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"I'm Hurting!": A Call to Heal

Charles Muorah MA, MTh, PGDE, STL
January 5, 2009

'I'm Hurting!': A Call to Heal

In my work, I often hear clients say "He/she hurt my feelings." But in reality, no one can actually hurt your feelings. It is your own response to a given situation that is important to understand. Emotion gives us information that is relevant to our survival, communication and problem solving. For example, the emotion of fear warns us about a foreseen threat and our possible response could be to flea, shrink back, or fight off the threat. Emotion has great influence on the way we think and behave, so we need to pay close attention to our feelings. Feeling "hurt" is a common emotion and a good one to examine and recognize that you may be experiencing a conflict. The conflict could be spiritual, emotional, cognitive or physical. In order to understand and resolve the conflict, we need to uncover the significance and the meaning of the hurt, take some personal responsibility, and examine our beliefs. These are the necessary steps to healing.

The significance of hurt is that there is an unresolved issue negatively impacting what is happening right now in your present relationship. We all have automatic thoughts and those thoughts inform and sustain our responses. Our thoughts are often dependent on the meaning we have given something (i.e. If he/she really loved me, he/she wouldn't...). When our thoughts are negative, we can choose to go through the accompanying emotion or to repress it. Emotions are usually buried when we feel that they are unbearable. A great deal of energy is used to suppress emotions, but a healthier alternative is to actually feel the emotions you experience. Since we cannot always keep a consistent energy level of suppressing emotions, buried emotions will inevitably surge up and result in hurt feelings. When this happens, they negatively affect our relationships, spiritual growth, consciousness, and our way of perceiving the world and people around us.

Negative emotions such as fear, frustration, hurt, sadness and anxiety cause harmful chemical reactions in our bodies. When we say, "I am hurting" or "this is hurtful," it is should serve as a wakeup call to ourselves to initiate a healing process. To start healing, it's necessary to understand our beliefs and make appropriate interventions. People, places and things cannot "make" us feel a certain way. It is primarily our own responsibility to manage our feelings in a healthy manner. It is imperative that we challenge our belief system, examine our automatic thoughts and hold a sincere desire for change. A decision to make a positive change is an acceptance of our need to heal.

Defensive and unacknowledged emotions (such as blaming, victimizing, denial, and contempt) hinder healing. Often people ask the question, "Why me?" This thought is sustained by the belief, "I am victimized." This begins or sustains a negative cycle and undermines self-concept as well as relationships. It is our own problem, so we must own it if we are to change it. Often, I work with clients to reconstruct the negative question of "Why me?" to a neutral statement of "Something is happening to me." This is a much better position from which to investigate the situation bringing up a hurtful feeling. It also gives us an opportunity to experience emotions, facts, responses and solutions from a less reactive place. When we do this, we often find that others are able to show us empathy and work with us together to resolve conflict. This core state is not easy to attain (the phrase, "easier said than done" comes to mind). So it's important to acknowledge our limitations and ask for help from a trusted source, whether it be a friend, clergy or therapist/counselor. A good therapeutic approach should aim to help you process your current emotions in the greater context of your history, life circumstances, and past and present relationships, all with a hope and confidence for a better future.

I often use the tools of Accelerated Experiential-Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP), and find that they help clients client establish a productive healing process. AEDP "is a transformation-based, healing-oriented model of therapy" (Ernest Hemingway, 2007). It was developed by Diana Fosha, the author of The Transforming Power of Affect. AEDP has successfully integrated into its framework the findings from Emotion Theory, Attachment Theory, Developmental Studies of Dyadic Interaction, Affective Neuroscience, Somatic Focusing, Trauma Studies, and Transformational Studies. Regulation of core affects is at the heart of AEDP treatment approach. From the onset of the treatment AEDP establishes a healthy therapeutic relationship with the client. AEDP interventions are designed to deeply penetrate the client's difficult emotional and relational experiences to bring about new healing experience.

Reference:

Christopher L. Heffner (2001). Introduction to Psychology and Research Methods in http://allpsych.com/psychology101/emotion.html.

Ernest Hemingway (2007). The World Breaks Everyone and afterward many are Strong at the Broken Places. In http://www.aedpinstitute.com.

Mary Kurus (2003). Emotions - How To Understand, Identify, Release Your Emotions. In http://www.mkprojects.com/fa_emotions.html.

Peter McCall & Maryanne Lacy (1985). An Invitation to Healing, New York: Riverrun Press.

Robert McNeilly (2000). Healing the Whole Person, New York: John Wiley and Sons.


Dr. Charles Muorah is a Senior Staff Therapist in CFR's Voorhees, NJ office and can be reached at 856-783-4200 ext. 6.

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