Why we hurt and how to reconcile
Ever wonder why we hurt people we love when we don’t intend to? And what to do when you’ve done so? Or maybe you’re on the receiving end and have been hurt and don’t know if you can ever trust that person again. I’d like to offer you hope for reconciliation through an understanding of the cognitive-behavioral connection. There are some key findings in human behavior across cultures that influence the most evidenced based psychotherapy interventions’ success in helping people heal from their past and bring healing to their present relationships.
Bear with me for a moment as I cover the basics outlined by Aaron Beck, the founder of Cognitive Behavior Therapy:
every action comes from an emotion
every emotion comes from a thought
every thought comes from a belief
every belief is shaped by our experiences
As humans, we are susceptible DAILY to wounds, damage, and hurt in our experiences because we interact indirectly and directly with other broken humans DAILY.
SO, when our wounded experiences shape our beliefs, the wounded beliefs carry into how we feel about ourselves, others, and even the existential order of things. Our wounded feelings influence wounding actions. Our only option at that point is to WOUND IN or WOUND OUT.
Wounding IN can include hurting ourselves through self destruction, self depreciation, isolation, etc.
Wounding OUT can look like hurting others through vicious words, rejection, avoidance, passive aggressive behavior etc.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have either 1) been hurt by someone else, 2) feeling convicted that something you have done hurt someone you love, or 3) you have both been hurt and done some hurting, I want to encourage you that healing and reconciliation IS POSSIBLE. In order for healing to happened, we have to own the why of what we do and humble ourselves to consider why others do what they do too. Intentional, honest introspection, gracious empathy, and willingness to enter into the messy places of our pasts and our present are all required.
Allow me to break this down into a few practical steps:
1) OWN YOUR OWN WOUNDEDNESS
We have to own the why of what we do. Actions that are a ripple effect of a past wounding may provide an explanation but are NOT an excuse. It is our responsibility to seek healing from our past wounds once we become aware of what they are. No one else can do that for us. If we want our future thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to represent our truest values, we have to deal with the wounded experiences that most often than not trump truth when rubber meets the road. When we are triggered and in times of stress, our brains are programmed to latch onto the lies from our experiences before rooting in the truth of what we know at our core prior to another exposure to this messy world.
What does owning our woundedness look like? It can look like naming the wounding out loud to a trusted friend, counselor, or even in writing and choosing to forgive and release it. It can look like finding a therapist trained in reframing trauma and bringing reconciliation to hurtful relationships. If the person who did the wounding is still accessible, it can look like bringing it to the attention of that individual, sharing how it impacted you and that you are choosing to forgive that person directly because you no longer want to carry around the baggage of the damage to your life. It can look like asking the other person to make a change in their behavior so that the wounding doesn’t continue. If that person is unwilling or incapable of making changes, it can look like releasing them from past offenses and setting new boundaries to protect yourself from future wounding. It also looks like choosing to daily reconnect with your values and your truth and choosing to align your beliefs, your thoughts, your emotions, and your behaviors with what you hold to be most true, pure, and life-giving for you and those you care about.
I’ll tell you what owning your own woundness doesn’t look like – It doesn’t look like sweeping it under the rug and hoping it won’t show up in the present and future. I guarantee you it will. The longer we choose to ignore it instead of own it, the greater the potential for internal and external damage.
2) HUMBLE YOURSELF TO CONSIDER WHY OTHERS DO WHAT THEY DO
Consider why others do what they do. If its true for you that your wounded or wounding behavior stems from a wounded experience, assume that is just as true for others. Instead of going straight to “you do this you do that, how dare you!” Try giving the other person the same grace you would want them to extend to you. Assume that the core of who they are is pure and loving and the reason they are acting the way they are is because a wounded experience has influenced it. It’s their wounded-self acting, not their authentic-self.
Ask questions, such as:
“What are you feeling that is influencing this action right now?”
“What are your thoughts about me, this situation that causes you to feel that way?”
“Is there a time in your life you can point to when you started to have this belief about these kind of situations?”
“Believing that we both care about each other, how can we work together to figure out what this is about and how to move forward?”
If reconciliation is going to occur, all parties involved need to be mindful of their own experiences that influence their belief about what has occurred, as well as their behaviors that result. They also need to be gracious toward the other’s experience and willing to agree that all parties ultimately desire a relationship built on love, trust and respect.
A final practical suggestion for both sides, and/or all parties involved in a current hurtful situation with a genuine desire for reconciliation:
1) Make a list of all of the ways you have experienced hurt, bring it to the attention of the person or persons who have hurt you so that they have the opportunity to understand, confess, and make what changes they can moving forward.
2) Assess your heart and admit in writing the ways you may have hurt the other person. Share that list with them also, with an authentic apology, request forgiveness, and offer suggestions on how you are willing to try to make changes.
3) Finally, make a list of the values, character qualities, and actions of the other person that you are thankful for and value in your relationship. Share those and recommit to being intentional to see and celebrate the good in the other person, the reason you want to re-establish a relationship with them, and to speak up lovingly and honestly if you feel hurt in the future so it can be dealt with as soon as possible.
Your health and happiness and the health and the happiness of your relationships are worth it!