It never ceases to amaze me when someone can do something as simple as speech a particular sequence of words, maybe throw in some voice inflection and body language for flavor, that delivers an emotional impact equivalent to an MMA beat-down.
In many cases, words hurt more than actions.
What’s happening when people hurt you without touching you?
When someone hurts you using nothing other than the spoken word the psychological and physiological pain come from either the intent of person delivering the phrase (it’s on you) or the recipient (it’s on me).
It’s On You
Someone can maliciously stack words that are hurtful in an attempt to hurt your feelings, make you feel bad, crush your self-confidence, make you sick to your stomach or beat yourself up over time causing mental anguish, sleepless nights and/or deteriorating health conditions.
Even though the assailant never touched you, a clever and devious person could launch a verbal campaign that could cripple another person.
We all can probably conjure up a memory of a time when someone’s hurtful words were delivered with the intent to make us cringe… and most (if not all) of us can recall a time when words were delivered with pre-meditated malice hurt us terribly. In some cases we might have rather been physically pummeled that hurt from deep within; a pain that can be more enduring than just getting beaten within an inch of your life.
Shame on the person who lashes out at another person, like that, though it is worth remember that it is said, “hurt people hurt people” which might mean that the person who is launching the verbal abuse or assault may be struggling with terrible pain from within themselves.
It’s On Me
Sometimes the spoken word can hurt us, when there was no intent in being hurtful in any way.
This can be a clear indication that we – the recipients – are pre-disposed, locked-loaded and ready to fire at the first sign of an attack. Seeking signs and certain words as assaultive causes to fight – launching our own assaultive stream of hurtful words as a counter-attack in self-defense – is the symptom of inner work that needs to be done where deeper healing may be required.
At the very least, it is embarrassing, when we wrongly interpret someone’s attempt to communicate with us as a psychological attack and start burning fences on a furry of ill-intended words with the veracity of a flame thrower.
When we engage in a deeply personal relationship with another person, setting aside all our inhibitions, being transparent and totally honest (literally naked) can leave us very vulnerable. This vulnerability leaves us open to experiencing – not only the most magnificent feelings of all time but also – the most pain; more pain than could be delivered by any other individual.
When someone you love hurts you with their words, the initial response might be to accuse them of being psychologically abusive, to engage in a quarrel/shouting match or allow your own self worth deteriorate as you allow yourself to be victimized.
Yet, it could be easily understood as a potential misunderstanding if you could remember a time:
When you hurt someone you love
Can you recall an experience similar to this?
Let’s say you were communicating with someone you cared deeply about – someone you would never have the intention of hurting – yet, here they are defensive and accusatory that you have disrespected or attacked them verbally.
It’s not too hard, if you are able to find the space to imagine what if the shoe was on the other foot?
How to not let people get to you when words hurt
Here are a few brief and quick tools that you can use to help you diffuse an otherwise explosive emotional event prompted by hurtful words:
#1 Love Them
Giving you allowance for some personal space to have an initial reaction to the words that seem to have hurt your feelings – as soon as you are able to achieve some level of clarity – look for empathy.
Yes, they have had enough disregard for you to speak words that you feel are not pleasing to you. When you take it personally, you disregard them in kind.
If you can find clarity of mind, try to imagine what it must be like for him or her to be living the life they are living. Could this be a misunderstanding? Could it be his or her inner child crying out for love?
A little understanding from within (don’t try to diagnose, treat or interrogate them in this moment. Leave that for some future moment in time, if you’re so inclined) goes a long way in being able to imagine why someone might say something, like that.
If he or she is not a psychopath, send their inner child some love and understanding – like a virtual hug – to their heart, and find a kind word to say to them, if you can.
#2 Be Open
Sometimes words that are meant to hurt are a calling out for someone to connect with on a deeper level. It is true, “A kind word turns away wrath,” (Proverbs 15:1) and can open the door to a deeper level of communication and understanding. The key: be open.
Do not judge, intimidate or threaten them. Just invite them to share their feelings without challenging their beliefs or justifying their thoughts. This can have a huge impact and offer healing to the individual (especially the inner child) who desperately wants to be heard, but is afraid; often finding it more comfortable to be rude than transparent.
#3 Erase the Pain
Hurtful words can cause physiological and psychological pain. Sometimes the pain endures over time. I use a very effective and simple technique that only costs one cent. I call it:
Penny for Your Thoughts
To use this process, you will need some privacy, a copper penny and the ability to reduce your discomfort to a single emotionally-charged statement.
A. The statement
An example might be something like:
“I hate it when (insert name) disrespects me and treats me like garbage. He’s (or she’s) a dirty rotten (insert expletive)!”
Make certain to include his/her name and some inappropriate name-calling (even if you might not do it in front of anyone in real life) and make sure that when you speak the statement you muster up all the bad feelings you possibly can.
Say the statement out-loud just to make sure it is an emotional match to how hurt or mad you are.
B. Place and charge the penny
There are three location of your body that you will hold the penny flat against your body with your non-dominant hand.
Just above and between the eyebrows against your forehead
Over your heart
Mid-way over your stomach-area.
Starting with the head location, hold the penny flat against your forehead, repeat your emotionally-charged statement (you should feel the negative emotion as much as you possibly can) and charge the penny.
As you repeat your statement, tap the penny at a comfortably rapid pace with a finger (or multiple fingers, if that is more comfortable for you) of your dominant hand.
This charges the penny with the electrical components of the emotional charge from your body.
Repeat as many times as necessary, repeating the phrase and charging the penny at the head, heart and stomach locations.
Usually three rounds of head, heart and stomach will yield a major reduction in your level of pain and/or discomfort.
C. Discard the penny
Smile. You feel better. You’re done with that penny and statement. You will find that you can now verbalize that very statement without feeling the emotional pain connected to it. Congratulations!
It’s so effective, you might like to get another penny and try another painful emotion that you’ve kept bottled up inside.