Hurt Me and I Hurt You
Sometimes we need to cut people off in our lives just to keep our sanity, our self-esteem intact, and our lives happy and fulfilling.
We all may have toxic people in our lives. Sometimes these toxic people are close and personal and sometimes it may be some outside of our close network but still in our lives. So the toxic person at work is easy to deal with because we can ignore them and at the very least we know we don't have to take them home with us. They should take the least out of us emotionally, though that is not always the case. We know we have to deal with them on a professional level but you definitely don't have to deal with them outside of that.
Then there is the person in the drive through. They have an attitude with you for no apparent reason. One person makes you feel responsible for their hurt and now here you are pulling off out the drive through and yelling at the person that accidentally cut you off. Then when you get to work someone don’t smile at you or say good morning and you internalize that. Then you scoff at the next person for some minor transgression. This blog addresses those who want to understand how this cycle gets created and what you can do to stop the cycle with you.
You are human and you have feelings and when our feelings are hurt you tend to do one or more of these things: you strike out, you cutoff, you cut out, or you internalize. When you strike out you hurt someone either knowingly or unknowingly and usually not the person that hurt you, projected anger or misdirected anger. It is hard because toxic people can actually rub off on you, if you are not careful. As you know people closest to you tend to hurt you the most with the slightest of transgressions or sometimes people hurt you with the most serious transgressions as well; therefore, this blog is primarily for those people who are normally in your close knit circle.
When someone strikes out at another person it is usually a result of some hurt or perceived hurt. It may be unresolved internal pain and they have adopted a negative coping mechanism. It is a very destructive way of coping. Many tend to strike out when they have not learned how to effectively communicate their needs, wants, or problems to another person. Usually the person they are striking out at is not the source of the problem or hurt. It is important when dealing with individuals who strike out that you do not give them too much attention. The last thing you want to do is internalize their behavior. You often see this scenario with domestic violence. The abuser hits the other person. The abuser says, “See what you made me do”. The person being hit says, “I should not have made them angry.” “It’s my fault that I upset them.” The person who hits is the one who strikes out at others. The person being hit is internalizing the other person’s behaviors. If you are a person who strikes out at others when there is little provocation then you should seek professional help.
Then there is internalization which is probably the more destructive to the emotional psyche than striking out. People who strike out never think they are the problem but people who internalize always think they are the problem. When you internalize it is you attacking you, blaming you, and shaming yourself. Internalization is a non-productive coping mechanism. It is self-destructive. It is a way of not dealing with the problem at all and making yourself the problem. This is where depression comes from, suicide, drug use, promiscuity, self-loathing, and self-hatred comes from. If someone is making you feel this way then you must cut them off until you are able to deal with the problem.
Internalization is often how toxic people become toxic they have no way to express their own hurts except through their general contempt for life, i.e. people in general. When you internalize their hurt you become them. If you find that you are a person that often internalizes the behaviors of others then you should seek professional help. This is not meant to sound facetious; it is dangerous emotionally to constantly internalize the behaviors of others. Just as those who strike out often perceive a hurt, those who internalize often perceive someone is doing something to them or because of them. The perception does not have to be accurate.
When you cutoff you decide you will not deal with the person emotionally. This means any dealings with that person becomes superficial, phony, distant, eventually non-existent. You see the person at the family event and you may speak and give them a phony hug or barely a kiss on the check. You stay as far away from them as possible to avoid conflict or you avoid talking to them for fear of touching on an unwanted subject.
When you cutout, which usually comes from a deep hurt, you no longer deal with that person at all. You try to act like they never existed. You are even willing to skip the family event if it means this person will be there.
I had a person send me a very hurtful letter. This was someone in my close knit circle. I didn't even know why or what I had done for this person to send something so hurtful. I responded by sending a letter of my own back to the person. The letter I sent was not a letter of retaliation, quite the contrary. Among other things it suggested the person get help for whatever pain or distress they may be feeling.
Now had I received this letter when I was 16 years old or under the age of 30, I might have internalized it and become really messed up behind it; however, I received this letter at a time in my life where I was emotionally healthy, pretty self-assured and at a point where I would not allow others to dictate who I am or who I will become.
Although the letter was hurtful, it made me angry, and it caused some emotional turmoil. However, once I was able to take a few steps back and review the dynamics of the situation I could see the person was intentionally striking out at me and I had done nothing to deserve this magnitude of hostility. I did cut the person out initially because that is what I needed to do to make sure I was okay in the moment and in the future. This person also enlisted others on their bandwagon. I was then faced with the choice of cutting out all those that joined on the band wagon; however I chose not to. Slowly, but surely, some of those people are coming back around and I allow; key word, allow them to be part of my outer circle. I have no need or desire to cut them out completely. It would serve me no purpose. It would only make my circle non-existent which would lead to isolation, loneliness, regret, and eventually that stuff you start to internalize. You will start to say things like”I wonder what is wrong with me”, “why doesn’t anyone like me”. The person that sent the nasty letter would win. I was not going to allow that to happen!
Now that you have an understanding as to why some people behave the way they do, you might want to know how to respond to these types of individuals. Well, I gave you one example in the above story. Perhaps you see yourself as a person who strikes out at others. You may be on the receiving end of a person who strikes out and you internalize, cut out or cut off. So, how do you respond to these types of individuals?
First, and foremost, you should try to talk to the person that hurt you directly, without internalizing what they did. Perhaps you cut off an individual and you would like to make amends. You might try saying, “I miss talking to you. Can we talk to try to understand what made us top being so close”. Once the conversation gets started you will know what to say next. Remember to leave blame, accusations, and internalizing out of it. Understand that relationships are a two way street and no one is always all right or all wrong, so accept responsibility for your role in the situation.
Secondly, and most importantly, you may need to cut out or cut off some people for your own physical safety as well as your emotional and mental safety. Please do not misunderstand me; you often need to cut toxic people out of you life. However, it does not mean that every time someone hurts you in some minor way do you need to cut them out of your life or out of your support circle. You will notice that your support circle will no longer exist if you continue to do so. You have to find a way to resolve the hurt within you. If you find you cut people out of your life often revisit why and see if the reason makes sense. If you don't remember why then it probably wasn’t that deep that you should have cut that person out of your life.
When you decide to cut out or off from someone then it should be intentional and not just because talking about the problem is too difficult. Also, decide if cut out is necessary or do you just need to cut off. When you cut off you are basically saying you will no longer be in my inner circle. This is better than cutting someone out of all the circles of your life because it may not be that deep; however, it may be necessary to keep them at arms length by cutting them off.
Third, but not least, the best way to deal with someone who has hurt you or who is trying to hurt you is to enjoy life, move on, move outward, move upward, and prosper. Don’t spend too much energy in trying to figure out their motives. You will never really know why unless they decide to tell you. If you feel you are able to have a conversation to resolve it then that is what you should do.
If you find that you want to make amends and you cannot do it on your own you should seek professional help. You should not hesitate to do this. The longer you go without speaking to someone the harder it is to make amends. If you find that you often cut people out or off then perhaps there is something you are internalizing or the problem may simply be in you. It may be difficult to hear but if you believe you could be the problem seek help. There is never any shame in seeking help to improve who you are as a person or just to make sure that you are happy as you deserve to be.
Questions, comments, wanting to get help: call (215) 268-6056 to speak to Rosemarie Reid, MHS, MSS, LSW, the therapist.