Have you ever been having a great day, and then, out of the blue, someone decides to break stupid or mean? Someone you care about says or does something hurtful and, intentionally or not, takes the wind right out of your sails.
Your boyfriend ticks you off because he’s running behind for your friend’s party. Your best friend is having a bad day and inadvertently takes it out on you. A customer is super critical of a provided product or service when you thought you had met the mark.
The next time that happens, remember this: You have the control. It is your decision whether negative emotions win. You control whether someone’s actions affect you. Unfortunately, most times, that’s easier said than done…
We are creatures that act on emotion, and the more pressure we find ourselves under, the more likely we are to snap. Controlling our reaction against hurt, fear, or anger isn’t easy, and, on occasion, a situation does call for more severe backlash. However, most times, we can cut ourselves (and those we love) a break by making the simple decision not to let things bother us. We have the ultimate control.
MY PERSONAL EXAMPLE
In the Spring of 2019, my husband and I bought our first diesel truck. This was monumental for us because we could haul cattle on our farm much more efficiently! Of course, my husband was proud and wanted to show is dad…
Here’s the problem: My father-in-law and I don’t get along. In fact, it actually makes my skin crawl to be near him, and on more than one (or ten!) occasions, his aggressive antics sent me into a panic attack. Literally…
I understood my husband wanted to display our recent accomplishment. But because of severely bad past run-ins with my father-in-law, I didn’t want him to even gaze at the truck. I decided to compromise – my husband could show his father, but not take him for a ride. Lookey, no touchy.
Here’s the long story short: My father-in-law rode in the truck…. After calmly expressing my feelings of hesitation to my husband beforehand, what I wanted NOT to happen still did.
This happened on Saturday, and my husband told me about it Saturday night as we settled into bed. I didn’t react immediately because I had been trying very hard to respond with understanding instead of initial emotion. So, I slept on it.
To summarize the events of the next day: I woke and gave my husband the silent treatment through breakfast and on the way to church. I was trying my hardest to calmly process, but the anger kept building. When we parked in the church parking lot, my husband turned and asked me: “What’s wrong?” With those words, I involuntarily exploded, and my husband immediately got defensive.
As much as I hate to say it, we went into church mad, came out of church mad, drove home mad, and spent the next few days mad.
RATIONALIZING MY EMOTION
I WISH it didn’t matter to me whether my father-in-law rode in the truck. There were tons of other positive things I could’ve focused on. Furthermore, my father-in-law is a jerk I never want to waste my time on. It all seemed so trivial. But… trivial or not, it bothered me, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Was I wrong to be hurt? No. Humans are allowed to be hurt even when we don’t initially understand why.
After the situation’s fresh wounds started to heal, I began to rationalize. I remembered all the REALLY AMAZING stuff my husband had recently done for me to show me he cares. “Maybe I should just let him have this one?” I thought.
Flip-side, though – My husband should’ve listened to the warning I gave him: “I’m being nice, but if your dad touches our truck, its on…”
The most a couple can do in a situation like this is communicate feelings, respect those feelings, chalk the incident up to human error, learn from it, and move on. (Let me reiterate: LEARN FROM IT!!)
For the few days following the incident, my husband and I were pretty prickly towards each other, so I made the intentional effort to talk about our issues. I calmly explained my side of the story, and I let him do the same. We still disagreed with the way each other acted, but we communicated our feelings and future expectations and tried to move forward. Future actions would determine whether we actually respected each other’s position.
THINGS TO REMEMBER TO STAY IN CONTROL
Processing and rationalizing emotion is tough, especially when you just want to embrace those negative feelings and act out. And for someone who already struggles with anxiety or depression, these extra gloomy thoughts can really push you lower. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few thoughts you can use to work through conflict, stay positive, and give yourself permission to feel whatever emotion you need:
- CONCENTRATE ON THE POSITIVE: For whatever reason, humans tend to fixate on the negative instead of the positive. Why is that?!?! To combat that natural inclination, we must make a conscious effort to focus more on the good things and less on the bad. As a result, it will improve our overall quality of life and allow us to more easily process conflict when it arises. You just have to make the intentional effort to establish new thinking patterns.
- LOVE HURTS: Scientific study confirms: We are hurt by those we’re closest to. (Well, of course! We’re around them the most!!) And when someone we love and trust hurts us, it’s easy for those hurtful experiences to overpower good ones. When I’m hurt, I immediately put up my walls and tell myself I can’t trust anyone and I’m better off alone. Then, I take a breath… People are going to hurt people. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. We’re human. We’re not perfect. However, its our personal decision how we respond to someone who hurts us. Do we understand they made a mistake and move on OR do we recognize trends in a human’s behavior and make the decision not to allow their recurring tendencies back in our lives?
