The Hurt Equation:

We all know that feeling. That feeling of being punched in the gut by a hundred pound gorilla. Queasy, tremulous and so darn emotional. Our mouth quivers, our chest heaves and our eyes water. Our heart feels like it is going to burst out of our chest wall. The sky rains tears down on us and we feel like we are going to drown in pain.


What?s the common trigger? Often, it?s because someone said something to us: either they insulted us, or rejected us, or judged us, or ignored us, or differed with us in some way. It?s usually someone we interact with often – a friend, spouse, parent, child, boss or colleague and 9 out of 10 times, this is the reason for our emotional pain and drama.


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The equation is automatic:

??????????????????????? someone does something hurtful = we feel hurt.

What we don?t realize is this: this equation is a constructed one. It is a conditioned one. It is a false one. While it seems natural, it is actually quite unnatural. I am sure you are confused by now. Let me explain:


How it Develops:

We have been raised to value the opinions of others – dependent on how they view us. This is a natural outgrowth of growing up in a family, surrounded by adults and authority figures. ?What could be so detrimental about this?? you might ask. ?Isn?t this almost necessary to develop into productive members of society? How will we know how to be if it weren?t for the instructions and guidance of our caregivers?? These are legitimate questions, but unfortunately, obscure another deeper and potentially dangerous reality.

Most of us grow up with little attention paid to our own inner relationship. While we are taught to place value on the opinion of others, we are taught to ignore the power of self-appraisal, self-authority and self-awareness. The reality is this: few of us were raised to honor who we authentically are. Most of us were raised to honor what others thought of us over our own opinion of ourselves. We were simply conditioned to fall into line with the status quo and go with the crowds.

Our sense of self depends on the image others have of us. Therefore, when someone we hold in esteem judges or rejects us, it hurts us so. We automatically enter into a pattern of reacting with equal hurt and pain. Either we wallow in it, or we dump it back onto them or some other unsuspecting victim.

The reason another?s opinion of us is false is because no one can ever know us. They can only know us from their?experience and point of view. And therefore this opinion is always layered with bias. It can never be true.


The Reason We Get Hurt:

The reason we automatically feel hurt is this: We believe the other?s voice to be the truth about who we are. Their idea of us and way of treating us supersedes our own beliefs about ourself. When this happens, our hearts lay wide open to receive the unconsciousness of others.

It is because we believe in what the other is saying – as if it were the truth – that we feel the pain that goes with it.


What if we simply stopped believing?

What if we realized that all of this is a lie?

What if we understood that our deepest self is essentially always pure and worthy – no matter what other?s say about us.

What if we understood that it is no one?s job to understand or know or approve of us but ourselves?

What if we simply realized that while everyone has their right to their opinion about us, this has nothing to do with us, per se, and only to do with them – their history, their feelings, their heart and their level of consciousness?


What if we choose another way?

Instead of automatically feeling hurt, we felt ?nothing? almost neutral?

What if we gave ourselves the permission to simply not react? What would our life look like? Would it look too detached for comfort? Too drama-free?

A client recently said to me: I didn?t know I had a choice! I thought I had to react when someone said something hurtful. I had to prove them wrong. I was so desperate that they think good things about me! Only now I realize that what they think about me has nothing to do with me!



?Real Life Examples:

What if your spouse said something to the tune of, ?you are such a horrible partner. You are pretty useless.?

Instead of reacting in your typical way, you said, ?I see that you feel strongly about this. You have a full right to your opinion. I see things differently. When you are ready to hear my side, we can discuss it. Until then, I am sorry that you are in pain,? and walked away?

And then, instead of wallowing in a ?story? about them, you understood that they are caught up in waves of their own past, in the tides of their own reactivity and the currents of their own hurt? And that it is for this reason that they choose to make you the cause of it?


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Or, if your teenager said something to the tune of, ?you are so annoying, please leave me alone,? instead of reacting in a rude and angry way right back, you said, ?I see that you are choosing to be unkind and hurtful right now. As I love myself dearly, I choose to not participate in any negative behavior toward me so I am going to remove myself from this dynamic. Once you are back in a kind state, we can resume our conversation. This teaches our children that they too have a choice in how they perceive another?s hurtful behavior and find the right path of action for themselves.

Or, if your best friend said something to the tune of, ?you are a bad friend and you are wrong in how you act,? instead of taking it personally, either find a way to be curious about their opinion or simply say, ?I am sorry you feel this way, but I don?t believe these things about myself. We can either choose to disagree or take a breather from each other till things feel a little better for both of us.? Again, by detangling our emotional reactivity, we give ourselves and the other the space to discover new ways of being and relating.

Instead of pitting our opinion against theirs, we open the space for the other to take accountability for their own actions and feelings while we take the same for our own.

This does not mean we allow ourselves to be walked all over. On the contrary, by not being slaves to another?s opinion of us, we do not give them the privilege of our heart and feelings. Once we are detached enough from our emotional charge, we can then make clear-headed decisions about what the best path forward is. We simply cannot make a wise decision in the heat of an emotional struggle.


True Freedom:

When we are able to anchor ourselves in our own self-belief, authority and governorship, holding no one accountable or responsible for our inner state, we not only relinquish the other from the impossible task of understanding us but also free ourselves in turn.


It is my firm belief that it is no one?s job to approve of or understand us.

Sure, it is wonderful when someone tries. But even then, no one can fully feel our feelings for us. They can only aspire to know us. The complete act of self-knowledge can only be performed by us. Every one else gets a pass.

When we ground ourselves in this truth, we are able to be a witness to another?s opinion or judgment of us without letting it throw us off our center. We are able to separate their view from our view. We are able to simply say, ?I know you believe this about me, and you have full right to do so. You don?t have to change your belief at all. You can keep your belief about me. But I simply don?t share the same view. I hope we can still be kind to one another.?

Choosing to believe someone or not is our choice.


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It is in our power to say, ?I don?t believe you.?

This doesn?t mean they are ?bad? people and you stop loving them or being in a relationship with them. It simply means you hold yourself to your own standards and measure yourself according to your own yardstick.

Your dependency on the other to make you happy fades. In this way, your wellspring of joy and abundance flows unencumbered and free. It no longer relies on the caprice and whims of the other. It lies solidly centered on its own inner being, fully self-aware and resilient. When we can enter this place of self-insight, our inner cup runneth over.

As we no longer seek approval or understanding from the other, we are able to give, unconditionally and fully.

Now this, my friends, is freedom.

Dr. Shefali

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