It has often been said you always
“hurt the one you love”. If true, two questions arise: why does
this happen and what can be done about it?
For a long time, we have
recognized the distinction between a person’s public face
(personality, image, role, etc.) and their private face. The former
is often reflected by various virtues such as patience,
consideration, understanding or helpfulness.
We want others to view us as
being OK and so we act accordingly.
However, “things are not always
what they (outwardly) seem to be.” As “one cannot judge a book by
its cover,” similarly, one cannot solely assess a person by the
public face he or she presents.
Each of us has, I believe, an
innate imperative to become what we fully are. The paradox occurs
in attempting to become what we are to be by being what we are to
Watchwords are congruence
(matching words with actions and values) and consistency (stability
and persistence over time.)
To become a person in the
broadest humanistic sense necessitates permitting oneself to be who
one really is. In most every instance, I suspect, the real identity
will fall ingloriously short of the ideal image.
Typically, conflict will develop
between the bleakness or imperfection of the real and the radiance
or perfection of the ideal.
The resultant emotional
experience will often be characterized by feelings of guilt in
having fooled everybody by one’s duplicitousness.
It is as though when you are who
you are not, you are not who you are. So, in order to halt the
charade and to be true to one’s self requires a ‘loosening’ of the
rope of the noose of the game.
A game I define as any tactic or
maneuver designed to prevent intimacy with self or others.
Noose is hereby defined by the
roles we adopt which may sometimes strait-jacket our real and
In order for me to be me with
you, requires me to be me with me. To be me with me, requires me to
feel safe with me. So in order for me to be me with you, I must
feel safe with you.
If I don’t feel safe with you,
what you see is what you get, which is the public me. If I do feel
safe with you, what you see is the private me.
Perhaps, we can now approximate
an answer to the first part of the question posed earlier. Why do
we hurt the one we love? Because it is only with them that we feel
safe enough to be who we are.
Of course, this hypothesis is not
intended to provide a rationalization with which to excuse negligent
or hurtful behavior. But if we think about it for a moment, how can
we reconcile acting one way in public and another way in private
unless, in the one case, we feel more permitted and more encouraged
to let down our guard long enough to be who we really are.
Unfortunately, sometimes allowing
our true selves to surface is a big letdown, in general, to those
whose love and understanding permit their tolerating our
less-than-noble actions, attitudes and antics.
There is another aspect of this
‘hurt’ theme which is equally, if not more, important to consider.
If I can be me when I am with
you, then it surely stands to reason that I must need you in order
for me to be me.
However, if I am only partially
me with me, and also with you, then maybe I need more of you to help
me be freer to be more me.
In the complicated interactional
process which ensues, by hurting you, I mobilize you to hurt me. It
is almost as though I cannot hurt myself alone except by hurting you
which is the only way I can possibly hurt me.
To be the cause of your hurt
makes me hurt.
And when I hurt, I allow myself
to feel and only then to ask for you, that part of you I most need,
for me to be me.
And when you hurt, because of me,
I allow myself to soften the armor which viciously protects me from
you, as well as from me.
Only then can I let you in,
because only then can I let me in, because only then have each of us
paid the price, of loving, by first needing to hurt, then needing
to comfort and finally atoning for the hurting and being hurt.
Perhaps this is what is meant by
For out of the ashes of spiritual
pain, desperation and solitude spring forth the possibility of love,
hope and unity-in-communion with another. Save a soul? Hurt somebody
you love. Then kiss away the hurt. Only it doesn’t quite work that
There is an inherent contradiction of
logic in having to hurt someone you love, in order to feel enough hurt
in return, in order for them to help you, to help them, to love you, to
love them, to love you, to feel safe enough to be who you are, to
become, and to become who you are to be!
Wouldn’t it be much easier to color
the world in terms of black and white while ignoring any of the
confusing, variegated shades of gray?
Assuming the difficulties of becoming
a person, why should developing a relationship within its own context be
any less difficult?
To hurt the one you love is at once
an act of certainly communicating something! But what? Is it a feeling
of frustration? Or anger? An experience of alienation? Or despair?
An experience of loss? Or psychological death itself?
It is my opinion that when we hurt
someone we love, we want something from them.
The intensity of the hurting provides
an index of the intensity of the need. Sometimes, the need is
all-consuming, or so we believe.
And in our compulsion to reach out
for gratification and at the same time protect our benefactor from
giving, and thereby, depleting their own resources, we pull back by
Hurting to get and hurting to give
back. Needing to hurt and hurting to need!
What can be done, is perhaps so
obvious, that to present it juxtaposed to the preceding comments would
appear to unduly simplify and make sophomoric a resolution to a
seemingly, multi-dimensional problem.
But apologies, notwithstanding, to
prevent or minimize the hurt to one you love, is to risk loving them
more than yourself and to tell them clearly and honestly what it is
you need and what exactly it is you want.
You may be surprised to learn that it
is exactly what they have always needed and wanted from you!
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