Healing Hurt Feelings: 11 Things You Can Do

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Unless you’ve been living in a bubble inside a deep-sea cave somewhere, you’ve probably had your feelings hurt at least a few times.

Even if you have been in a deep-sea bubble, you may have been snubbed by a random tubeworm or not been invited to an anglerfish’s birthday party and felt a pang of rejection.

Having our feelings hurt is part and parcel of the human experience.

The key here is learning how to go about processing them in a healthy way rather than letting them fester or cause further damage.

Holding onto them can cause all manner of upset in the long run, both for yourself and for people you might be petty and spiteful towards in retaliation.

There are a number of different things that you can do to heal hurt feelings. Not all of them will appeal to everyone, of course. Each person processes emotions in different ways, and a technique that works for one might not be right for another.

Take a look at the different tips and techniques mentioned below. You should find a few that will work well for you.

1. Sit with the hurt instead of trying to avoid it.

If you’ve ever cracked your shin on something so hard that you saw stars behind your eyes, you probably sat down and cradled that pain until it eased. Nothing else in the world existed while you were doing it: it was just you and the blinding pain in your leg.

You might have rocked back and forth a bit, perhaps with the occasional whimper, but mostly focused on breathing in and out and trying not to faint.

At that moment, you were accepting things as they were and working with them accordingly, instead of wishing that they were different.

You weren’t sitting there wishing your leg would stop hurting. No, instead you were applying pressure to the pain (maybe ice too if you’re lucky) and taking deep breaths until the pain alleviated enough for you to be able to walk again.

The same effort can be applied to hurt feelings. Emotional pain can be just as all-consuming as physical discomfort, if not worse. At least with a physical pain, you can apply an ice compress or stitch it up and it should get better. In contrast, emotional hurts can take us over completely, preventing us from functioning and interfering with our lives on every level.

So treat them the same way you treated that shin injury.

If you’re hurting, then allow yourself to hurt. Feel those feelings instead of trying to suppress them. Cry if you need to.

Try not to distract yourself from the pain you’re experiencing. Instead, let it flow through you until it’s worn itself out. Basically, treat it like emotional food poisoning: rest, breathe, hydrate yourself, and let it pass.

2. Do something physical.

Have you ever taken a walk to clear your head and release overabundant energy when you were feeling angry or overwhelmed? That’s a natural response and a very healthy one too.

When our feelings are running amok, we can suffer from adrenal overload. Quite literally, our bodies release adrenaline as part of a “fight-or-flight” response. If we’re doing neither, then the adrenaline doesn’t have anywhere to go.

It just sloshes around our bodies, increasing heart rate, causing waves of anger and anxiety.

If this happens to you, then do some kind of physical activity. Not only will this let your body process and burn off the adrenaline it created, exercise also releases endorphins: feel-good hormones that help to alleviate pain – both emotional and physical.

If you don’t feel like going for a walk or a run, hit or scream into a pillow for a while or go all-out on a punching bag.

Whatever form of exercise you engage in, you’ll relieve the built-up stress, anxiety, sorrow, etc. that’s nesting in your chest by doing so. As a result, you’ll be able to breathe easier and think more clearly so you can better determine what your next steps will be.

3. Determine whether your feelings are hurt because of the present, or the past.

Quite often, hurt feelings are a result of past wounds that either haven’t healed properly yet, or have left us with some pretty gnarly emotional scars.

Sometimes, when we find ourselves reacting to a situation by having our feelings hurt, it wasn’t an issue that’s occurring in the present that’s upsetting us. Rather, a button was pushed that opened up a panel inside where some old pain has been stored and forgotten about.

Think of it like stumbling onto a pressure plate if you’re dungeon crawling in a video game. Everything seems to be going okay but then all of a sudden you have to deal with a horde of sword-wielding skeletons that rolled out of the closet you’d forgotten about five levels before.

When faced with a wave of hurt feelings, take some quiet time alone to process what’s going on inside you. Essentially, analyze which factors are contributing to you feeling off-balance right now, in this moment.

Did someone say or do something to intentionally cause you distress? Or did they say something innocently that made you remember something awful that happened years before?

I refer to this as the “raccoons and candles” scenario. A raccoon that has lived through a forest fire is going to flinch from a candle, even though it’s giving a cheerful light rather than pain and terror.

When our feelings get hurt, we have an opportunity to backtrack to see where that hurt is coming from. We may not have even realized that there was still a wound there that needed tending to.

