Dr. Cheryl Woodson

Woodsonian Inspirational Musings on Monday: Teflon Isn’t Enough; Protect, Repair and Heal the Hurts From Within

A friend was livid because her boss had begun to “forget” private conversations and berate her in meetings for previously-approved actions. The boss also gave others responsibilities that were definitely in my friend’s skill set and job description.
My usually savvy friend surprised me. Instead of strategizing to strengthen her position while planning her exit, my friend wanted to expose this person to ridicule. She said, “That’s what she’s doing to me. Why would she treat me like this? I haven’t done anything to her.”
I understood why my friend was angry; I didn’t understand while she seemed hurt. Why was this person’s opinion so important? My friend admitted that vengeance would work against her in the long run, but she was adamant until I asked if she was dealing with the current problem, AND fighting disrespect from past jobs, or personal experiences.
Many of us experienced hurts when we were too young, too inexperienced, and too vulnerable to defend ourselves. Later in life, though we are mature, experienced, and capable, we still let past helplessness give current situations more power than they deserve. We put power in the emotional hands of our immature, vulnerable selves, striking out as we wish we could have, or think we should have long ago. We don’t take time to consider the most strategic, or appropriate level of response.
We do this in personal interactions, too. Haven’t we burdened a new relationship by expecting the new love to deceive, betray, as someone did in the past? Either way, reacting to the past can make the present harder for us.
I don’t recommend skipping down the yellow brick road, blind to dangers, ignoring the knowledge and experience that could keep us from harm. I do believe that we should open wounds, clean out the damage, stitch up the hole, and put on a protective bandage, encouraging healing from within.
Forgiveness is the Teflon that lets new barbs slide off, but it is also the knife that cuts away the injured areas, the sutures that close the wound. Looking back at the old hurts, we have to forgive, rather than re-live them, but as Robert Jeffress says in his book When Forgiveness Doesn’t Make Sense, this doesn’t justifying the injuries. Our moms, dads, exes, and others were all wrong, but through forgiveness, we take power over the hurt they inflicted. We stop letting it stew, concentrate, and continue to poison our behavior. If the situation is not fully in the past, we don’t have to let the hurt continue. We can protect ourselves from toxic people, limiting our exposure until we can either get out of the situation, or change our response.
We have to forgive if we are to be thoughtful and effective in directing our lives, but it is so hard to do this. The urge to strike back is so great and feels so safe; the thought of stopping may seem threatening, making change difficult, even when the behaviors are inappropriate to the situation.
Forgiveness plus regular meditation, exercise and behavioral health counseling provide the protective covering, giving you a permanent “cool” that reconnects your brain to your emotions and reactions. Even if you decide against those strategies, take a minute to think before giving in to knee-jerk reactions. Take a breath; plan a strategy, and definitely ask a friend to review that email before you hit “send.” Understand that only hurt people hurt people. Instead of just hitting back, forgive their weakness and design the most effective way to strengthen your position, until you make the best change. Most important, be clear that the fight you’re fighting is the one you’re confronting NOW.
Next Week Healing Our Inner Hurt Child: She Can Ride, but She Can’t Drive

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