When an emotional wound is inflicted by someone we love or care about, it is a common human reaction to feel hurt or distress. Feeling wounded can also entail feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. However, when you are feeling wounded, you hold the key to growth. The key is the process of contemplation and choice.
Contemplation: Giving thoughtful intention to a situation through observation, reflection and consideration. Helpful tip: set aside intentional time to contemplate. Allow silence, light a candle, sit in a safe space. Jot down notes or ideas that come to you.
Choice: The power to look at options uncovered in contemplation in order to make a decision. Helpful tip: doing nothing is still a choice. It is a passive choice. An active choice involves consciously choosing something and acting on it which leads to more feelings of competency and self empowerment.
Let’s use this empowering duo (contemplation and choice) to apply to a tangible situation. Bring to mind the last time you were hurt by someone you love, care about or once loved or cared about. This may be a past resolved situation or something you are currently going through. Now let’s take this situation through a 2 step in-depth process.
Step 1: Examining the situation
Contemplation question: What has happened?
Take a step back and objectively examine the situation trying to leave your emotional shading out of the story. What was going on with the other person? What was their intent? What was going on with you before/during the situation? What were your expectations of the other person before the situation? Were they realistic?
Choice: To Stay or To Move Forward
You may choose to stay in your hurt. This is a viable choice. Sometimes we need to stay in this place of feeling wounded in order to protect ourselves and to validate our feelings. It is helpful to recognize when we are choosing to stay (though it is often a passive choice). It is even more helpful to remind ourselves we can wear out our stay in this place. If you overstay, the hurt may turn to anger, resentment, bitterness. This will eventually be reflected in how you view and interact with the world. You may bring this anger into all your relationships by pulling away, not trusting anyone, shutting down or by showing more irritability. Unexpressed anger and hurt (resentment) also builds up in the body - often manifesting as insomnia, depression or disease. If you choose to stay, recognize this as a choice and commit to continuing to re-examine your hurt as time goes on. This helps to avoid the passive choice of staying too long and building resentment.
Upon contemplation, you may have a revelation that the other person had no intention of hurting you or perhaps there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication. You may also realize through contemplation that the situation triggered something else in you that was really unrelated. If you have come to any of these conclusions, the hurt that was originally there will more than likely have subsided or left completely. You may choose to note this and move forward with no further action.
After objectively examining the situation you may come to the conclusion that you are truly hurt by the other person’s words or actions. You may realize that this relationship is important to you, which is why the hurt is present. To move forward with this hurt, you may choose to go to Step 2 and examine the option of forgiveness.
Step 2: Examining Forgiveness
Contemplation question: What would it take to forgive?
Forgiveness is a process of letting go of the painful emotions that a wound has caused. In order for forgiveness to occur, we agree to let go and letting go of anything often hurts because letting go = loss and loss = grief. This may mean letting go of our defenses (anger, resentment, the need to be right) and we are left feeling vulnerable. However, if you are interested in continuing the relationship vulnerability, albeit uncomfortable, is an absolute requirement for connection.
Choice: To Stay or To Move Forward
See “Step 1 Choice: Stay” because it is exactly the same. We may examine and explore the possibility of forgiving and realize we are at a place where we choose to stay in our hurt. Depending on the depth of the wound, we may cycle back between choosing to stay and examining forgiveness over and over. Remember, the goal is awareness of the active choice of staying and continuing to actively re-examine.
In order to move forward, this step requires action. In order to actively move forward, we need to add in the contemplating question: What do I need to move forward? This varies depending on the relationship as well as the transgression.
Unexpressed: There may be times when you choose to forgive someone and never express it to that person. You make the conscious choice to release any ill feelings toward the person and to put the situation behind you. Note: this may be useful when the situation or the relationship is important enough to warrant intention, but not deep or intimate
Expressed: If the situation is deeply painful or if the relationship has a high degree of intimacy, it is most effective to communicate with the other person your feelings about the situation as well as your forgiveness. This may feel uncomfortable (back to vulnerability) but deepens connection in a relationship.
In order to be in any connected relationship we take the risk of being hurt. The deeper the relationship, the higher the chance and the deeper the hurt. It is a part of the authentic human experience. Managing that hurt and growing though it is optional. Contemplation and choices allow us to use our awareness to grow through the hurt.