“Hurt people hurt people. We are not being judgmental by separating ourselves from such people. But we should do so with compassion. Compassion is defined as a “keen awareness of the suffering of another coupled with a desire to see it relieved.” People hurt others as a result of their own inner strife and pain. Avoid the reactive response of believing they are bad; they already think so and are acting that way. They aren’t bad; they are damaged and they deserve compassion. Note that compassion is an internal process, an understanding of the painful and troubled road rod by another. It is not trying to change or fix that person.” Will Bowen
I was sitting here reflecting, Will Bowen’s quote “Hurt people hurt people” from Complaint Free Relationships: Transforming Your Life One Relationship at a Time came to mind. We as individuals go into all sorts of different relationships with our own set of “unclaimed baggage” unknowingly, which in turn effects those to whom we come into contact. Friends, family, neighbors, those we love are all effected by our wounded child within. Our responses are harsh, reactive, and just down right hurtful at times. This response comes from the unresolved pain we suffered as children and dragged along with us into our adult lives.
Are these actions intentional? No, not always; having unresolved or unidentified pain from childhood is a major contributor to our behavior when interacting in relationships, we do what we know until we know different. Once we know different, sometimes we slip and fall back into what is comfortable, old patterns. Why? Because it feels safe, familiar, and no, not always good.
This reminds me of a couple, let’s call them Forrest and Jenny. Jenny was molested throughout her childhood. At the age of five her perpetrator a held a gun to her head and forced her to perform sexual acts on him. Jenny, being frightened, complied, withdrew into herself and went away emotionally. This set a long pattern of Jenny willingly complying, and emotionally withdrawing whenever she felt frightened, especially in an intimate relationship. Forrest also came with his own set of patterns and defense mechanisms.
One day, Jenny met Forrest, their relationship grew and they got married. To Jenny, Forrest was the man she finally felt safe, comfortable, and secure. Jenny was the apple of his eye. However, unconsciously, Jenny continued along the same path that was reinforced so many times throughout her childhood. Frightened emotionally, she turned to what she knew to do to make things “safe.” Which in turn sent false signals to Forrest. He accepted Jenny’s forwardness pleasantly. Which what guy wouldn’t? Getting gratified pretty much whenever you want, wherever you want is a dream come true, one might think.
So here’s where the seemingly happy fairytale introduces the harmless monster that terrifies everyone……personal growth.
Jenny began to change, realizing how bad this willingness to please made her feel inside, she begins cutting off emotionally and physically from her prince charming. Poor Forrest left in the dark, not knowing what the hell has happened, wondering what the hell has possessed his princess Jenny, begins to react to his past wounds of abandonment. Seeking Jenny at every level only to be rejected or resented by her. Jenny’s willingness to please was not so willing anymore unbenounced to Forrest.
Forrest continues to pursue, which pushes Jenny right out of his immediate life. Why? Well, Jenny didn’t could not deal with the feelings of engulfment. Feeling overwhelmed by Forrest constantly seeking what was in all actuality what Jenny programmed him to expect from the beginning of the relationship; which Forrest liked.
Going back to the earlier mentioned quote, it goes on to say “We are not being judgmental by separating ourselves from such people. But we should do so with compassion. Compassion is defined as a “keen awareness of the suffering of another coupled with a desire to see it relieved” (Bowen). This is where many of us fail miserably! Many of us fail to separate ourselves in a compassionate manner. We respond with a knee jerk reaction which results in inflicting further pain on the other person. When we are hurt separating ourselves compassionately is the furthest thing on our minds, many want the other person to hurt as bad as they do.
As in the case with Forrest and Jenny, Jenny asking for a pause in the marriage to figure herself out, resolve some of her own pain. Unknowingly she pushed Forrest’s play button on an old internal tape, “you are no good, no one wants you,” which made him feel as if he was “bad.” Bowen states “avoid the reactive response of believing they are bad; they already think so and are acting that way.” Forrest in turn took this as a personal blow and reacted through his pain and filed for a divorce. Which in all actuality, he did not want, but had no other reasonable emotional reactions to defer to “hurt people hurt people,” especially those we care the most about. “People hurt others as a result of their own inner strife and pain” Bowen explains. Forrest was hurting emotionally so he responded in a way that he felt would make Jenny feel his pain.
“They aren’t bad; they are damaged and they deserve compassion” Bowen continues, however, this is easier said than done. We respond from our own pain and the entire situation blows up, as in the case of Forrest and Jenny, both parties are extremely reactive in both words and actions. Both are responding from the hurt, wounded child within.
Becoming aware of the pain we suffer from childhood, working toward identifying and healing these hurts is the beginning of learning compassion. Knowing what we come from, our family histories, patterns, and pain. Then learning to be compassionate and gentle with oneself. It’s a beginning, not an easy journey, but not much worth having in life comes easy.