Hurt feelings are those times when we feel bad about ourselves and attribute the cause of our feelings to someone else. For instance, a woman may accuse her sister-in-law of hurting her feelings when she says, “My parents never wanted my brother to marry you.”
While it’s easy to point the finger of blame when a person says something thoughtless, our pained response is actually a choice. There are innumerable ways we can react to any given statement. Anger, humor, nonchalance and self-pity are but a few options available at any given time in our psychic repertoire.
The truth is that each of us has a favored mode that we default to when anyone says something we don’t like. People whose feelings are fragile click into their oh-you’ve-hurt-my-feelings set ting without even realizing they’ve done it.
The contents of the feelings may vary, but they tend to follow predictable themes. In fact, those areas that are habitually wounded are the areas where we’re already raw. If a man is hypersensitive about meeting his father’s high expectations, he’s more likely to respond with hostility and pain anytime the subject is broached.
The topic need not even be mentioned directly. Folks who are chronically offended are actually searching for incidences that cause them pain. Sensitivity sensors are set to the highest setting. They’re ready and willing to be hurt.
Unfortunately, they fail to realize their role in the matter. They disperse blame on everyone except themselves. They believe loved ones and co-workers are insensitive and intentionally hurtful. If people were nicer, they wouldn’t have to be so distraught.
Hypersensitivity arises from various sources. It can be present in certain psychological disorders, such as anxiety, depres sion and bipolarity. It can also be learned. When children grow up seeing family members blame others for how they feel, they are more likely to perpetuate the pattern.
Of course, some people do make horribly insensitive statements. And sometimes their words are harmful to innocent listeners who are defenseless against a tyranny of words. Even so, it’s imperative that we reclaim power of our own emotions and master strategies that promote well-being and inner strength.
Try these steps for minimizing hurt feelings
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.