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What to Do When Your Feelings Are Hurt

Man with hurt feelings

When your feelings are hurt in a relationship, sometimes it seems like your only choices are 1) exact revenge, 2) stop talking to the person, or 3) try to forgive and forget.

But there’s another choice, one that’s often the better way to go with relationships that are important to you, and that is to communicate about what happened and how you feel about it.

For many of us, that’s a tall order. We have to be able to sort through our hurt feelings first AND we have to have the self-esteem to assert that our feelings matter in relationships.

So how do you get there from here? I believe the 2-step process below helps with both tasks.

Feel It to Heal It

1. Notice how you feel.

Feelings that are consciously and fully accepted don’t stick around. You’ll feel better sooner if you embrace this step.

Just acknowledging your feelings silently in your own head, without self-judgment, brings peace. It creates a kind of heart-magic that will move you out of those feelings and into a better state before you know it.

While you’re embracing your hurt feelings, remember it doesn’t matter if the other person meant to hurt you or not.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re “right” to feel hurt. This isn’t a courtroom, it’s just you here. There’s no judge, no jury…  just a plaintiff and an advocate if you will, both of whom are you.

Keep it simple. You’re either hurt or you’re not. You know it when you feel it.

If you’re hurt, tell yourself, “I’m hurt by what happened (or what he said, or what she did, etc.) I feel so ______ … “

  • Rejected
  • Betrayed
  • Abandoned
  • Attacked
  • Demeaned (denigrated, diminished, disrespected, dang! so many D-words…)

Fill in the blank with the word or words that fit.

2. Make sense of your feelings

Tell yourself why you’re hurt.

Don’t think evidence; think explanation.

Don’t seek proof; seek to understand.

Remember, this is not a courtroom. You don’t have anything to prove.

What you do need is a way to make sense of your feelings. Here’s an example of what you might say to yourself to do that.

I’m hurt because:

  • I value her opinion; I’m worried she’s right
  • I thought he had my back
  • I’ve given too much of my time and energy to be treated this way
  • S/he doesn’t seem to know me at all, even though s/he should by now

Etc. Really think about making sense of your feelings. Because if you pay attention, they do make sense. It’s not just chaos in there, even if it sometimes feels that way.

Once you come up with a way to understand your feelings, tell yourself, “NO WONDER I’m hurt!” And believe it.

When you’ve given yourself this attention…

When you’ve really listened to your heart…

THEN you’ll be in a better position to decide what, if anything, to do about the fact that So-and-So hurt your feelings.

None of us wants to go off half-cocked and take our feelings out on someone else. Following the recipe above will help you avoid that.

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations. The author of "Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them" and the "Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children," Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships. Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called "Constructive Wallowing."
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6 Responses to "What to Do When Your Feelings Are Hurt"

  • timethief
    March 30, 2013 - 9:25 am Reply

    @Tina,
    When hurt my first response is: “Where did that come from?” It used to be %!!@$^# them! But I learned that kind of thinking led to reacting immediately instead of thinking and choosing whether to respond, and if so, how to respond.

    For years I didn’t recognize that it didn’t matter if the wounding was intentional or not and whether or not I was right to feel wounded or not didn’t matter either. What mattered is that I didn’t need to react immediately or at all.

    Reacting and responding are quite different. I have learned the hard way how to pause and undertake the two part examination you posted above. This part about making sense of what I feel resonates for me: ” if you pay attention, they do make sense. It’s not just chaos in there, even if it sometimes feels that way.”

    Thank you so much for sharing your approach to responding to being hurt.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      March 30, 2013 - 10:18 am Reply

      Timethief, I love that you’re underlining the practical point here, which is Don’t Just React. Also really appreciated your tweet about this topic this morning. You said, “Reacting is an immediate behavioral response triggered by emotion. Responding requires thoughtful reflection.” That’s it in a nutshell. Thank you very much for your thoughtful input.

      • timethief
        March 30, 2013 - 7:59 pm Reply

        You’re welcome, Tina. Do have a lovely long weekend.

  • Snowburst
    September 4, 2016 - 1:42 pm Reply

    I’ve done some of the most hurtful, damaging, and painful things when I have just reacted and not thought about it first. Misunderstanding someone’s intentions is another big problem for me. It does not occur to me in the moment to think first. One of my biggest and most important goals I have identified for myself is to “catch things in the moment”. Those times when I am in a rush or hurry and I ignore that “still, small voice” that warns me. How do I learn to catch those things when they happen in just a flash?

    • Tina Gilbertson
      September 6, 2016 - 2:01 pm Reply

      You’re far from alone, Snowburst. Reacting exactly the way we want to in the moment is a challenge for pretty much everyone I know, including myself.

      It’s a good rule of thumb to try to slow the interaction down as soon as you hear that “still, small voice” inside that’s warning you. Take it as a speed bump.

      But slowing things down can be hard to remember in the moment.

      So my approach is to act as soon as I realize what happened. The more often I react in a certain way to a certain stimulus, the sooner I can catch it and amend my response after the fact.

      If the same reaction happens over and over, and you amend your response as soon as you think of it, eventually you may be able to react differently in the moment.

      But it also might be that for some reactions, the best you’ll ever do is to revisit the interaction a few moments later, and express yourself differently.

      That’s far better than letting a knee-jerk reaction stand as your final word.

      Thanks for bringing that up. I’m sure others can relate.

      • Snowburst
        September 6, 2016 - 5:15 pm Reply

        Thank you, Tina. Now I think the issue for me is more, “give yourself a break!!” Oddly enough, another difficult thing for me to do!! 😉

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