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How to React When Someone Hurts Your Feelings

How to React When Someone Hurts Your Feelings


Strange things happen when we get hurt. Hurt is a sad feeling; therefore, it makes sense that we would respond in sadness when a spouse or mother-in-law (random examples, I assure you) hurts our feelings. However, instead of crying about our pain in such cases, we are far more likely to lash out in rage! Go figure.

As it turns out, our reaction is explainable. Anger has two variants: primary anger and secondary anger. Primary anger occurs when a boundary has been crossed. Violation signals rage as a defense mechanism in order to mobilize an effective response. For instance, if we happen to witness Anger has two variantsa bully walk by our sweet little girl and pull hard on her hair, our instant rage will help us take quick action to address the situation. The same thing happens when our personal boundaries are violated in parenting: Picture a child not listening to his parent (a stretch of the imagination, I know . . .). Everything inside the parent says this scenario is w‑r‑o‑n‑g, and rage often rises to the surface (“YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO YOUR PARENTS, YOUNG MAN!”). In this situation, however, we need to turn the anger signals off and cool down a bit in order to come up with the most effective and appropriate parenting plan.

Secondary anger—violent as it sometimes is—is, at its core, an emotional wound rather than a signal. Sometimes called “reactive anger,” it is an emotional response rather than a pure emotion. The pure emotion is hurt. When a person feels hurt, he or she may respond with anger. It’s really no different than if the person responded by going immediately to bed. In the former case (when a person gets mad), the response is emotional in nature; in the latter case (when the person goes to bed), the response is behavioral in nature. In both cases, the true feeling being experienced is hurt.

Let’s picture a husband saying something hurtful to his wife (again, you might need to think of something you read somewhere . . .). As soon as the words come out of his mouth, she feels a stab in her heart. It is visceral. It hurts.

Wife: “I’ve got a great idea! Why don’t we take a family vacation? The kids would love it!”

Husband: “Do you ever think before you open your mouth?”

Now, I know you might be wondering why the husband would say such a thing, but keep in mind that marriage is complex, and few things are what they seem at first glance to be. In this case, for instance, this couple has been discussing the husband’s excruciating financial stress for several weeks in their marital counseling. He has expressed his fear of getting a heart attack from all the pressure he feels. With the counselor’s help, they have come to an agreement that the wife will, over the next few months, refrain from asking the husband to spend money on any “extras” for the family. Without It is visceral. It hurts.thinking, however, the wife now enthusiastically raises the idea of a family vacation, which will of necessity involve some expense. Hence the husband’s caustic reply.

Her own behavior notwithstanding, the wife reels in pain. “How can he talk to me like that?” she wonders. She feels rejected, crushed, mistreated and very, very hurt. So she opens her mouth and starts shrieking at her husband. “HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO ME LIKE THAT? DO YOU EVER THINK BEFORE OPENING YOUR MOUTH? YOU ARE MEAN, DISGUSTING, DESPICABLE . . .” That is secondary anger.

Our sages tell us that anger is a dangerous feeling. Anger can cause tremendous spiritual harm, as well as emotional, mental and physical harm. It leads to many sins, including the transgressions of hurting people with words, treating people aggressively, using foul language, and many others. Secondary anger is the most dangerous kind of all because, sitting as it does on an open wound, one is likely to lash out with the full force of the emotional pain that unleashes it. Words once spoken cannot be retracted. Who knows how many broken marriages are the result of hearts broken by reactionary verbal abuse?

In order to avoid the expression of reactionary anger, we must train ourselves to keep our mouths firmly shut whenever we feels pangs of hurt. G‑d offers a reward “brighter than the sun” to those who are able to master this skill. That reward will take place in the world to come, but there are also rewards that take place right here, in this world. With our mouths closed, our speaking apparatus cannot become an instrument of the evil inclination. We are saved from spiritual harm. Moreover, our most important relationships are saved from destruction. We are able to soothe ourselves, calm down and analyze the situation more quickly because we have not increased the chemistry of rage. We can begin to see the errors of our own ways, learning, growing and improving as a result. We are also able to think and figure out what steps need to be taken in order to rectify the situation. It’s all good!

