When We Get Hurt for Being Hurt – How We Learn Not to Feel

When We Get Hurt for Being Hurt 
or
How We Learn Not to Feel 

In my last article I wrote about child abuse and its results in today‘s society. And I mentioned that when children are hurt they sometimes receive scolding instead of empathy. To my estimation, this phenomenon is quite common and it’s very harmful to the child. In this article I’ll give one quick example that I’ve witnessed recently, and then give my thoughts on why and how this is harmful to the child and how it manifests itself in later life.

A couple of weeks ago I was in a supermarket, and I saw a father with a boy. The father had a basket in his hand, and the boy was walking close to the father. At some point the boy turned his head and accidentally bumped his head to the basket. He hurt his eye and started to cry. His father got annoyed and in an angry and demanding voice started to ask the boy questions. 
“What happened?!”
“I hurt my eye…” replied the boy in tears.
“I told you to be careful! Come here! Show me your eye! Does it hurt?”
“Yes…”
“I told you to look where you go!” After a couple of seconds, “C’mon, let’s go! And be careful!”
The boy was still crying had no choice but to obey and follow his annoyed father.

Now, this is just one example. During my lifetime I’ve seen and heard of numerous similar situations where the child is hurt, (s)he tells this to his/her caregiver, and (s)he either doesn’t get comfort or gets scolded for being hurt. I also know about numerous examples where children were afraid to tell their caregivers that they are hurt. Also, sometimes the child gets scolded for not telling that (s)he’s hurt, scared, bullied, or in more serious danger. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”

A hypothetical answer might be, “Well, geez, mom/dad. Maybe because I've told you about similar stuff in the past and you didn’t validate my emotions and comfort me, but got angry at me. Why would I do this again and get demeaned, erased, or even punished for being hurt?”

Based on my observations, I would say that girls/women receive more empathy and are able to express their feelings more. It makes sense when you look at the results (i. e. adults). In today’s society girls/women are more emotional (often too emotional) and they are more encouraged to express their emotions. While boys/men are ridiculed or punished for crying, for expressing their emotions, for feeling, and for talking about their emotions. “Boys don’t cry.” “Real men don’t show weakness.” “Don’t be a pussy!” And we all have heard the common stereotypes that women are emotional and more in touch with their emotions, while men are cold, emotionally retarded, or emotionally unavailable. And, to my observation, most women are more co-dependent, while most men are more counter-dependent. (I’ll talk more on co- and counter-dependency in my future articles.)

A quick note. This paragraph wasn’t in the original draft, but it’s coincidentally relevant, so I decided to add it afterwards... I finished the draft of this article and then I went for a session with a client. And when I was walking to the meet-up with the client, I saw a woman with a small child in a stroller. And she said to him, “Why did you start to cry for no reason? Be a man, don’t be a broad!” That’s what I mean when I say I see child abuse everywhere and all the time…

But I don’t want to go into much detail about men issues versus women issues. There are girls/women who have problems processing and expressing their emotions effectively; and there are boys/men who have problems processing and expressing their emotions effectively. Both genders are forcefully made to fit their parents' – and their society's – emotional comfort zone. However, the truth is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a male or a female; when you’re a child and you’re hurt it’s your parents’ responsibility to:

1) Validate your experiences and emotions, and provide genuine empathy, comfort, and care.

2) Apologize if they’re responsible for you being hurt – that is often the case – and to CONSTRUCTIVELY moderate their parenting to avoid this in the future (and NOT by being over-controlling, punishing, or neglecting).

If the child is hurt and his/her caregiver(s) do not meet these criteria, the child suffers harm (i. e. abuse).

I know many, many people who didn't get empathy, care, and permission to express their genuine feelings when they, as children, were hurt. And in their adult lives they have – or had (including myself) – problems expressing, or even feeling, their unpleasant emotions. Well, that’s what happens when we, as children, are punished, neglected, scolded, shamed, laughed at, or minimized for feeling hurt, angry, sad, scared, etc. – basically for feeling what our caregivers don’t want us to feel.

Every child needs to be fully excepted by their caregivers. If their caregiver disapproves of something the child is feeling, the child on a deep, fundamental level experiences it as a death threat, because (s)he is fully dependent on their caregiver. So, (s)he has no choice but to comply and to dissociate; to disconnect; to split off from one’s true emotions and experiences. In this instance emotional and psychological trauma happens…

I'm a child and I’m hurt, but when I express it to the person who is responsible for taking care of me, who should be my safe haven – and fundamentally, on whom depends my survival – they disapprove of me and hurt me even more. It’s not safe – it threatens my survival. Therefore I have to keep silent about being hurt. Or even better, to repress my “dangerous” emotions altogether – to learn not to feel them.
 
