Fall Autumn Leaves NatureImagine the last situation when you found yourself in a painful situation, when you were feeling very hurt. Maybe somebody has misused your trust. Maybe somebody has treated you in a way you perceived to be extremely unfair. Maybe you were feeling like an old piece of furniture that has been moved around on somebody else’s terms.

We all know various examples. Situations like this happen all the time, in professional and in private environments. Just to be precise, being hurt is what you perceive as an individual. Feeling hurt is an individual, subjective perception. I know, this is probably not what you want to hear right now, but don’t forget that situations that are painful for you are maybe not even an issue worth talking about for somebody else.

So, before jumping on an emotional rant that makes already difficult situations even worse, let’s look a bit deeper into the matter, with distance and some lessons learned.

Situations that can be very painful for the vulnerable soul have certain commonalities

  • First, you find yourself in a reactive position because the other person has made a decision or acted in a way that reduced your space of options, and you find yourself in a reactive position. For me as a very active and decisive person who is (most of the time) in the driver seat, that’s a hard place to be.
  • Second, you may feel that the other person played with your time; giving you the feeling that your time would be less valuable than their time. I work a lot, on many different projects at the same time. I’m very concerned about how I spend my time wisely because I know this is my lifetime, and not a single hour will ever come back. Having this feeling of being pushed into a reactive position combined with the feeling that my time is less important than another person’s time is a bad combination.
  • Third, you may have the feeling that your trust and ability to forgive have been misused. Isn’t it an amazing observation that people who have a proven ability of forgiveness in many different aspects, have to deal with even more of those situations? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s just my observation. Maybe I’m just too vulnerable, and I sense many more things than others…
  • Fourth, only people you love and situations on topics that are very close to your heart have the ability to hurt you. Why is that so? Not sure, but I learned along my way that the very few people I love have a place in my heart. Literally. That’s not just a saying; they are in my heart. Always. Whenever such a bad situation with a person I love occurs, I feel like being attacked from within. That’s the same with my work, which is my purpose in this life. And this is what hurts so much…

Now we are in the middle of a bad place. I’m sure some of you are already processing old situations over and over again. Stop doing this. It’s more important to answer this question:

How do we get out of painful situations without adding more pain to ourselves and others?

And that’s the key point: without screwing up an already difficult situation. It’s easy to hurt back and to walk away. That’s just not a very mature and conscious behavior and certainly not a successful one. Because it solves nothing and adds only more negative energy to the situation. Furthermore, it takes you the opportunity to learn from what has happened. Hurting back and walking away means just to sweep more unprocessed pain under the carpet.

Let me share a few lessons I have learned along my way. Before you react emotionally, while you are angry and hurt, pause for a minute and walk yourself through these three ad-hoc steps to avoid further pain for yourself and to open a space for your healing.

Three ad-hoc steps to treat a vulnerable, hurt soul

  • Leave the situation:
    This is the most important step to do. As soon as you recognize that the problem cannot be solved right away for whatever reasons, leave the situation before additional pain with additional emotional reactions screw up the already difficult situation.
  • Accept your sadness and your vulnerability:
    Inhale and exhale. Allow yourself to feel sad and hurt. Allow yourself that you don’t feel valued, accepted, and loved right now. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
  • Let your tears do some work: For those of you who are highly vulnerable souls as I am, you won’t be able to avoid your tears. Let them come. Just cry. It’s not a weakness; it’s a strength. It’s accepting yourself. Tears come up when your heart has so much more to say than you could ever express in any language. I learned along my way that this is a “must have” phase for me. It has to do with accepting my emotions and not suppressing them. This process takes as much time as it takes. There is no right or wrong. It’s just your way or my way. Don’t proceed to the next phase before you have the feeling that your tears have processed most of the drama. When the tears end, this part of the process is done.

Reflection phase to change perspectives: Step back from the situation and the involved people and become an observer of the situation.

Perspectives matter – put yourself in the other person’s shoes: Even if that sounds hard at the moment, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes is a mandatory step before you can make any conscious decision.

