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  • Writer's pictureTyana Petrova

Feeling Hurt in a relationship: The historic vs. the now

Feeling hurt can be a source of rupture and a motivator to end a relationship. In order to maintain functional and healthy relationships, there is a need to normalise painful feelings when in contact with others and a need to recognise the distinction between an experience being abusive or toxic and a historic hurt being brought up by what is happening without being the cause.

Painful unprocessed feelings have a quality of tangling up with daily hurtful emotions. What that means is that an unprocessed, even if put away/forgotten, hurtful experience from the past comes up and blends with a hurtful/painful experience occurring in the present moment (they may not be of the same scale). What that leads to is a heightened sensitivity in the moment, an altering of the proportion of the hurt and a projection of the unresolved historic hurt onto the present experience. What that can lead to practically is a rupture and even an ending of a relationship based on outdated emotional information.

The felt sense makes it even harder to distinguish and separate the outdated emotional information from what’s currently occurring. It can feel so real and right now that it becomes inevitable for the thought interpretation to connect the present person we are in contact with to the old feeling. Inadvertently this makes the old feeling blend in with the new one. That then leads to us associating our pain with the person in front of us and losing sight of the true source of the majority of the pain (the historical).

This stands true under any circumstances but it is heightened under more adverse ones.

The pandemic and all its accompanying lockdowns and restrictions have been a very abundant soil for this to manifest in many of our lives. It’s a time when maintaining relationships requires even more effort, ending them is easier, starting new ones can come from a place of need rather than choice and inevitably, because of the self-preservation mechanisms operating, everything can feel more personal and hostile.

So how can we help ourselves and our important and life-sustaining relationships with loved ones through this? Paying attention to our feelings and emotions and building awareness is a great start. The more awareness around what can feel hurtful the more choice we gain in the way we respond and also the more space to observe and discern what part of the hurt belongs with the present situation and what part we’ve carried into it from the past. The second part of what we can do is the deeper more exploratory one. It is spending time getting to know our historical hurt buttons and through that growing the ability to separate what is outdated ( not because it wasn’t real or important but because it isn’t happening in the present moment) and what is now and requires a response.

Awareness + Exploration = More Choice

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