In order to become a master of self-control, practice We are able to soothe ourselveskeeping your mouth closed in minor, everyday incidents when you want to “answer back,” retort or have the last word. As you get better and better at this skill, you will find yourself ready to handle bigger challenges, until finally you will be able to keep your mouth closed in the very moment you are wounded, no matter how hurt you feel. And then you will fulfill the words of Proverbs: “Who is a strong person? One who has self-control!”

Sarah Chana Radcliffe is the author of The Fear Fix, Make Yourself at Home and Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice. Sign up for her Daily Parenting Posts.
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shiela 91748 July 17, 2017

This does not teach anything about how resolve or cope with your hurt feelings. Reply

Lydia London November 18, 2016

I have been in a relationship for over 14yrs and I have 2 kids but my boyfriend always says he didn't want me to have the kids and brings it up every tin we have a miss understanding and it really hurts me coz the kids are here and I love them to bits I want to come out of this relationship it's killing me but am 43yrs I might not be able to meet someone to love me Reply

Mahrukh Pakistan August 12, 2017
in response to Lydia:

Oh stay strong Love Reply

Moe Brooklyn, NY November 26, 2017
in response to Lydia:

But you have no real love right now. You can only gain from getting out of this relationship I wouldn't let someone talk about my children in that way. It can only get better it can't get any worst be strong take care of yourself and your kids. Reply

Linda Palm Springs November 28, 2017
in response to Lydia:

The sandwich. He says that because or some reason he wants to hurt you where it counts. He knows you well and something is setting him off to the point he wants to emotionally hurt you. I with my x went to marriage counseling and I've been on and off since I was 17. I'm 57. She suggests don't respond immediately. Take a deep breath and don't speed till you've county to 40 seconds. If you can't control your hurt then simply say you can't talk about it right now that you need to think and ask if he can wait. Get out of the room. It's helps. Then discuss it like adults using the sandwich method. That is : say something positive then bring up what's bothering you. Then end the convo with a positive affirmation. Practice that and there should never be any verbal abuse. Reply

Susan Levitsky October 30, 2016

for Eileen Marquez Get rid of your abusive boyfriend and you won't have to swallow your feelings when he deliberately insults you. The word for him is an abuser. The faster you end this bad relationship, the better it will be for your health. This cannot lead to anything good. If you think he's abusive now, it will only get worse if you marry him. You should leave him and start looking for someone who will treat you with respect. Do NOT accept his apologies so you will take him back. Abusers lie to be able to continue the abuse. Your situation is not the kind addressed in this article. You are in an abusive situation. Get out as fast as you can. Reply

Eileen marquez, los angeles October 28, 2016

Im always being hurt by mt boyfriend and it does hurt he does it on purpose he says hurtful things to hurt me but i dontshow my anger i say god gave me a big heart ill rather give love and know what it feels to love than be mean and not know how to feel and not know the feeling of love i truely dont know how to react when hes so cruel i feel numb sincerly eileen ,kitty Reply

Dawn Marchant Billingshurst May 27, 2016

A therapist will tell you suppressing anger only causes it to go underground. I get the point about keep your mouth shut -- for the moment -- so that you have time to process your distress and understand what underpins it. But to say that a woman should shove it down to gain 'self mastery' is no mastery at all. All unresolved conflict is stored within our bodies and within our unconscious. There it lies dormant and wreaks mayhem: depression, anxiety, migraines, teeth grinding, insomnia, displacing the anger onto others, and most lethal of all -- a growing resentment that evolves into rage. Anger management is good, telling someone to gain mastery their anger through repression will most certainly not resolve anything. Women must always be allowed to discuss their anger with whomever they have issue. They must be allowed to maintain psychological healthiness for their health, for their children and for their marriages. Reply

