When people who are unhappy, have low self-esteem, and generally feel “damaged” inside hurt you, your first response is probably to hurt them right back. I know that is my initial reaction as someone uses ugly, demeaning words against me in a pattern that is meant to make me feel bad. The words they use over and over again, throughout the years of my life are meant to belittle me and make me feel guilt or shame. They are in no way, shape, or form meant to uplift me, make me feel good about myself or build up my confidence. They are said for one reason and one reason only. To hurt me.
Once you recognize the pattern, it is time to find the trigger. When does this happen to you? Are you doing something particularly awful and foul or are you just trying to have a good time? Chances are, you are enjoying yourself and having a good time. That’s usually the trigger my friends. The thing is, you have probably tried to speak to them about this type of thing before, and how you are just doing your best to be happy in your own skin, live your life, and teach others how to do the same, but they actually don’t care about your feelings. It is quite evident in the repeated behavior pattern.
Hurt people hurt people. We are not being judgmental by separating ourselves from such people. But we should do so with compassion. Compassion is defined as a “keen awareness of the suffering of another coupled with a desire to see it relieved.” People hurt others as a result of their own inner strife and pain. Avoid the reactive response of believing they are bad; they already think so and are acting that way. They aren’t bad; they are damaged and they deserve compassion. Note that compassion is an internal process, an understanding of the painful and troubled road trod by another. It is not trying to change or fix that person. ~Will Bowen
How in the hell do you separate yourself, with compassion mind you, from someone trying to hurt you? That’s a tall order right there. I have decided to narrow it down to 5 ways these people are projecting their feelings and give you a bit of advice around that behavior.
5 Ways Hurt People Project Their Feelings (and how you can cope):
- Hurt people take it out on those who are often closest to them. Why? There are lots of reasons, but the easiest answer here is because they think you will either let it slide (multiple times, even if you have asked them to stop) or because they think you will forgive them over and over again. How do you cope? Quite honestly, it’s easier to put space between you and build up stronger boundaries than to get them to ever admit when they are wrong. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. They are transferring either some rage they have onto you or feel jealous about something you have. See it for what it is. Take the pause here if you can.
- Hurt people see every word, or action, as something that was done TO them. Not for them, not to help, but done to lash out through their narrow vision of pain haze. Why? They are not rational and think that everyone is “out to get them”. Everything is a trap and meant to set them up in some way. If you don’t answer the door fast enough, you might be avoiding them. If you suggest they eat healthier, you might have just implied they are Jabba the Hutt. If you say you like something they are wearing, that might have meant you don’t like how they look normally. I can go on and on around this, but you are already nodding your head. How do you cope? You become a Mime. Just kidding. You’d probably mime the middle finger accidentally of course. Resist the urge though. Try very hard to put yourself in their shoes. What do you know about their life right now? What do you know about how they were raised? Is there a reason for this type of distrust? If we act as they do, it will only cause more pain in the end. It takes massive strength to step back and remind yourself their actions and reactions are all about them. Not about you at all.
- Hurt people often have no real life beyond the hurt. Why? They have alienated the people who once tried to help them. They carry grudges so deep and so wide, that the Grand Canyon is jealous of them. Remember Ebenezer Scrooge? When his nephew tries to invite him over and then later he is peeking through with the Ghost of Christmas Present, but they are saying how they feel sorry for him. It’s just like that. Only this person presumably doesn’t have the ghosts to show them what the future will look like if they don’t stop pushing people away. How do you cope? Recognize that their reaction to pushing people away stems from preconceived notions they firmly believe as truth. The mind has a funny way of remembering things. You might extend the olive branch if they are dear to you and know that they will not change. It is up to you to be the peace maker.
- Hurt people are always the ones who are the victim. Why? You have seen them never take responsibility for anything in their own lives over the many years of being around them. They want short cuts, easy ways out, and no responsibility. They know what they need to do, but they don’t really feel like it. They are almost certain it is the responsibility of someone else to come save them from their mistakes. How do you cope? Don’t enable if you can. To enable means that you give their thoughts power or you help them self-sabotage. Simply say nothing if they say they “can’t” do something. It’s better than agreeing with it. I mean, to point out that Helen Keller earned a college degree, Stephen Hawking beat his life expectancy against ALS, is still alive, and one of the world’s leading physicists, and my personal hero, Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs, but later taught himself how to skateboard and surf, to point these things out would fall on deaf ears. They rationalize their actions and their victim mentality until they decide, not us, that they are ready to change it.
- Hurt people don’t recognize your pain. To say these people lack empathy is an understatement. They simply fail to see that they are hurting you. Why? Any number of reasons, but they like to medicate themselves, drink excessively, or become addicted to false lives. They don’t seem to be fully present as they continually hurt you. How do you cope? If you have read all this and you think it’s time to try to have the courageous conversation with them, you can. If you have already had that conversation and the behavior is still going on, then you might want to meditate, do yoga, and surround yourself with others who lift you up after being in contact with these people. When all else fails and you have tried your best, perhaps even going to therapy for you, not them, you get to decide if the contact is worth the pain it is causing you. Their own self-loathing behavior is constantly being projected at you and your loved ones and it’s time for you to either make peace with the idea that you can’t change them…so give yourself lots of space.
The bottom line is that this is someone who is not at peace with themselves or their relationships. They cause suffering because they aren’t able to cope with their own emotions. Do they need therapy? Yes. But chances are, they are not going to do the work on themselves. When we do the work on ourselves, our own inner work, we start to heal these deep wounds. I know how hard this is my friends, and if you need support and want to work on your own “stuff”, come see me. >> Learn more here <<