"You hurt my feelings" is something most of us dread hearing. As such, we often bend ourselves into pretzels to avoid hearing it, or use it as a terrible accusation of another. Yet, what does it mean? If we consider sadness, anger, and happiness to be feelings – how exactly could our sadness/anger/happiness be hurt? We think a fitting translation is closer to: “you did (or didn’t do) something and now I’m feeling things that I don’t want to be feeling.”
This is such an important distinction because it points to our responsibility (or lack of it). When we’re truly taking responsibility, we know that someone else can’t make us feel something. They can do things that we don’t like, they can even do things with the intent to upset us, but the actual feeling part is completely, 100%, up to us.
It’s perhaps easiest to see this with young children. If a four-year-old screams in fury that they hate you…you probably don’t take it all that seriously. You don’t get the same sort of upset as you would if your partner yelled that same exact thing. We tell a story about the four-year-old yelling that doesn’t have us be as upset as the story we tell if our partner were to yell at us. It’s the story we tell, NOT what the other is doing that sources our feelings.
Adhering to the belief that your feelings are dependent on someone else’s behavior is seriously asking for trouble. Next time you say, or even think, “you hurt my feelings,” slow down and notice if what you are really REALLY saying is, “I don’t like what I’m feeling.” It can be an incredibly important step in taking responsibility for your own feelings.