Once you’ve determined whether it’s an old hurt or a new one that’s causing you pain, you can shift focus to sorting out what needs to be sorted out.

If it’s an old hurt, then talk to the other person about why you’re reacting this way. Explain to them what this situation opened up for you. This way there’s clear communication and understanding on both sides: they won’t think you’re overreacting about something insignificant, and you won’t assume that they’re antagonizing you to cause you distress.

In contrast, if you determine that this is a new situation that’s hurting you, then you’ll be able to face it with complete clarity. If the other person is indeed antagonizing you to get a response, then call them out on that behavior and make sure they realize that isn’t okay with you.

4. Avoid taking any drastic action while you’re feeling bad.

This ties into the previous recommendation. One of the worst things you can do when you’re feeling hurt is to take immediate action. You’ll undoubtedly do something (or several things) that you’ll end up regretting, and you won’t be able to take them back or tell everyone to just forget that you said or did anything.

This is especially true in situations where the cause of the hurt feelings may be unclear. A lot of people assume the worst about others because of things they’ve gone through in the past. Similarly, those who suffer from depression, anxiety, BPD, etc. are prone to making mountains out of molehills and then reacting to their own perceptions, rather than the truth of the matter.

Your partner might tell you that they don’t feel like getting together tonight and they need some time to themselves. As a result, you feel hurt, disappointed, rejected, and assume that they don’t love you anymore and are planning to break up with you. So, to spare yourself greater emotional pain, you show up at their door with all their stuff in a box and break up with them before they can dump you.

Meanwhile, they have no idea what’s going on because they’re working through their depression about a sick parent or potential job loss and weren’t ready to talk about it until later. That’s not a situation you can just hit the “undo” button on, is it?

When tensions are running high and your emotions are spiking all over the place, it’s important to do what you need to so you can clear your head and think logically and rationally again.

I’m willing to bet that you’ve done at least one thing in the past when you were upset that you ended up feeling terrible about later, so try to learn from that experience and don’t repeat that behavior.

Spare yourself a lot of grief, embarrassment, and legal fees by waiting to cool off before doing anything.

5. Stand your ground rather than retaliate.

Let’s say that your feelings got hurt because someone said something intentionally to hurt or offend you. If you’re not the type to get offended easily, then this was likely something that punched a button really hard.

Maybe it was a racist joke against people of your ethnic or religious background. Or perhaps they made an insulting, off-hand comment about your spouse or child. Situations like this usually arise in a group setting. One person will decide that they want to get more attention by saying something funny or offensive to get the response they want from others around them.

In a situation like this, where someone’s intention is to offend or insult you to try and cause hurt, don’t give them an inch. Instead, play “dumb” and ask them why what they said is funny. They might try to brush it off and say that you knew full well what they meant, but go gray rock. Show no emotion except for mild confusion, and keep asking them questions about what they said. Basically, get them to explain their “joke” in great detail.

Most of them will try to back out of this because they’re uncomfortable. They’ll try to brush it off, say that they were just joking and that you’re too sensitive or whatever. Press them with a few more questions, like “So your making a joke about my special needs child… is her disability funny to you? Can you explain to me why this is hilarious?” (Obviously change details as needed to pertain to your unique situation.)

When this happens, you’re essentially holding a mirror up to them so they’re forced to look at their own behavior. You’re making them face the fact that they said a sh*tty thing. And more importantly, you’re making them realize that OTHER PEOPLE saw that they said a sh*tty thing too.

It helps to put the situation to bed while also making them reflect on themselves and how they treat others. Hopefully, it will make them think twice before doing something like that again.

Best of all, since you aren’t retaliating or being a jerk to them, there’s no way you can be painted as being in the wrong here.

6. Keep in mind that revenge doesn’t make anything better.

Most importantly, be aware that hurt feelings don’t get better by making the other person feel bad too.

When you’re feeling hurt, you might want to lash out and get back at those who hurt you by making them hurt too. But that doesn’t end up making anything better, does it?

Your hurt feelings aren’t magically going to alleviate because you’ve punched someone in the face or humiliated them publicly.

Sure, you may feel a momentary wave of satisfaction in knowing that you were able to hurt them back, but what good did that do? Did your wounded feelings mend instantly? Or did you just exacerbate the problem by expanding the circle of pain?