And then I grow up. And now, intimacy and vulnerability for me associates with danger, attack, neglect, or even abandonment – and it triggers all those feelings I was feeling when I was a child (most deeply a fear of rejection – that on the most fundamental level equals dying). So, I avoid real intimacy. I avoid talking about my emotions. Or I express myself chaotically, impulsively, and in destructive ways (for example by yelling, throwing things, etc.). And I avoid “dangerous” feelings altogether – they are extremely frightening; and real intimacy and vulnerability is extremely frightening. And, to a great extent, emotionally I’m still a child, I’m highly dissociated from my true emotions and their origins, because I have a long history of various trauma and emotional dissociation, which was necessary for my survival – and I haven’t processed all of this...

If any of that was your experience when you were a child, I’m so sorry – this shouldn’t have happened. You, as a child, didn't deserve this. It’s common, it’s “normal”, but it’s definitely not healthy. And if you have emotional problems as an adult because of that, it’s not your fault. And the good news is: now you’re an adult, and you can change that.

Have a feeling-full day,
Darius


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8 comments

  1. I really love the empathic insights and commentary you make here. I've been in virtually all of those situations myself as a child. I was yelled at many times and then yelled at even more if I showed my discomfort and hurt for being yelled at. This maze of emotionally abusive manipulation that countless children are put through does produce broken adults everywhere.

    What that woman said to her infant boy in the s is so sick and insulting. Children don't cry "for no reason," their emotions need to be taken seriously, and shaming young boys for having feelings and needs is so destructive.

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  2. Thanks for your constructive comment, Caden!

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  3. Thank you for posting this.

    Happiness and excitement can get a similar treatment. If a parent is tired/stressed the excitement of a child's happiness can be something that they, “Just can't deal with right now” so they lash out at the child in a way similar to what you're talking about here. And then the child learns that they're not allowed to be happy or excited.

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  4. Anonymous,

    yes, definitely. It's sad that many children's happiness, excitement, passion, and curiosity get crushed early in their childhood....

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  5. I'm interested in this idea of resolving earlier patterns of behaviour. Becoming aware of them is the first step and I like the various examples you give. I suppose the next step is to accept the grief or other feelings that come up from realising how you have been "molded" by your parents or your experiences and forgive those who contributed to those patterns (usually they were unaware). I have found that next I have to forgive myself and give permission to change.
    Sometimes I get a bit stuck about how to present an alternative perspective though. How would you suggest you take the step of creating a practical change in how you experience similar situations in future?
    I hope that is clear. It is one thing to understand and accept the patterns in yourself, another to work out different and better patterns to move into.

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  6. I feel so sad for children who missed proper parenting. I feel sad to say there were times, though few, when I expressed panic or anger when my own children got hurt. I love my children infinitely but I know very well that I am not a perfect parent. I need to be perfect person first before I can hope to be perfect parent.

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  7. As a child sitting at the dinner table I reached into a bowl with my hand . My father who'd been drinking got up and snatched Me in the floor. He started kicking me in the stomach and yelling, cussing hitting me. I wet my pants. This was the first and only attack of that nature. He sent me to my room. My mom came up in my room a few minutes later to put clothes in my closet. She told me I shouldn't have reached the bowl. I was waiting for her to come console me. I was savagely beaten. She never did. She died of a massive heart attack a year later. Probably from hidden abuse from him. I don't know. He had and continue used to sexually abuse me throughout my childhood. Into my teens. Until I finally married the first one to come along to escape. I have since been in abusive relationships. That was 40 years ago. I've never found love. I'm now coming out of a relationship with a pycho path narsisist. Who mentally tortured me with the anger lies and cheating. I'm realizing finally where it all ties together. I'm working on me before I dare ever trust myself in another relationship.

    ReplyDelete
  8. As a child sitting at the dinner table I reached into a bowl with my hand . My father who'd been drinking got up and snatched Me in the floor. He started kicking me in the stomach and yelling, cussing hitting me. I wet my pants. This was the first and only attack of that nature. He sent me to my room. My mom came up in my room a few minutes later to put clothes in my closet. She told me I shouldn't have reached the bowl. I was waiting for her to come console me. I was savagely beaten. She never did. She died of a massive heart attack a year later. Probably from hidden abuse from him. I don't know. He had and continue used to sexually abuse me throughout my childhood. Into my teens. Until I finally married the first one to come along to escape. I have since been in abusive relationships. That was 40 years ago. I've never found love. I'm now coming out of a relationship with a pycho path narsisist. Who mentally tortured me with the anger lies and cheating. I'm realizing finally where it all ties together. I'm working on me before I dare ever trust myself in another relationship.

    ReplyDelete