Anonymous Spokane October 2, 2017
in response to Dawn Marchant:

I could not agree with you more about the repressing of emotions and feelings! That is the worst advice I have heard in a long time! Repressing will leave the initial unresolved, which will then branch off into other issues , which all can lead to physical ailments later on, and usually do. Having experienced different ways of releasing negative emotions that have stored over the years, whether from childhood or wherever , I can tell you it was a wonderful experience. I felt lighter and freer and the world seemed brighter. And I felt it more so after every catharsis or emotional release . Repressing these negative emotions weighs you down with baggage that is not needed . And that effects every area of your life ie; depression, weight gain, lack of energy, irritability.... And that is only but a few of the side effects that repressing negative emotions can cause. Look it up on Google or wherever. There is tons of info on releasing negative emotions. I found it very interesting. Reply

Ruth May 12, 2016

Self Control Keeping your mouth shut and not lashing back at a hurtful person takes a long time to master. However, in the long run, it is the best thing to do. One never knows what is going on in the life of the person saying hateful things, which will cause him/her to lash out at someone else. At first, you feel glad you answered back, but as time goes by you know you "should have kept your mouth shut". Reply

Anonymous Telford May 11, 2016

Ouch Me and my bf have been getting aling great maybe to great for the last 6 months, then tonight he called me a liar and im really hurt by it, never thougt someone I love could hurt me like that, all I ever do is try to please people all my life and then he says really lost. Reply

Anonymous India April 4, 2016

Is it going to make you less communicative, if you are only good at communication. My girlfriend and me were on a very good track and I used to tell her to do things what she is doing now like giving time to her family friends and all. Now the real problem she has forgotten me in between all of that. Now she doesn't care if i call she will talk but very less and with no interest I tried being calm for last 10 days and it's hurting me inside that everything changed and now if I try to correct her or say anything she will just let me know that may be we don't have that kind of understanding, without even thinking once if she can put some efforts too.
I'm afraid may be I'm on the edge of loosing her but I don't what to do, I can remain silent for whole of my life for her but would that be worth of anything? Reply

Anonymous Univ. Hts. October 6, 2015

Sure, it makes sense to keep your mouth closed. But then, the silent hurt and inability to resolve the problem leads to actions that are even more serious. Reply

Anonymous October 4, 2015

My understanding It seems to me that Mrs. Radcliffe is saying in the moment of anger to hold back from reacting. This way the person can think rationally about the best way to handle the hurt feelings. Of course eventually the issues need to be dealt with. We are just better off dealing with things when we are calm. We often will get much better results this way.
Perhaps a couple where one is constantly speaking not nicley to the other will get counseling. This decision will be come to from a place of calm not a place of rage. Reply

Bathsheva Gladstone Branford October 4, 2015

reacting? I find this very interesting. And something I need to utilize more often. However, how does one resolve issues of hurt feelings and/or anger? Does one just let it go and hope to get over it, and not build a burning resentment? Or your advice to curb an immediate off the cuff reaction? Is there follow up advice to handle a situation, once feelings are put into check? Reply

Anonymous Basel via October 3, 2015

So after you haven't responded what are you supposed to do with your hurt and the possible injustice? Reply

Ariel October 3, 2015

Mouth Shut = Masochism I completely disagree with such a tactic. Perhaps an angry tirade toward such an insensitive bully of a husband would not render any satisfactory resolution. However, there is an alternative tactic that would. It would resolve the feelings of the victimized, unappreciated wife by allowing her to express her anguish, and it would resolve the sadistic husband's ignorance that he is treating his wife the way some of our people were treated as they were rounded up in 1930s Europe by the Gestapo. That alternative tactic is for the wife to do a "Tevya"--talk to heaven, as he did in Fiddler on the Roof, or to the ghost of Elijah, to the wall, or to an imaginary parrot. Inform any one of these entities that this husband-man was brutal and thoughtless in his comments, and tell of the deep emotional pain he caused. Talk also about the benefits of whatever idea the husband disdained (e.g., family vacation). Ask G-d's forgiveness of the offender aloud. Pray that the person gets a better soul, soon. Reply

venus October 2, 2015

but the conclusion appears to be a passive agressive way to conclude your emotions. shutting your mouth instead ofdisplays of uncontrolled anger is the first step. but you must adress your feelings . if your relationships don t allow you to express your sorrows i am not convinved you are in control of anything. Reply

