emotional hurt, is to deny the existence of the hurt. A meme on Social Media from www.keepmypeace.com “You Decide” states that “An unhealed person can find offense in pretty much anything someone does. A healed person understands that the actions of others has absolutely nothing to do with them. Each day you get to decide which one you will be.” This sentiment demonstrates a key reason why it is important that hurting people acknowledge their hurt. This is an essential first step to healing. Unhealed people have a tendency to hurt other people, and themselves more deeply. Intentional or unintentional denial of emotional hurt is self-destructive.
Denying how we really feel often manifests repressed anger and hurt in damaging ways. Relationships usually suffer the most from the fallout. Emotional pain must be intentionally addressed for proper healing to be realized. Otherwise, you could find yourself unfairly projecting your internal pain onto others. In the same way that a medical doctor is limited in his or her ability to apply an appropriate remedy to your complaint unless you acknowledge that you physically hurt, emotional hurt needs to be acknowledged before you can be motivated to understand its cause and find a way toward healing.
Assess and Understand the Nature of Your Hurt
Now that you’ve acknowledged that you are hurting emotionally, you’re in a better position to assess the reason or reasons for your hurt, in order to understand what is happening with you. Sometimes emotional hurt is long-term, meaning that as you assess a hurt you face today, you could discover that its cause goes back a ways in time. Another possibility is that a current or recent experience of hurt may have been triggered by the memories of a past hurt, one that may not have been resolved.
The task in this step is to pinpoint the actual cause of the hurt and figure out why it is impacting you in the way that it is. Ironically, the degree of emotional hurt currently being experienced has the potential to affect your ability to objectively process this step. It may be possible to work through this step by yourself. However, it may be advisable to seek counsel or guidance from a professional source or other trusted person of experience.
The reason for this concern is that emotional hurt can have the effect of distorting one’s ability to clearly think through tough issues. There may be a psychological inability or self-preservation unwillingness to face whatever the actual issue is, head-on. Sometimes, the memory of a past trauma is blocked out or repressed, but this can be the trigger for current hurt.
Whatever the case, the hurt will hardly be resolved until it is identified and understood. So many have carried deep-seated emotional hurt with them for so long, that they have become toxic to the point that people try not to be around them. The hurt manifests in broken relationships. Another possible result is borderline personality disorder, prompting trust and rejection issues that erode the prospect of forming authentic friendships.
My suggestions in seeking to understand your hurt include:
- Recognize that today’s emotional hurt may possibly be triggered by a past unhealed hurt, even if a recent incident caused it to flare up.
- If you are a religious believer, you definitely want to pray to God for not only healing, but also direction and guidance to understand why you’re hurting.
- Though you’re a believer, you need to understand that there’s no shame in seeking out professional resources to aid you in your quest to understand your pain and its cause(es).
- Do not try to pretend away or deny the truth when confronted by painful realities that may be uncovered as you explore the actual hurt you’re experiencing and its underlying cause(es).
- If you are not a religious believer, at least be willing to seek out appropriate resources that you can draw upon to better assess and understand your emotional hurt, as sometimes it could be difficult to sort out causes of emotional hurt single-handedly.
- Be aware that as you explore your hurt, your quest for understanding may take you down the path of even more painful, repressed memories, but this is an important step in getting to the root of the issues you’re struggling with now.
- If the hurt is more recent and you’re aware of the specific cause of your pain, then you have an advantage in taking the next step.
- If you have been diagnosed with any personality or mental health issues (or suspect that you may have a possible case), be aware that these factors could be contributing to your feeling of emotional hurt, especially if this is a frequent experience. There is no shame in acknowledging these challenges if indeed this is the case.
- A necessary but not very appealing personal question that deeply emotionally hurt individuals may need to ask is this: “is there real merit in why I’m feeling this way about the matter that I’m hurt or upset about?” This question is one that makes you consider whether or not your reason for feeling emotionally hurt is real, perceived, or even worth the energy that you’re dedicating to it by holding onto hurt feelings.
Plot a Productive Path of Recovery From Your Hurt
The universal process of recovery from actual hurt due to conflict with someone else begins with an apology, followed by forgiveness. This is the protocol for conflict resolution, as outlined by the Judeo-Christian ethic (see Matthew 18:15-20 and Luke 17:3,4). The question that arises then is, “how do you get there?”
It would be great if it were that simple in reality. The offender apologizes, then the hurt party forgives, and all is well. Human nature, which is egotistical by heredity, will not allow for this Divine plan to be that easily realized. It is more common for offenders to be unremorseful and unapologetic and the offended to be unforgiving or slow to forgive.
A productive path of recovery from emotional hurt will involve and include either coming to a place of forgiveness, or making the decision to pick up your shoulders and move on, regardless of the other person’s response to the conflict. I propose that our Creator designed human beings with an amazing capacity to survive trauma through the emotional release that forgiveness offers. This obviously works best when there’s been a sincere apology. In other words, the offender acknowledging both the hurt and their responsibility for that hurt. Something amazing and miraculous happens in the human psyche whenever someone cares enough to “heal” the person they hurt, whether intentionally or inadvertently.
This amazing and miraculous psychological “thing” that happens actually benefits both the offending party and the offended (hurt) party. There is a cathartic relief that takes place, as apology is followed by forgiveness. Even if the relationship is not restored to what it used to be, both parties usually feel better, initiating the healing process for the hurt party. The offender is “set free” from the debt owed to the person that was hurt. Guilt gives was to grace, and the offender also begins to heal from their guilty feelings.
Plotting a productive path to recovery from the hurt may include having a conversation (if possible and safe to do so) with the person who caused the harm. In the aforementioned Scripture from Matthew, we are taught that whenever offense is caused, a private conversation is urged, as this will greatly contribute to a positive outcome. The goal here is to seek to settle conflict at the lowest level possible with the fewest number of people necessary… and to win, if possible, the other person (restoration of the relationship) in the process. Emotional recovery will largely revolve around decisions made by the hurt party. The recovery plan will be personal and situational, and hopefully undergirded (if held in regard) by the Judeo-Christian ethic. These decisions need to be vetted to ensure their productive outcomes.
We have an incredible capacity to move from hurt to healing, having been created with an abundant capacity to recover from emotional trauma. Never give up on the prospect of healing. You do not have to hurt in this way for the rest of your life. As you ponder these suggested steps, keep in mind that at some point in life, every human being plays the role of the offended as well as the offender who also hurts others’ feelings, both intentionally and unintentionally. Accepting our own humanness and the humanness of those who hurt us (this is more eventual than immediate) is critical to finding a positive path to healing.
Wishing you all the best as you begin your journey from hurt to healing.
Dr. Everton A. Ennis is a author of “From Holy Hell to Hallelujah Again,” Founder and President of Class Act Consulting & Seminars. He is a licensed General Civil Mediator and conflict resolution coach and trainer and creator of the “Healing the Wounds” workshop.
Currently, he is concluding work on an evidence-based system for de-escalating inter-personal conflict in 30 seconds. This powerful, new work is coming soon!