What does not kill me makes me stronger
Inflicting suffering upon another person is universally accepted as being morally wrong. But it is done all of the time, to the degree that the world is never short of pain and suffering caused by people acting against one another as we – rather than cooperating – instead choose to compete against one another’s needs, aims and desires. There’s no great mystery about how we hurt one another, intentionally or unintentionally. But it is important to find straightforward words to begin to talk about it in straightforward ways that allow us to forgive where possible, recover and heal.
In therapy, beginning to come to terms with the pains we have suffered, or caused others to suffer, starts by our finding ways to describe and understand what happened. To that end, here is a list of nine ways that we hurt one another:
1. Betrayal: being unfaithful or disloyal; dishonouring agreements, confidentiality or privacy
2. Disrespect: demeaning the other; failing to consider the impact of our behaviour on another’s feelings or wellbeing; unfairly criticising and blaming; humiliating the other; belittling and being sarcastic at their expense; undermining a person’s reputation without justification; personal snubs and insults; mocking the other’s beliefs, words or actions
3. Abandonment: emotionally or physically abandoning the other
4. Theft and destruction: inflicting loss through stealing, defrauding or damaging property
5. Usurping and undermining: withholding reward; favouring others over another person; taking credit for the other’s efforts or identity; outdoing and oneupmanship; devaluing the other; using silence or withholding explanations; manipulating the other; gossiping, creating scandal or backbiting; shaming and humiliating; false blame and responsibility shifting or avoidance; placing the other in jeopardy (also betrayal)
6. Violence and aggression: causing distress, loss or harm to the other physically, sexually, verbally, emotionally, psychologically; deliberately instilling fear, stress, worry or anxiety in them (including passive-aggression)
7. Lying: being deceitful or false towards or about the other person; withholding concealing or omitting truth or information
- It’s worth noting that people tend to over-estimate their ability to lie successfully and under-estimate the ability of the other to detect a lie. As such, we often ‘know’ when someone is lying, even though we seldom let them know this. Lies can thus impact upon trust in a relationship when a lie isn’t discussed openly. This is true for many of the other ways we hurt one another.
No matter how beautiful a lie is, in the end it hurts even more than the truth would have done.
8. Neglect: denying care, attention, merit or affection to another person; depriving them of support; or failing to alleviate unfair conditions when it is within our power to do so
9. Exploitation: using another person to serve our interests at their expense (emotionally, financially, socially etc); failing to give the other fair recognition or reward for their efforts
Responsibility and Letting Go
Once we are able to identify the source of our hurt we can begin to better express the emotions associated with it; the needs we have left over; before clarifying who was responsible for the actions that brought about the pain or suffering. Very often we confuse a sense of responsibility between ourselves and others by mixing our emotions and needs with the other’s actions, and vice versa, for example. Identifying who was responsible for what is the first step to letting go, unburdening ourselves of unjustified blame, meeting our needs, and turning our suffering into a learning experience instead of a continual source of pain.
Truth is everybody is going to hurt you: you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.
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