by Andrea M. Darcy
Has someone you loved betrayed you? A friend left you feeling rejected? Or a colleague let you down? What can you do if you are left feeling hurt?
What to Do If You Are Feeling Hurt
1. Let yourself feel what you need to feel.
Repressing our emotions can be like keeping a beach ball under water — it takes a lot of effort, and eventually the ball pops up. Suddenly we are snapping at our friends, or getting really angry about something small at work.
Or we are using unhealthy habits to hide from our emotions, like drinking too much, casual sex, or recreational drugs.
TRY THIS: Mindfulness is a powerful tool to recognise and move emotions. You train your mind to tap into the here and now despite your racing thoughts. Read our free and easy guide to mindfulness to get started.
2. Find healthy ways to express your hurt.
Of course taking time to feel what you need to feel does not mean wallowing. Sitting for days and weeks in our feelings just leads to the victim mentality, which stops us from healing.
And it definitely doesn’t mean spattering our hurt all over others. Yes, you might be furious or despondent. But lashing out often just leads to more hurt.
It’s when we unpack hurt, get to the bottom of it, and learn from it that we can then turn hurt into a step forward. We learn what we do or don’t want from relationships, or how to set a boundary.
TRY THIS: “Free write” out your feelings. Write whatever comes, without judgement, letting yourself be as racy and wild as you want. Then rip up the pages. Or write a letter to the other person saying all
you wish you had of (don’t send it though!). If you hate writing, try a timed rant. In a private space, set a timer for four minutes, and speak out loud all the things you want to say, no matter how silly or dramatic. Try to keep going until the time is up.
3. Question your hurt feelings.
Does your hurt seem huge, boundless? Have friends hinted you are reacting more than you should be?
If we have difficult past experiences we never worked through, those feelings will still be with us, and present day hurts can layer on top.
You don’t just react to your latest date standing you up. You take all the rage from the day a parent didn’t show up to take you for the weekend, or the time a friend at school decided they didn’t want to be your friend anymore, and express that, too.
TRY THIS: Counselling and coaching are all about good questions. Ask them of your hurt feelings. If you don’t know how to ask a question, try to start it with ‘what’ or ‘how’ over ‘why’ (why questions just tend to be rabbit holes of self-blame, so best avoided). Try things like:
- What is this hurt feeling, really? If I could name it? Is it feeling abandoned, belittled?
- And what experiences in the past made me feel the same things?
- What person in the past has made me feel this way?
- Have I forgiven that person? Or am I still angry at them, deep down?
- Might I be sensitive to rejection? Did this person reject me as much as I think?
Researcher Mark Leary, in his work on hurt feelings, identified that rejection, and feeling we have ‘low relational value’, is one of the key reasons we end up with hurt feelings.
4. Manage your behaviour.
When we are hurt we can want revenge, or to hurt the other person. Such intrusive thinking is not ‘bad’. Thoughts are just thoughts.
But if you actually turn such thoughts into actions, you can end up more hurt than you already were, disliked, and full of regret.
TRY THIS: Ask a friend to be a support buddy who you can turn to and call when you are feeling like you might do behaviours you regret. Agree to time each call to five minutes (you don’t want to use them like a dumping ground). If you don’t have anyone to talk to, consider a counsellor.
5. Try new perspectives.
Can’t seem to stop feeling sorry for yourself? Sometimes a shift of perspective can help, where we push ourselves to see things in entirely new ways.
TRY THIS: Think of the three people, dead or alive, real or imaginary, you most admire. What would they have to say about this situation? What about your 80 year-old self? Your five year-old self? What advice do they offer?
6. Balance it out.
Emotional pain can cause ‘cognitive distortions‘, where our thoughts seem real but are deviations of reality. We might think only in black and white, for example.
So it can help to learn what is called ‘balanced thinking’ in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a psychotherapy that helps you manage your thoughts before they cause depression and anxiety.
- Write out your thought about your hurt feelings and the situation.
- When you have the thought, reach for the exact opposite.
- Then find a thought in the middle. Might this be more realistic?
e.g. They probably planned to hurt me all along. They never meant to hurt me. Actually, they probably never meant to hurt me at first, but one thing led to another and emotions got out of control.
7. Focus on wellbeing.
We all know the positive activities that make us feel grounded and improve our mood. This might be exercise, making art, volunteering, whatever works for you.
Note that one of the best ways we can improve our wellbeing is by being around others who make us feel seen, heard and appreciated as we are, instead of put down.
TRY THIS: Make a list of all the things that make you feel positive and energised. Then a list of all the things you think might help you haven’t tried. Pick one activity from each list and schedule it into your week right now.
8. Raise your self-compassion.
Being hurt can easily turn into self-blame. We think of all the things we could have said or done so the other person didn’t hurt us. Then we feel not good enough.
A faster way to raise self worth can be to work with self-compassion, where we try to treat ourselves with as much empathy and concern as we would a good friend.
In her study comparing global self-esteem with self-compassion, researcher Kirsten D. Neff showed that self-compassion teaches us all the positive benefits of self-esteem, while also avoiding the comparison and defensiveness that just focusing on our esteem can bring.
TRY THIS: Write a letter to a best friend, giving them feedback on getting through a recent difficult experience and supporting them for their courage. Then read the letter out loud, changing the name at the top to your own. Notice how it feels to talk to yourself like a friend.
9. Seek support.
Does feeling hurt make you impulsive? Do you to say spiteful things, and then feel full of regret and embarrassment after?
Impulsivity and emotional dysregulation can be signs of borderline personality disorder, or other mental health issues. If you can’t get your emotions under control, and if every time you are hurt you lash out, it’s time to seek professional support.
Ready to stop living life in a constant state of hurt? We connect you with top talk therapists including CBT therapists, in central London. Or use our booking platform now to find UK-wide registered online counsellors.
Andrea M. Darcy is a health writer who helps people design their journey to better mental health. Find her @am_darcy.