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Hurt people hurt people

Jesse Martin

May 31, 2016

If I go through the emails I get from readers it is always painfully apparent how much hurting goes on. Infidelity, abuse, insensitivity -- you name it. Often times guys will describe their relationship to me and it just sounds like a terrible cycle of pain.

During or after the relationship, we seem to always find ways to hurt one another.

Why do we do this? There are two realizations that have helped me make sense out of all of this.


The first has to do with consciousness, or awareness, however you want to look at it. Eckhart Tolle touches on this when he says that people act to the extent that they are conscious. I interpret that to mean that the more conscious you are, the more you are able to observe your own actions and reactions, the more respectful to others you are able to be.

People that act in a disrespectful, deceitful manner would not act that way if they were more conscious and more aware of the feelings and struggles of others.

Looking back at my relationship, I treated by ex-girlfriend disrespectfully and she did the same to me. I forgive myself and forgive her, not because I respect our choices at the time, but because I acknowledge that I for one did not have the capacity to act differently because I was not conscious enough.

Now, I hold myself to a higher standard. I strive to be aware of my thoughts, my emotions and my actions. It's through this awareness that I am able to adjust course and be compassionate to others.

Hurt People Hurt People

The second realization goes back to the old adage "hurt people, hurt people." Those that hurt others were often hurt themselves.

The more I've come to understand about how the brain develops through childhood the more I have come to understand the scientific underpinnings of this statement.

As an impressionable child we look to our parents for guidance on how to survive in the world. If your parents view the world as a dangerous place, you will quickly adopt the same world view. After all, your parents survived, mimicking them can't be that bad of a strategy -- can it?

Once you view the world as a dangerous place, you leave little capacity for trusting others and opening your heart.

Perhaps your parents did not view the world as a dangerous place. Still, certain painful experiences may lead you to come up with a coping strategy for life, which allows you to minimize the pain. Maybe that coping strategy is to distract yourself in all sorts of ways whenever you feel pain.

Perhaps that was an effective strategy growing up as a child and perhaps it did protect you from getting hurt even more. However, our childhood coping strategies often become obsolete when we're adults, yet we keep using them throughout our lives. They become so natural, so engrained, that we view them as part of ourselves.

Unfortunately, these coping strategies often lead us to hurting others. If we still run away from our feelings, like we might have done as a child, it may become hard to build trust with another adult. Unfortunately, in our attempt to avoid pain, we often end up hurting others.

I discovered in therapy that one of my coping strategies has been to analyze everything which I experience. I feel that once I understand a situation it loses some of its power over me. That coping strategy is probably a big reason why I started this blog. I don't know for sure, because it has almost become inseparable from who I am.

But I've also come to realize that analyzing doesn't always help and quite often it doesn't resolve anything. I'm still learning to sometimes do quite the opposite: No analyzing, just feeling, just letting be. Doing so has given me more peace and I feel it has allowed me to become a more compassionate human being.

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