“At any given moment, you have the power to say: This is not how the story is going to end.” -Christine Mason Miller
We’ve all been there.
We’re going about our day and, out of the blue, someone treats you unfairly. You’re cut off in traffic, yelled at by a co-worker, or treated rudely by a cashier.
Or maybe the wrong you’ve endured is more serious. Maybe you’ve been betrayed by a friend, or are being unfairly blamed and ostracized by your family for something outside of your control.
There’s no doubt in your mind, though: you’ve been treated badly. You’ve been unfairly wronged, and are hurt and resentful because of it.
The Recovery Ritual
We all know hurtful incidents are part of life. They happen to us all.
Knowing we can’t avoid ever being wronged, how do we recover from the slight? How do we take the incident, process it, and refuse to let it ruin our day?
Remember, hurt people hurt people
This has been a powerful revelation for me, and a lesson I’ve tried to pass on to those close to me who are hurting.
People in this life who are the happiest, most self-aware and peaceful do not go out of their way to hurt others. They don’t take offense easily, and are apt to give others the benefit of the doubt.
Those who approach the world angrily, giving offense wherever they go, undoubtedly are carrying around some deep pain within themselves. Hurt people hurt people.
It’s one of my most valued touchstones of life because I believe it to be almost universally true.
This doesn’t mean you need to allow others to treat you poorly, of course. It’s simply a reminder to approach the other person with compassion, not censure.
Challenge the story in your head
We all tell a story to ourselves about painful situations. In most cases, the story is clear cut. There’s a bad guy (them), a good guy (us), and lots of details about how we’ve been unfairly, bitterly wronged.
Our minds, though, are often painfully unreliable. They mix up facts, confuse motivations, and have a hard time seeing other perspectives.
When I’m in the middle of a situation, and I find myself listing all the ways I’m right and the other person is wrong, I stop my mental tirade, take a deep breath, and recognize the story I’m telling myself may or may not be the whole truth.
I’ll reframe and rephrase, begin with the words: “the story I’m telling myself is…”. I then am allowing the possibility that I may not have all the information.
The world isn’t black and white and, most likely, neither is our experience.
What perspective may we have missed? Is there another side of the story? Could I have misconstrued what actually happened?
In short, is there a more generous way I could look at this situation?
Stop dwelling on the details of the past
I have the less-than-enviable habit of dwelling on the details of past infractions like my life depends on it. I can ruminate on a situation from decades ago, remember past hurts and reliving the situation in my head.
I’m not proud of this.
It’s time to being focusing on the present. When details of a past encounter enter our heads, acknowledge them, and then gently bring yourself back into the present moment.
Consciously interrupting your brooding and saying to yourself, “That’s in the past. I’m letting go of the situation and currently focusing on (my writing, this relationship, my future) instead.”
We all have a choice to simply let go of past hurts and slights. The person who wronged you doesn’t deserve any more of your attention and mental space. Make the intentional decision to stop giving it to them.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” -Rumi
It can be incredibly hard to let go of unjust hurts and wrongdoings.
Our lives, however, simply shouldn’t be defined by our pain. Extending a bit of compassion, challenging the story we’re telling ourselves, and switching our focus are powerful ways to heal past hurts.
We can’t avoid being wronged in life, but we are absolutely in control of our reaction to the incident.
Time may not heal all wounds, but facing the event with intention and mindfulness almost surely will.