  • Do you know the other person’s core values, principles, and priorities?
    If no, don’t make assumptions, but try to have a conversation to understand the other person’s essentials, as these elements are what drives people’s behavior. If yes, didn’t the involved persons just apply their values, principles or beliefs? Probably those values and principles are not exactly yours. But could it be the case that you had a tendency to ignore them beforehand? Maybe because they didn’t fit into your image of the other person? I’m not saying that anything is good or bad, right or wrong. But this “changing perspectives” phase is simply about getting real, seeing things as they are, taking away the clutter. And the situation you find yourself in could also exist because both of you worked with a certain “image” of the other one. So far. Now, it’s a good opportunity to get clarity.
  • Maybe the situation was triggered by an underlying mirror effect? Maybe there is something the other person doesn’t like about you, which was one of the triggers for your painful situation. Maybe this problem was already existing for a while but was not communicated. Now, probably in the most inappropriate moment, the issue has been brought to your attention. Whom. Those “dislikes” about another person’s behavior or attitude have not only to do with you, they also have a lot to do with the person who articulates the “dislike”. And it is the same the other way around. Because people whose souls are strongly connected to each other, mirror each other, the good and the bad things. Often, those “dislike behaviours” address something within the other person that has not been processed so far. For instance, why did I (in my “closed phase”) found it horrible when people showed their emotions? Because I suppressed exactly that, my complex emotions, for decades. So, what was presented to me triggered an issue that was unsolved within myself. Of course, I didn’t like that until I got on another journey to open up and just to be who I am.
  • Take your perspective again and identify why you feel so much hurt:
    Having done the “change perspective” exercise has brought some distance between you and the situation. Hopefully, it has helped you to get a better understanding of the involved persons’ viewpoints. We talked about the mirror effect. Now, let’s see what the other person’s behavior that has hurt you so much has to do with you. Maybe, the other person prioritized an urgent business issue, and not you, even it was planned differently. Ok, that hurts, nobody wants to compete with a budget negotiation process. But now, check your own behaviour. How often did you put business first, and your friends and family had to suffer from your decisions? Pause for a minute. And just acknowledge that you as well have probably an issue to distinguish between urgency and importance and things that really matter in life when you will have to leave this life. And missed conference calls won’t be on your list of regrets. That’s for sure. This is why understanding the mirror effect is so important:
    It’s about learning and growing and making better decisions next time.

Now it’s time to regain your inner peace and to take action

By now, you should be in a far better place. You should have regained your inner peace as a prerequisite for your next steps. I have no recipes for your next steps because there are never five steps to guaranteed happiness and another ten to success. It always depends on your character, your context, and on the quality of relationship with the people involved and last but not least – on what you want. Here is what works for me. Maybe it makes sense for you as well.

I learned along my journey that I have to communicate how I have perceived what has happened, what I have learned from the situation, and how I want to proceed. Even if I was treated badly, in my humble opinion. But another person’s behavior doesn’t lead to a situation in which I would walk away from my own values, principles and priorities.
A core value for me is to treat others in a way I want to be treated. That means that I simply don’t get out of a situation with at least one attempt to clarify it, and to try to establish a foundation for the future. In some cases it works, in others it doesn’t.

I also learned that articulating my viewpoint seems to be more important for me than for others. Especially people who are not very emotional may appreciate you sharing your perspective. But they won’t always be able to respond. People perceive and tackle situations differently. You will recognize pretty soon if your communication was appreciated or not. In case it was those people will come back to you, often in different ways, forms and shapes. Others won’t appreciate what you are doing, and they may push back and hurt you a second time. Just to be right, in their perspective. That’s also for me clear signal how to better spend my time.

Finally, it’s never about being right or wrong. Emotions and perceptions are always subjective impressions, on both sides. Different characters, different values, principles, and priorities will always lead to the one or the other painful situation. What we can change, is to become much more aware, conscious and better in dealing with those situations. And that’s a huge part of your healing process and your personal growth.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen:
room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.“
–Pema Chödrön

I don’t have a silver bullet, and I don’t have all the answers. This is just what works for me, what I learned along my journey. So far. May it be helpful and inspirational for you.

There is only one thing I know for sure: People whose hearts and souls are closely connected will always circle back to each other.