The Hurt Scale

I spoke to a friend recently who was a bit annoyed at his ex for shutting herself down and being so upset about their break up. ‘She took time off work. Her friends say that she’s not eating. She keeps saying nasty things about me. I never hit her or cheated on her. I don’t know what she’s so upset about. She can’t be that hurt!’  

I marveled at his insensitivity. Men really are from Mars.

I tried to explain to him, that there was no emotional scale to measure hurt. She was processing a break-up. And the emotional impact of this would depend on how deeply committed she was to the relationship.  Perhaps he had not valued the relationship as much as she did, so he should not judge her for her feelings. It is obvious that it meant more to her than he had realized.

He still insisted that it should have been easier for her to move on since their relationship had been a ‘normal’ one. They simply fell out of love, so it should have been easy to move on. Why cry over milk that had spilled so long ago, and had dried up already. She was overreacting, he said.

I resisted trying to argue. He had moved on. And I know some part of him felt guilty that she was still hurting. Deep down, he must have known that she was more emotionally invested in the relationship than he was. I believe he was a little embarrassed about it even if he came across cold and insensitive.

But I was not completely surprised. Many of us judge other people’s emotional reactions based on how we would respond to their situation. Even if we are clearly not them. We need to recognize that some people are not as mature as we are, some have little control over their emotions, and some are in a different stage of spiritual development. Seemingly simple events can also trigger emotional panic in others and lead to extended episodes of pain that we may not fully understand.

The same principles in my blog post ‘You can’t hate people for who they are’ apply here. You can’t judge people for who they are either. Understand that we all process emotions differently and there is no emotional scale to measure hurt or sadness. We just need to allow others the freedom to feel and heal. 

Life is short… Extend empathy to those in pain.

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