Patterns of behavior tend to repeat themselves. In fact, you’ve likely heard the phrase “hurt people, hurt people” before. In simplest terms, people tend to act badly and hurt others when they themselves are hurting. Then those they have hurt may behave poorly towards others in their circles in turn. And so the spiral goes on.

It’s far better (and healthier) to end the cycle rather than perpetuating it.

“But wait, you just told me to…”

Yes, in the previous section, I did tell you to put the spotlight back on a person who makes a joke in bad taste at your expense. The difference is that you are not attacking them in any way in an attempt to hurt them. Instead, you are trying to get them to see how their actions were inappropriate. It’s a very different thing. It’s defending yourself rather than going on the offensive.

7. Cultivate stoicism instead of victimhood.

There’s been a huge trend in recent decades to behave like a ruminant when it comes to dealing with hurt feelings, offenses, and whatnot.

Sure, sometimes there are things that need to be processed and dealt with thoroughly, but you’re not a cow with 10000 stomachs. You don’t need to keep picking up and chewing on things that hurt you.

Instead, you can choose to let them go and let healing happen on its own, rather than forcing healing to happen.

This is kind of like not constantly picking a scab off a cut. If you acknowledge that it’s there and leave it alone, it’ll do its own thing. The underlying layers will heal properly and the scab will fall off when it’s meant to.

In contrast, picking at it and tearing it off will stop the healing process. That initial cut will probably get infected and you’ll get an ugly scar from it. Then you’ll be howling about the horrible scar and making it an intrinsic part of your personal identity, when you could have avoided scarring in the first place by letting go of your obsession with the cut.

You are going to get hurt in life. That’s an inevitability. Some hurts are going to be physical, and some are going to be emotional. When it comes to hurt feelings, consider cultivating a degree of stoicism about them.

Yes, they hurt at the moment, but this hurt is temporary. You don’t need to give in and let those feelings take over. Instead, you can choose to be the smooth stone that the river washes over.

8. Exorcise the emotions via ritual or creativity.

If, after self-analysis and physical movement, you still feel that you can’t shift past these hurt feelings, then a ritual of some sort might be in order.

This can be more beneficial than taking part in a passive or cerebral way to expunge the past and deal with current pain. An active, tangible ritual or endeavor can help you to transfer your emotions into the physical realm.

If you’re the creative type, then consider pouring everything you’re feeling into something creative, like a sculpture or painting. Envision those hurt feelings, pain, grief (whatever it is you’re working through) leaving your body and going into the item you’re creating. That piece will then become something like the Portrait of Dorian Grey: it’ll hold those emotions for you so you don’t have to carry them anymore.

What you do with that afterwards is up to you. Store it somewhere or burn it: it’s your call.

Alternatively, if you’re not particularly artsy, you can simply write down everything you feel instead. You can either treat this like a journal entry, or write a letter to the person (or people) whom you feel have contributed to your hurt feelings. Write out what you feel, why you’re feeling it, and how you want it to be resolved.

After that, you can decide what you want to do with it. If you feel that it would be beneficial to share this with others, then do so. Of course, that could backfire terribly and your vulnerability might end up being used against you, so be very discriminating about what information you choose to share.

Alternatively, you can let it go up in smoke. Literally.

Whether you have a hearth or just a steel kitchen sink, you can set that piece of paper on fire, and watch as your transmuted feelings burn to ash. As the smoke wafts away, envision it taking all your hurt feelings and woes along with it. Watch the smoke drift further and further away, and feel an immense sense of calm and relief once it’s gone.

9. Overwrite crappy experiences with great ones.

One of the best ways to deal with injured feelings is to overwrite them.

You may have heard something similar about getting over bad relationships with the adage “the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” Well, that might work for some folks, and if it does, then it can be applied to all kinds of experiences.

Since feelings can be hurt for any number of reasons, choose to overwrite whatever it is you’re dealing with by choosing something in a similar vein.

For example, if your feelings got hurt because you got stood up for dinner by a date, then go have an amazing meal with good friends. Or order in your favorite meal and watch a great show on your own terms.

If the hurt is profound, such as because of a deep betrayal or loss, then do something positive and soul-nourishing over a period of time. It takes approximately 40 days to establish (or break) a habit, and about that long to start healing from an emotional wound. There’s a reason why some of the most notable experiences from various world religions took place over 40 days and nights, after all!

So, for the next 40 days, make a point of immersing yourself in something new and inspiring. Maybe you can establish a calendar and try something new every day that you never had before. Or give yourself 40 days to learn a new technique for a hobby or endeavor you’re interested in.

