Hurtful Things

Two beers, a Batman double feature on the DVD, and a night on the couch later, the demonic storm seems to have passed, but as with all real-world weather systems, I know it is likely to be followed by others, even if I can't always quite predict when (although, to be fair, there is a certainly monthly cycle to them, if you know what I mean).  But there is truth in hormones just as there is in emotions, even if in our calmer, less estrogenic moments we can keep them under control.

Or is there?   (Truth, that is.)  Because, you know, one of the things that I find hardest about weathering such storms is the uncertainty: is what I am feeling based on anything external or am I just crazy, layering onto things people have said to me intentions that they never had, assuming indifference or criticism where there was rather confusion and lack of self-confidence, sensing hurt where there was simply insensitivity, malice where there was only selfishness or fatigue?  More important, what should I do when people--especially people who say that they love me--do or say things that hurt?

I know, I know: grow a thicker skin.  But it's hard.  A great deal of what I am working through with my therapist at the moment is how to interpret things that other people have said to me over the years that have left me feeling abandoned, uncared for, unloved.  I am fairly certain (although not 100%) that if challenged about what they have said, most of the people I am thinking of would themselves be terribly hurt to think that I heard what they said in the way that I did.  But does this mean that I heard them wrong?  That it is my fault that what they said or did hurt me in the way that it did?

Byron Katie would say that it was (my fault, that is).  Or, rather, that it was the fault of the story that I was telling myself about what so-and-so should or shouldn't have said in this or that particular instance.  Which is liberating in a sense, indeed, in a very real sense: I can choose how I hear what others say to me.  If they say something hurtful, I can reflect it back onto them (silently), asking myself how what they have said is true for them rather than reacting to the hurt that I feel.

Which is fine, as long as you really, really, really don't expect anything from other people: not affection, not consideration, not compassion or even simply listening to what you are saying before jumping in to correct, advise, or counterattack you with a story about how their (or someone else's) experience is just like, albeit typically more intense, than yours.  Is it appropriate at this point to ask them to listen before butting in?  Is it allowed to say, "That makes me feel bad when you say that"?  It seems insane to think that it is not, but what if what you want to say is, "Your saying that makes me feel like nothing I can do will ever be right, that I am wrong to have feelings about what you just said, that simply by existing I make your life difficult, that I am a burden, trouble, too much work"?  Now who's said something hurtful, eh?

But that's just the problem.  I feel under attack but at the same time ignored.  I hear people say that they love me but then talk or behave in ways towards me that seem inconsistent with this claim.  Again, I know, I know: another example of Byron Katie's deadly "shoulds."  "If you loved me, you wouldn't say things like that."  But if someone who never claimed to love me said things like that, I'd know what to do.  Or would I?  See, I fundamentally don't trust myself to evaluate other people's interactions with me.  Here there are people who've said they love me over and over again in my life, and, stubborn old me, I just don't believe them.  Because if they did, wouldn't they speak and behave differently?  Wouldn't I feel it?  Or is it just that I am so broken, I have no clue what to feel?

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