Sunday, 16 February 2014

Forever hurt

One of the saddest things is people who've been hurt so much in their life that feeling hurt becomes the default emotion, the one you sense constantly if you're with them for any length of time.

They've got into the habit of feeling hurt,and have lost the ability to be happy. They see everyone around them as potentially hurting them and are permanently on the defensive.

I remember one woman I worked with - let's call her Beth - who looked forever beaten-down and subdued, hurt leaking out of her like sweat, always waiting for the next wounding remark, always complaining about the way people treated her.

I never discovered why she felt so hurt, who had done what to her to fatally undermine her resilience and self-esteem. But the emotional damage, the crushed psyche, was plain to see.

It was hard to befriend her because she was so suspicious of people's intentions, so sure that sooner or later she would be treated badly yet again. All I could do was handle her as gently as possible and not do anything to confirm her suspicions.

I can recall several women who carried this strong sense of hurt, but I can't recall any such men. I'm sure there are men who have been hurt just as much but are conditioned to hide the hurt and not show any sign of it. They may be in acute emotional pain but they put on a sanguine demeanour that gives nothing away.

I'm sure my father was full of hurt, but he would never admit it. He thought it was okay to be angry, or jealous, or possessive - healthy masculine emotions - but hurt was strictly taboo. A feminine thing, something for cissies, something humiliating. He bottled it all up and thought we couldn't see it.

He went to his grave still hurting. Because he was too ashamed to tell us.

30 comments:

Secret Agent Woman said...

Honestly, is there any data at all to back up your idea that women show emotional pain and men don't? Because that has certainly not been my experience professionally. And those "healthy masculine emotions" are all decidedly unhealthy and also just different ways of expressing emotional pain. You don't have to weep to be clearly sad. I've also known plenty of men who are more of the weepy and/or morose sort.

The research on happiness suggests that about half of our ability to be happy is basically hard-wired in. Some people are just genetically/biochemically more inclined to be happy and optimistic. Only about 10% is due to your personal circumstances. The rest is amenable to change. So "Beth" may well be wired in a less happy way, and then had hurts heaped upon that. But she could change if she chose to work on it.

Nick said...

Agent: Well, that's just my personal experience, but I'm sure your professional experience is a lot more comprehensive, so I'll go along with that. And yes, of course you can have sadness without weeping.

Half our ability to be happy is hard-wired? That seems a very high percentage to me, but maybe so. Certainly I agree you can change your outlook quite a lot if you're motivated to do so.

And by "healthy" I just meant thought of as healthy. As you say in reality they're not very healthy at all.

Cheerful Monk said...

I agree with you that our society encourages guys to deal with hurt by getting drunk and angry. At least that was the way in the past. Maybe now it's changed in some circles.

susie said...

I'm having a shitty day. Literally. I feel like that woman up there. Am I allowed to say shitty in this comment box?

Have a nice night. Or morning, I guess.

Bijoux said...

I have known a few women who are as you've described. Maybe not suspicious, but more of the 'poor me" who seem to be magnets for trouble. Interestingly, they also all have severe allergy or autoimmune disorders. The brain is powerful.

Nick said...

Jean: I think drunk and angry is still the norm for a lot of men. They still find it hard to show hurt more directly.

Susie: You can say shitty as often as you like. Shitty shitty shitty. How's that? Hope tomorrow/today goes better.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I don't have much sympathy for the "poor me", self-pitying type. We all get knocked for six sometimes and just have to deal with it. Interesting that they have the other medical problems you mention.

Nick said...

Agent: Of course men are more likely to open up about their emotions and weaknesses to a therapist, because that's the whole point of therapy. But I imagine they would still be a lot less open to people generally.

John Gray said...

Unresolved hurt
The ghost of many a person.....

Very very sad

Nick said...

John: It's very sad. Hurt can go so deep into the psyche, permeating and tainting everything.

Ursula said...

Dear dog in heaven, Nick: I have seen men cry. It's heartbreaking.

Men don't talk about the personal? What a laughable statement. The exchanges between my son (he is 22) and his friends being so frank and detailed I hope they won't regret sharing their souls one day. They talk ok. Oh do they talk. Through the night. And that's great. And when they need a third opinion they come and see me. No one but no one tell me that men don't express their emotions. Sure, some, like one of my uncles - my mother's youngest brother - do take their fishing gear at the weekend and sit all day on a lake, waiting for that fish to take bait. I'd give a fortune for what he actually thought during all those hours (he died a relatively young death).

I disagree with Cheerful Monk that "society encourages guys to deal with hurt by getting drunk and ANGRY." Society does not do any such thing. Society does acknowledge that drink is one way of taking the edge off "hurt". And condemns it. Anger? Anger is directly linked to testosterone. Where do you think the phrase "Angry YOUNG man" comes from? I will concede that to contain that anger, control it, does take some emotional intelligence. Intelligence full stop. Self discipline to rein it in. Knowing when to walk away.