If you want to be more physically active, look into things like 40-day running or yoga plans. Or if you’re a creative type, find a project that you can complete within this time period if you work on it every day.

Do you like to cook? Make a 40-day calendar in which you aim to cook a meal from a different country every single day. Never mind “taco Tuesday”: aim for momos, egusi soup, arepas, rødgrød med fløde, etc.

Not only will you learn a ton of new techniques, you’ll have something great to look forward to on the daily. By the time that 40-day period has ended, chances are you won’t even remember why your feelings got hurt to begin with. Or if you do remember, you probably won’t care much at all.

10. Talk to someone about what you’re going through.

One of the best ways to work towards healing hurt feelings is to talk to someone about what you’re experiencing. Most of us are lucky enough to have some great people in our lives who can offer us emotional support, perspective, and guidance. This could be a parent or grandparent, a dear friend, a spiritual advisor, or a therapist we feel comfortable with.

Quite often, they can offer us perspectives that we may be unaware of. This is kind of like someone else being able to check our blind spots for us because we literally can’t see what’s going on from that angle. We might be interpreting a situation from personal experience, but their view gives us ideas that never even occurred to us.

If you’re comfortable talking to your friends or family members about what you’re going through, then that’s great. Just make sure to ask them ahead of time whether they have the time and bandwidth to be able to help you at the moment. Everyone has their own burdens to carry, and dumping on someone emotionally might seriously add to their own grief.

In simplest terms, don’t use your friends or partners as therapists, especially without asking permission first.

Truth be told, this is one of the reasons why it’s so important to actually have a good therapist or counsellor. This is someone who is literally paid to help you process your stuff. Since they’re not intrinsically linked to your daily life, their opinions of you won’t shift because of intimate details you’re sharing with them. Whatever you say to them stays between you, and won’t impact your family life, job, etc.

If you haven’t got a therapist, we recommend you check out the online therapy to be found at BetterHelp.com where you can connect with someone who has training and experience helping others overcome their hurt feelings. You’ll get the time, empathy, and understanding that you might not always get from family or friends.

Click here to learn more or to book your first session.

11. Be aware of your own role in how you’re feeling, and learn to let go.

You’ve likely come across this nugget of wisdom before, but let’s reiterate it for good measure: nobody else can “make” you feel anything. They might contribute to factors or situations that inspire emotions in you, but it’s up to you to choose how you react or respond. If you choose to respond at all.

We live in an era in which people choose offense on a regular basis. They might see ideas that conflict with their own as “violence” against them instead of acknowledging that they’re just different perspectives, and aim to silence or “cancel” those whom they feel have hurt their feelings in some way.

This might seem flippant to some people, and the sentiment might be overused at times, but it’s very true that you’ll only be hurt if you allow yourself to be so. In fact, one of Marcus Aurelius’ most famous meditations was on the choice about whether to feel offense or hurt:

“Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.”

That may sound like it’s easier said than done, but it really isn’t. The key is to be self-aware enough to see where your own reactions stem from, then decide whether offense or hurt is warranted.

As mentioned earlier, if you find yourself feeling hurt or offended by something, analyze why you’re feeling that way.

Are you hurt or offended because something or somebody that you truly hold dear is being insulted or threatened? Or are you choosing to create a drama out of something as a means of avoidance or self-sabotage? Do you need to respond to this? Or are you choosing to because you feel “something” and have decided that it’s going to be negative?

Then, if you have a valid reason to feel hurt about something, what actions will you take next? Will you address the situation? Or allow it to continue unabated?

The choices we make determine how our lives unfold. If you allow other people to hurt you on the regular, then you’re giving up your personal power and sovereignty.

Basically, this is the whole idea that “nobody can insult you without your permission.” If you don’t care about what other people think or feel about you, then you’re far less likely to end up with hurt feelings.

Ask yourself why their opinions matter to you. And why would you choose to give them any degree of power in your life by allowing them to manipulate your emotions?

When it comes to dealing with hurt feelings, it’s important to look at them closely, and then learn to let them go. Think of it like a variation on the Dune Bene Gesserit litany against fear:

I will face my (hurt feelings).
I will permit them to pass over me and through me.
And when they have gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see their path.
Where the hurt feelings have gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

These emotions can only hurt you if you allow them to by holding onto them.

So let go.

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