Photo by Gus Moretta on Unsplash
Some of us are lucky enough to have supportive, loving families that help us, either to come home to, or to feel we’ve come from. But for others, something doesn’t go well, sometimes even from the start, consequently we can feel a myriad of negative emotions from anger to distress. In serious situations such as abuse the anger can turn inwards and become very destructive, which is sad and worth a blog in its own right. My own experiences are more about how frustrating it can feel at times when you are expected to like someone, or even love them, yet it can feel really difficult to do. This blog is examining why that might be and what to do about that.
Why is it we feel so torn or overwhelmed when we are put in a position of needing to show support, attention, love or forgiveness to family and friends? Is it because we feel they don’t deserve it or that they’ve inflicted pain in some way? My belief is that much of the time we swallow our feelings rather than finding a way of voicing them and it’s this that builds over time in to resentments often unrelated or out of context with the events that follow on. Consequently, we may ‘blow up’ or inwardly seethe when we really should, or could, do something that respects ourselves and our feelings better. It isn’t unreasonable to feel hurt if a situation warrants it but it can be better to deal with that at the time rather than absorb it and let it become something bigger. If you wouldn’t treat another person badly by ignoring their pain then why do we sometimes treat ourselves badly and ignore our own?
I also find that in some situations the feelings of irritation towards a sibling are compounded because a parent asks you to stay in touch with them even though you might not want to. Not only are you made to feel you should do so (hence the sense of obligation), but then you become irritated at both your parent AND your sibling without resolving either situation.
In my life I have been somewhat dysfunctional in the past and haven’t addressed my concerns with a person as I’ve felt them, preferring instead to talk to someone unrelated but not the actual person. This isn’t always very positive as I haven’t really felt any better let alone explained myself. Yet if I don’t try then how can they begin to understand me, or offer any remorse – better still, a solution or apology? It isn’t uncommon to talk to someone else though, and isn’t always a negative thing to do as it can enable you to work out how bad the situation really is and whether it’s actually worth saying anything. If you want to approach the person who has hurt you then think carefully. If all you will do is create very big waves and hurt them in return then you may be trying for revenge rather than resolution of the problem. So my first tip is: –
- Check out what you want any response to achieve. Sit down with a piece of paper or talk to another person (if you can do so constructively), and let yourself feel both the pain/ anger etc. and the relief of talking it out – download until you have said everything you think and feel but do so safely and ask this third party to promise not to say anything back until you’ve totally finished. At that point ask them what they think and consider their opinion. Then ask yourself “what do you want to happen now?” If there is anything positive to be gained by telling the person who has hurt you how they’ve done that then follow step 2. If not then rant, rave and generally let it out but then resolve to forgive, accept it has happened, or let it go, whichever helps YOU more.
- If you are going to say something, follow a process and practice it beforehand. Rehearse what you want to express so that you don’t stumble over your key points. Start by being gentle if you can and ask to speak to them. Say there is something important you want to talk about and that you’d really appreciate if they listened for a bit. This preps them and helps show them you are in a mood to discuss an important issue rather than one where they might be likely to joke or tease you. Then describe the event “when ‘x’ happened” (keep it factual, short if you can so that they don’t get lost in the telling), then say “it had the effect of making me/ the family/ our lives etc. sad/ hurt/ angry/ upset or whatever emotion is being felt. Then say “can I suggest” or “I’d like to ask if you/ it/ the situation/ another person/ can do ‘y’ instead next time?
You may be surprised by how far you get. If they don’t handle it well and you begin to argue, withdraw and say “this is not the outcome I hoped as I can see you/ I’m getting angry/ hurt etc. maybe I need a few minutes and then I’ll come back and we can try again”
So, that leads me to ask “what do you do if it’s been a long time since the hurt was inflicted?” My own advice here is a truthful opinion, borne out of my own experiences. Psychologists like myself believe that much is to be gained by expressing our pain and particularly anger because there is some research to suggest holding on to it does some damage – either to our minds because we can replay events endlessly without resolving them or getting any comfort, or our immune system which tries to struggle with the unresolved conflict and stress. Therefore, speaking to the person involved can be the best outcome but not if they have moved on or even passed on. Then the only option is to consider downloading your fears, emotions and unhappiness on to paper. This is either to help; you be brave and let go of the issue, or where necessary, to burn the contents so that in a pivotal moment of transition you release the pain and say you don’t want to feel it anymore.
Under these circumstances I recommend the following: –
- Write a letter to them as if you fully intend they should read it but accept that this version is actually unlikely to be sent. It may be too vitriolic or harsh. Make sure you download everything you are feeling but start with the anger as this always masks the pain you really feel underneath. Keep writing until you’ve said everything you can think of that expresses your issue. Then get to the pain of how that felt/ feels. Ask questions if you need to. Make statements – add a couple of “how dare you’s” as these always help to feel self-righteous and somehow feel well suited to difficult pain that you wouldn’t otherwise say.
- It’s very important that you then leave the letter for a minimum of 24 hours. This is so that you feel the relief of expressing it and so that you can pause before deciding what you want to do. If as previously said, this is not a letter you can send, then now is the time to make a decision. There are 3 options here: firstly, are you ready to forgive them? If so, then that’s great because you will move on easily once you’ve done that. If this feel too difficult, can you accept that it has happened? Acceptance isn’t a lesser achievement, simply different. It means I may not like everything that has occurred but I accept it and choose to move on now. Or, if you prefer, can you decide to learn from it because it’s in your interests to do so. Whichever you decide, finish the letter with a sentence to that effect and sign it as if you would a personal letter to someone
- Now it is equally important to re-read it and then tear it up or burn it. As you do so say something very positive such as “I choose to let this situation or pain/ anger/ hurt, go so that it cannot bother me anymore”. This is a deliberate and very powerful action that is very likely to stop the chatter in your head or re-play of the event.
My final piece of advice – go out and celebrate! Resolve to enjoy an evening out and toast yourself “to peace, happiness and moving on” Good luck!