Perhaps our biggest thing keeping us from happiness is our holding onto pain, and not allowing ourselves to move in the direction of pleasure. We are afraid of letting go our past hurts because of what we make them mean. We keep our pains rather than let them serve the purpose they exist: move us toward pleasures. If this is so, then the question, is why? Because we do not know how to move through, release and express our painful emotions. We do not see them as emotions; we see them instead as judgments, beliefs, and understandings of reality. “I feel grief” becomes… “I AM grieving”. “I feel angry” becomes… “I AM angry”. If happiness were as easy as choosing, many times we would have done it already. So in the end… it is not the action that truly hurt us. It is what we make it mean, and our unmet need to move through, let go, and learn. We can only do this by allowing our human nature to shine through the fabric of our being, to fully endow and express our emotions without fear.
Maybe to move through these things, we must have the courage to be fully honest with how we are feeling, and be open and receptive to how others are honestly feeling. Assuming they are being fully present and honest, this should illicit feelings of love and understanding, not defense and fear. At the root of all detrimental emotion is fear, but how we come to understand the other's fear is by learning to understand their pain. Through this, we can also let go of the painful meanings we assign to experiences as the understanding of true intention comes to a reveal.
Thinking late at night about such things has made me aware of my own pain. I was unable to indulge in happiness on many occasions growing up, as I was instead asked to self-sacrifice, clean the house, and give service. We look at our childhood events like this, and other's with a sense of "that was rough". And indeed, it was. Recognizing our feelings is the is the first step. We should not deny how we are feeling, no matter how painful... doing so is a complete lack of empathy. Even if we feel resistant, or numb, or even if we cannot define it! We accept exactly where we are. This is so important for self-compassion and healing.
But beyond, how do we learn to move on? We have the opportunity to step into dis-identification to see our emotions as the byproducts of interaction. This is what I mean by "holding onto pain"... we make our pain ours to keep, we let it define the experience of what we've been through. The only thing left when we have freed ourselves from the chains of the past is gratitude.
1. So by all means, first:
"It is perfectly reasonable I feel this way and I allow myself to feel what I am feeling."
Once we recognize and comfort our emotion, we can explain to it the reality of what was occurring. We recognize our own role first. In my case, this is: I was self-sacrificial to my primary caregiver by cleaning the house extensively, providing service to her, and becoming co-dependent because it was how I learned to receive love and stay "safe" as a child. Remember that lack of approval and acceptance means death as a child. Even biologically, this is true.
2. The next step is to look at the other's role. What was said that hurt me so badly? Why? What is the meaning that I assigned to it?
One example might be: "I don't think I like your selfish behavior."
What do I make this mean?
I make it mean that I am (in fact) a selfish person.
I make it mean that I don't deserve love.
I make it mean that I am powerless to do things right.
3. You have to be ready for this next step, as you may resort to anger or self-blame which is not at all what it is about. Instead, when you seek to answer the following questions, be endowed with enough self-love and compassion so that you can look on with loving objective awareness rather than trying to force yourself into a new perspective.
What is the actuality of what happened? No ones words can actually "make" you feel anything. Whether you pick up on energy or not, it is you that is still a match to experiencing such. It is what we make what happens to us mean that hurts us so badly. In reality, it was not this person's comment that hurt, but the conclusions that were drawn because of it. So looking at things more objectively, understanding that others hurt people due to their own unmet needs, what could've been the reality? Here are some possible scenarios.
Whether it be on a conscious or subconscious level, this persons feels great shame because they are not measuring up to their own standards. But instead of feel that shame, they blame others to distract themselves. They called you what they themselves felt and believed.
This person may've said those things in spite of the other's efforts to please them, because deep down they really wanted to feel like they were a good caring person. But they are unable to fulfill their own needs, and they cannot meet another's. Their own pain is already too much for them to handle, so instead it's they make it the other person's fault.
Having to take care of another being who is in pain, when you have yet to resolve your own is difficult. Even though it's a flawed worldview (relationships don't have to be one vs. another's needs), people often feel like they cannot offer the time, space, energy, that they already do not have for themselves.
In reality, they may've actually been thinking, "I really want your love and approval. I want to feel like I'm not a failure. I cannot take care of your needs right now and it's easier for me to say you're selfish than admit to that." Yet, this person is unable to admit to the reality of what has happened because, guess what? Responsibility is tough! More on responsibility later...
In reality, again with their own standard, they may've been thinking instead, "I am so upset with the way my life is going and I feel like I've really screwed up. I have no control over what is happening. I'm desperate and scared and I want someone to save me." This person may've said the other was selfish so that person would feel guilty and cater to their needs so they wouldn't feel so alone and helpless.
And finally... Fear:
"If I'm not a good enough parent I will be scorned. I will not feel love and approval from society. I need love and approval."
This is where societal norms and socialization is enhanced. In this case, selfishness is condemned and selflessness is glorified. This society also still works greatly in the reward-punishment style of parenting. In parenting, sometimes parents prioritize raising a 'good child' and to therefore be perceived as a 'good parent' and feel a sense of acceptance and love by the world around them. This person may've been thinking, "I am raising an unselfish and caring person by calling them selfish."
It is some backwards logic, but we must remember that the part of the mind geared for survival works in this way. It will do anything it needs to feel a sense of assurance and survival.
It is really hard to let go of anger and hurt... we can only do it when we are truly ready. We cannot force ourself into forgiveness. Forgiveness is ultimately something we give to ourself, not the other person.
Moving on doesn't mean we are minimizing or dismissing what has happened. It acknowledges our own emotion, but equally acknowledges the reality of what truly occurred and why. It doesn't mean the person isn't still responsible for what happened, and it doesn't mean that we should condone anything that was likewise. It is recognizing our own role in the scenario, and becoming understanding to those who've hurt us. It is recognizing how we've hurt others, and moving on from that as well.
Forgiveness is a level of understanding that really can be achieved and leaves us with a sense of peace for the past. It is a higher understanding and love that we can embrace, but it should not be glorified as a means of dismissing our pains either.
Let your anger and pain out, then, let it go with the wind...