- IT’S OK TO BE HURT: One of my best friends gave me this wonderful permission: “It’s okay to be hurt,” and he was right. We’re emotional creatures with even more emotional hearts. Hearts get broken. It happens, and as hard as we try, there’s not a darn thing we can do to prevent it. It’s like a head cold in the winter – it will eventually get you. And when it does, it’s okay! Embrace your emotion, and let it happen. Don’t feel guilty about it, but at the same time, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Remember – you’re in control!
- TALK! DON’T BOTTLE!! – Easier said than done, right? Especially when you don’t know what to say or what your emotions are exactly. I was (and sometimes, still am) a horrible bottler. Someone would hurt me, and I would repress my feelings instead of processing them. Why? I either felt wrong for having those feelings, or I wasn’t sure how to react. In those situations, I try to remember Rule #3: It’s okay to be hurt. My hurt feelings indicate I have a problem with someone, and that problem needs to be communicated, discussed, and resolved. That’s where our mind comes in…
- HURT IS 50% EMOTIONAL AND 50% MENTAL: Our hearts and minds sometimes disagree. It probably happens more often than we think. Our brain can preach to our heart that we SHOULDN’T be hurt by something, but the fact is, we are. (And that’s okay!) At that point, our heart and brain have to work together. If our heart feels hurt, our brains must process exactly why. Once we know exactly what we feel and why, we can proceed in a way that’s healthy for us and communicate those thoughts and emotions to the person who hurt us.
Final points, and these are important!!
- YOU HAVE THE POWER TO BE HAPPY! Yes, your heart may get hurt, but it is your choice whether to let pain, anger, sorrow, or negativity win. You decide whether you dwell in hurt. Process your emotion however you need to, reach a conclusion, and implement actions to move forward in a positive manner for you. Also, remember those required actions for personal progression are not necessarily the steps we want to take, but the steps we have to take.
- COMMUNICATE!!: When you conclude what bothers you and why, communicate with the person who hurt you. Calmly approach the discussion with the following info:
- Preface the conversation by stating your feelings have been hurt and you want to calmly talk things through to build a healthier relationship.
- Explain what hurt your feelings and why.
- Be open and receptive to any rebuttal.
- Receive feedback, and consider (but don’t necessarily adopt) opposing views.
- Establish better communication and behavioral patterns for the future.
At that point, the decision is theirs. They can either understand, love you, respect your boundaries, and move forward with you or, quite simply, they can’t. Either way, you will feel better. As a result of that conversation, you fully processed and communicated your emotions and expectations and have a clearer path for your future. And unfortunately, if they don’t accept your feelings, you know whether or not that relationship is healthy enough to retain for your future.
MY PERSONAL CONCLUSION
In my husband’s defense, my father-in-law’s tractor broke down in the hay field, so he gave him a ride home. I understood that and accepted it. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place, and he did what he had to do. My issue was – he put himself in that position – he put himself in a position where he would possibly need to go against my compromise. So I communicated my thoughts in hopes he would consider them in the future.
For my husband’s rebuttal, he said this feud between his father and I was very stressful for him. I acknowledged, gave understanding, and promised I would do my best to ease that stress in the future. I promised I would adjust my actions to lessen the tension without compromising my well-being. In other words, we would each give a little (within healthy reason) to make the other more comfortable.
SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
When dealing with hurt or anger, it’s up to us, personally, to examine the relationship we find ourselves in. Can we identify behavioral patterns of the person who hurt us? Do they continue to hurt us even when we try to communicate well? Do they respect us? Do we believe our emotions and reactions are valid based on our personal ethics?
If you have a relationship with someone who continues to hurt or cause discomfort to you, whether you like/love that person or not, you MUST do what’s best for you. As selfish as it sounds, you have to think of #1. And for people with a big heart, that is toooough. However, consider this: You can’t take care of yourself without a healthy mind, body, and spirit. In turn, you can’t take care of others, do your job, or make sound decisions without being the best version of yourself.
Sometimes setting ourselves up for success means having those difficult conversations about feelings. We don’t like it, but if we don’t do it, we might as well shoot ourselves in the foot now.
Establish your personal boundaries. If a family member continues to belittle you after you’ve expressed your feelings, keep them at arm’s length. They’ll either stay away OR change their attitude to be in your life. If you’re in a relationship where your needs aren’t being met, express those needs. They’ll either do what they can/need for you or they won’t. If a customer continues to be unrealistically critical or negative, you actually can make the decision not to work with them or go to the higher powers and express your concern. If those higher powers don’t acknowledge your concerns and do what is needed to protect their employees, then maybe you’re working in the wrong place.
No matter what – you have the ability to surround yourself with the people that feed your soul, and don’t ever feel guilty for taking care of YOU!