The not-so-tough bully: how to feel empathy for those who hurt us.

“Hurt people hurt people”. It’s a quote I really had to think about before the concept sunk in.

There have been times in my life, the not-so glamorous times in which I have felt justified hurting others because of the hurt I was feeling. Now, although I FELT justified.. the truth is, I wasn’t…but that I was also unaware and ill equipped to deal with the unavoidable pain in life in healthier, constructive ways. Bullies are often guilty of this as well.

When you really let it sink in, it makes sense.

Sadness, fear, and guilt/shame/rejection are all secondary emotions of anger. When someone is angry, it is usually coming from a place of feeling one of these emotions and anger is an “easier” emotion to feel (and often more socially acceptable) than the others. Bullies often have a background of being bullied, rejected, or shamed (whether by their families or others). They’ve learned to bully as an effective strategy for temporarily alleviating these feelings (though like other ineffective coping strategies, putting others down doesn’t actually help a bully accept these emotions, and they typically resurface time and time again).

It’s important to remember that when it comes to people being mean, it’s typically more about THEM than it ever is about you. When I find myself feeling bad feelings towards others, I often question what part of me is really needing to be heard and nourished–because it’s always about my own hurt feelings and unresolved anxieties (hey, we are human after all).

Just a little psych empathy tidbit on a Monday evening–catch ya later!

J

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