Saturday, March 17, 2012


I sometimes struggle with how to make this blog both personal and professional. So, here goes yet another attempt.

A wounded heart, “Hurt”, happens when we take things personally. An adage that I have come to deeply appreciate in the work that I do with clients, is: “Never take anything personally”. The question becomes, how can you not? As a resilient, graceful, self-aware individual, you just might be able to pull it off, but alas, we are not always so well poised. When someone does something to hurt you, it is inevitably because they are not paying attention to a situation, or to themselves, and therefore the insult is handed to you, but really a function of where that person is, and of their own Hurt. The inflicted hurt (upon you) usually comes either from a relationship where you believe the other person cares about you, and you would not, therefore, expect an intentional hurt being thrown your way, or from something that someone says carelessly, that you might bring more meaning to than what was actually intended, in their unskillful carelessness. And now, a difficult cycle has begun. Someone with unawares or in carelessness has flung some ugliness around; you’re hurt; you sling it back at the offender; they’re now hurt again, and more deeply than they were when they first threw the insult your way; they now either fling it back again, Even Worse, or become defended and denying, making your original hurt even More Worse, and on and on. What to do??!!

So yes, I did. I got myself into one of these little cycles recently. Being the evolved, self-aware therapist that I like to think of myself as, I thought to myself, I will not sling back to the offender who threw out to me. I know better. I will express my Feelings; I will Explain how and why I was hurt. Well, the difference was a mere splitting of hairs, and off we went into our little cycles. And to the credit of both of us, I think we are hanging in pretty well, at least for the moment. Despite our imperfect attempt at being evolved mature beings who never take anything personally, there does seem to be an understanding that we’ve tried to do it right, and that even underneath the ignorance of slinging hurts at each other, there is ultimately an obvious element of caring between us.

So here’s where I get to go a little professional in my thinking about this. I have heard many people, this friend included, clients, various other friends, and family members plea to me: “Does there always have to be so much analysis?” Can’t we just live and let live? Does there always have to be something underlying? And my compassionate response is generally, yes, you are right, there really are moments when you just live and let live. But deeper inside somewhere, I tend to always question that response, and wonder if I am really being honest. So, here’s a more genuine (from my perspective) answer to that question. In any given moment of interacting with someone, hopefully you are not staring at that person, wondering what awful childhood history they might have that is going to make it impossible to tell them the simplest thing about what you might be having for dinner that night. Right, I think we’ve all got that. However, when the conversation with people gets beyond the mere superficial, if you have not done enough of your own “homework”, and have a fairly honest sense (can be read here as “analysis”) of what does and doesn’t feel so good for you personally, it will be that much more difficult to really get it right with someone when you most want to. That is, the more personal analysis, exploration, self-awareness, what ever it is you want to call it, that you can tolerate, the more you will be ready when conversations get beyond the superficial with the people you care the most about.

Frequently on this page, I have accused myself of always bringing the conversation back to Love. Well, here I go again. In order to be able to do that difficult self-work, and hence to tolerate it, we have to be able to see our own hurts with loving compassion, not blame ourselves, and ultimately be open to the fact of and depth of, our own hurts. The resistance to acknowledging all of that keeps us away from both knowing and loving ourselves. That very knowing and loving of oneself is the crucial place from which empathy for another begins. And, I would suggest that empathy is some of the most fertile ground from which loving relationships begin. So yes, figuring out, understanding, growing in self-awareness, being courageous enough to do that work is fundamental to growing healthy and satisfying love relationships. It is an ongoing life long process that is never complete. And so long as we are living in relationship, and have not isolated ourselves from the rest of humanity, it is the essence from which we not only are able to do relationship well, but from which we further grow and know ourselves better. So that scary question, “Does it always have to be so much analysis?” becomes less scary, and it just happens. Not the answer most of the world wants to hear. But from where I sit, it just is; the fabric of our being, the fabric of honesty, and the fabric of love.


4 comments: said...

"The unexamined life is not worth living" Plato's embrace of the Socratic dialect to reveal universal truths can get enormously complicated. I think we should all remember that Socrates cautioned all the wise men not to become overly confident in their own conclusions. Doing so would prevent them from seeing fully, and understanding more completely the meaning of our existence. I think that psychology has its limits and when we crash into one of those it becomes an opportunity to experience a range of emotions that can lead in a number of different directions. This is a good thing. Going down the same path can be truly limiting. Elaine

Markus said...


a difference of three little letters...

"When someone does something to hurt you..."

"When someone does something that hurts you..."

A couple of little letters make all the difference both in understanding the complexity of human interactions, and in understanding and processing intention.

Because my intention had not been to hurt or to lash out, but rather motivated by the necessity for honesty, though delivered (to my shame) with insufficient empathy for the recipient.

I am both the source of Donna's hurt, and the observation "Does there always have to be so much analysis?"

Donna and I ARE doing pretty well "processing" this, at the same time that I still maintain the there is a time, a place, and a role for analysis. It is my sense that the proper time is rarely immediate because (in my experience) the time when analysis becomes most effective/reflective, is outside the immediacy of our emotional reaction to any human interaction. Emotions are orthogonal to cognition; they operate with a different purpose and intention, and they need their place. And unless we allow our emotions their space, and honor them, they will quite happily throw up all manner of road blocks to the process of analysis and of cognition.

Of course, there are good emotions and bad ones; my definition being that the good ones are in our service, while bad ones rule us. Like our brains, they should serve us in seeking meaning and happiness in our lives, not demand that we be in thrall to THEM. So for example, in the immediacy of an emotional moment, the role of cognition, is to make sure that our emotions don't end up ruling us. But while cognition can suggest that, it should not demand it, and it has to be willing to step back and not insist on taking the lead, when the experience of life becomes richest through allowing us to embrace our emotional reactions.

But then later, with the ebbing of the emotional tide, cognition and analysis have their moment in the sun; deepening our understanding of and our experience of our lives.

Reading Donna's blog I was surprised at its assertion that there was any cycle at all; that "the difference was a mere splitting of hairs, and off we went into our little cycles." For I did not feel myself in any sort of cycle at all. Reflecting upon it, it seemed to me that my friend Donna was experiencing a sort of rising and receding of the tide of her emotions, and that the gravity of my moon had nothing to do with that tide, except to have been the initial trigger.

Thus emotion and analysis, feeling and cognition; each its essential place, each its proper time.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I have recently found myself in this cycle quite frequently. Do you think that expectations are at play when this happens at all?

I'm going to try practicing more word association as a "get out of the cycle" remedy. One of those words should most definitely be love :)


Therapy Sites said...

Thanks for sharing this. No matter how resilient we are, time will come that we would be facing situations that would take us to the brink of our patience, courage and etc.