Marc Levene Fl October 2, 2015

Anger After all of my encounters with antisemitism throughout my life up until recently i sat in a pool of anger.I was in my earlier years an orthodox Jew fresh out of yashiva to be pounced upon by the antisemites and had to do what i had to do to survive ,when i had finally had enough and wanted to take action for the way it made me feel,i contacted my Rabbi from the yashiva from 40 years ago,Thank G-d he was alive and well,first he was in shock,he remembered me and we talked about everything(my suggestion for all Jews coming back into the fold when asking a Rabbi for help,like a doctor you must tell him every last thing in order for him to give clear advice and a plan of action which for me consisted of actually common sense,call upon the Lord for help and read as much Torah as possible,all of the answers are right there if you really dig in.Now more than ever i feel G-d watching over me,some days are better than others of course but with at least trying i feel an instant reward . Reply

Anonymous Uk September 30, 2015

I agree with Susan Levitsky's post. Very occasionally perhaps, one makes an unkind and tactless remark, that was unintentional. More often than not, though, if you know the person well enough, you know it was said to deliberately wound. One usually does control oneself in this kind of instance often by n o t reacting ie losing one's temper or shouting back insults, but by bursting into tears, or going all quiet with feelings of depression. Reply

Susan Levitsky September 30, 2015

Interesting, but... I find this article very interesting because I want to explode when someone hurts my feelings. However,the example you gave makes it the wife's fault. The way it is written, she should know better than ask that stupid question because they had already discussed it.
In my experience, the ones who hurts peoples feelings are in the habit of dropping "hurtful bombs" and then claims it wasn't meant to be hurtful. After that, they want to "kiss and make up" and claim not to understand why you are carrying a grudge. (I know that is another fault) Why should the person who is hurt always have to brush aside the unkind remarks and constantly bear the brunt of the other person's thoughtlessness? The thoughtless person is then rewarded for being thoughtless and continues with hurtful comments while the victim is left to stew in anger. The relationship is not saved but permanently tainted. Obviously, the sages either had no feelings or were lucky enough to not know any hurtful people. Reply

Linda klein Palm Springs October 20, 2017
in response to Susan Levitsky:

Consuming hurt Ok iwas married once for 23yrs. Dated him since I was 15. We were great friends but not a couple. We had kids together and that's the only reason I stayed as long as I did. Plus he was always gone at work. Haha and made incredible money. Made the years I loathed him less stressful. Niw I've been with my new husband 17 yrs. He is an amazing human with strengths I've looked for my entire life. We broke up once for just over a year. Somethings overcame my tolerance. He was a heavy drinker. He has been sober now 12yrs. After almost dying 2x. This only gives me more satisfaction. Thus guy is wonderful. Point here is I've been in counseling since I was 17. Childhood issues. So my point is I've studied all avenues of phycology. I tried everything the first husband. I even learned how not to be a codependent. All i know and have learned I'm still here on this flippen phone trying to find an answer to, how I handle hurt feelings. I do know, YOU CAN'T HOLD IT IN. So, now what? Help! Reply

Anonymous USA September 30, 2015

Thank you for this article. I needed the reminder! Reply

Batya Weldmann Israel September 30, 2015

Wow! Fantastic and essential for daily life. Really needed this because I personally have a hard time controlling this problem. Thank you! Reply

Ruth Green September 24, 2015

Very interesting and true. Reply

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