As to your father: My dear Nick, in the end - even if we are as open as a book on page 38 - no one but no one will ever know us completely. Whether that is a (dis)comfort or not - it's the human condition.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: Well, that's a useful corrective to my false assumptions! I can't recall ever seeing a man cry, would you believe. Except on the TV news. And not being a parent, I'm not privy to youngsters' conversations. It's good to know they're so frank and personal and emotional.

I wouldn't agree that anger is linked to testosterone though. I've seen plenty of extremely angry women in my life! I do agree it takes emotional intelligence to control anger, but an awful lot of people don't seem to have it. Anger seems to be another default emotion these days!

Ursula said...

You have never seen a man cry?

As to both your and my assertion on anger: Sure there are a lot of angry women. But a woman's anger takes a completely different outlet to that of a man. And, may I say, not to the better since words (woman's anger) can stay with you forever whilst a smashed plate or. worse case scenario, a black eye (man's anger) will be colourful for a few days and then fade.

On a side note, yet in context: I believe men to be far more emotionally vulnerable than women.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: No, not that I can recall. Not that I've ever had much to do with men, I've always gravitated towards women.

I think that's true, that men's anger tends to take a more violent form than women's, though women can be pretty damn destructive when they want to be. And yes, words can be really lacerating.

Men are more emotionally vulnerable? Don't know about that. What makes you think so?

Secret Agent Woman said...

I've seen my father cry, I've seen my brothers cry, I've seen my young adult sons cry, I've seen my ex-husband cry, I've seen several boyfriends cry, I've seen male friends cry. So, no, it's not just in a therapy setting that men cry.

susie said...

Nick, I really did have a colonoscopy today! When I commented last night, I was hungry and shitty. Haha. I feel much better now. I'm glad you like TMI.

susie said...

Back to the subject at hand...I've seen every man who I've been close to, cry. But rarely.

Nick said...

Agent: Well, there you are, what do I know? I've obviously led a very sheltered existence! That's what I love about blogging, I get a whole new perspective on one thing after another....

Susie: No such thing as Too Much Information! I hope the colonoscopy wasn't too awful.

Every man you've been close to? I have to admit I've never been close to any man except my father. And I never saw him cry.

Wisewebwoman said...

We must live in different universes Nick. I have many emotionally available male friends who cry and can be as distraught as women. Old school men (my father) found it emasculating to cry, they had been brought up not to show feelings. Feelings were a weakness.
I find it sad that you've never seen other men cry.
It truly begs the question:
Do you cry?
XO
WWW

Ursula said...

Nick, I can't go into all detail why I believe men to be the emotionally more vulnerable.

I know they are. To give you but one example, and it is only an example: Why do many more men (statistically) commit suicide - and succeed at it - than women? Why?

Makes you re-evaluate preconceived ideas, doesn't it?

U

Nick said...

www: It's strange, isn't it, that I've never seen a man cry. Am I for some reason denying it, blotting it out? I don't think so.

No, I seldom cry, even when I'm very upset about something. I must have learnt not to cry at some point.

Ursula: That's true about men being more likely to kill themselves. That does suggest they feel despair and misery more than women do. Or they lack the support networks that would alleviate it.

Nick said...

When I was working in a bookshop in the eighties, two of my workmates died in their twenties of lung cancer and breast cancer. We were all grief-stricken, but even then I don't recall anyone crying. Weird, huh?

Secret Agent Woman said...

Actually, all the statistics I've seen show that women attempt suicide more often than men, but men die by suicide more often than women. Men tend to use more lethal methods - gunshot to the head or hanging v. overdose or cutting, say. (I remember the collective staff eyeroll when we got a new patient at the psych hospital where I interned - she'd shot herself in the stomach with a 22 in a suicide attempt. Not an effective choice.)

Nick said...

Agent: That's what I've read also, that women make more attempts but men are more likely to die. I can't imagine how desperate you'd have to feel to shoot yourself in the stomach.

Rummuser said...

While it is true that one comes across more women like this than men, men too become like that. I know both men and women of this nature and they depress me to the extent that I try and avoid them. Do you?

Nick said...

Ramana: I try to avoid them as well. I'd like to help them but I really don't know how. And yes, if they do nothing but complain, it's simply depressing.

Suburbia said...

So sad about your Dad Nick.

Nick said...

Suburbia: It's very sad. He just couldn't bring himself to admit his deepest emotions. He was an old-fashioned masculine guy.

cedar51 said...

What about the "silent types"

Nick said...

Cedar: You mean people who just stay silent about their emotions and don't let anyone see their suffering? I don't think that sort of "bottling up" is at all healthy.