“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ~Unknown
Maybe someone hurt you physically or emotionally. Maybe you’ve survived something else traumatic—a natural disaster, a fire, an armed robbery. Or maybe you’ve just come out of a trying situation, and though you know you’ll eventually recover, you still feel pain that seems unbearable.
Whatever the case may be, you’ve been scarred and you carry it with you through many of your days.
Most of us can relate on some level to that feeling. Even people who excel at taking personal responsibility have at least one story of having been hurt. Though some of us have endured more serious situations, you really can’t quantify or compare emotional pain.
When you’re hurting some people might tell you to “suck it up and deal,” as if that’s a valid solution. They may say “it’s all in your head” and assume that reasons away the pain. But none of that will help you heal and find happiness from moment to moment.
Like everyone, I’ve been hurt, in both profound and trivial ways. I’ve dealt with it using the following ideas:
1. Define your pain.
It’s not always easy to identify and understand what’s hurting you. Some people even stay in abusive relationships because it’s safer than acknowledging their many layers of pain: the low self-esteem that convinces them they deserve abuse, the shame over being treated with such cruelty, and the feeling of desperation that convinces them there’s no real way out.
The first step toward finding happiness after having been hurt is to understand why you were hurt, to get to the root of everything that makes the memories hard.
2. Express that pain.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to communicate how you feel to the person who hurt you; and if you can, there’s no guarantee they’ll respond how you want them to. Say what you need to say anyway.Write in your journal. Write a letter and burn it. Get it all out.
This will help you understand why you’re hurting and what you’ll do in the future to avoid similar pain so you can feel empowered instead of victimized. Research has actually proven that people who focus on lessons learned while journaling find the experience more helpful than people who don’t (focus on lessons).
3. Try to stay in the present.
Reliving the past can be addictive. It gives you the opportunity to do it again and respond differently—to fight back instead of submitting, to speak your mind instead of silencing yourself. It also allows you to possibly understand better. What happened? Where did you go wrong? What should you have done?
In other words, it allows you to torture yourself. Regardless of what you should have done, you can’t do it now. If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, you may need professional help to avoid revisiting the incident. If you don’t, you need sustained effort. Fight the urge to relive the pain. You can’t go back and find happiness there. You can only experience that now.
4. Stop telling the story.
It may seem like another way to understand what happened, or maybe it feels helpful to hear someone say you didn’t do anything wrong and you don’t deserve to hurt. In all reality this just keeps you stuck right where you are: living your life around a memory and giving it power to control you.
No amount of reassurance will change what happened. You can’t find happiness by holding onto a painful story, trying to place in new, brighter light. You can only find happiness when you let it go and make room for something better. You don’t need another person’s permission to let go and feel okay.
5. Forgive yourself.
Maybe you didn’t do anything wrong but you blame yourself. Or maybe you played a role in creating your current situation. Regardless of what happened, you need to realize that what you did is not who youare. And even if you feel immense regret, you deserve to start today without carrying that weight. You deserve a break.
You can either punish yourself and submit to misery, or forgive yourself and create the possibility of happiness. It comes down to whether you decide to dwell or move on. Which do you choose: anger with yourself and prolonged pain, or forgiveness and the potential for peace?