What to Do When People Say Mean Things & Why Do I Get So Hurt

If you’re living and breathing, someone at some point in life will inevitably say something mean. Every single one of us has been hurt in some way, AND every one of us has probably accidentally said a mean word or two as well. It’s human nature. Unless we live in a completely toxic-free society, we’re going to be hurt and we’re going to subconsciously and unintentionally pass that hurt on to others.

So, how do we break that chain of hurt? How do we transform that cruelty in the world into something more positive? How does that hurt happen in the first place and how can we stay present and joyful in the face of cruelty? I answer these questions and more in today’s podcast.

***If you prefer reading to listening, here’s the transcript of this podcast***

Why do I get hurt when people say mean things to me?

There are three reasons why we get hurt when people say mean things to us. I’ll go through each one separately.

1. Mistaking Wants For Needs

The first reason why we feel hurt when people say mean things is because we mistake our want for praise for a need for praise. And we all want to be praised; we all want to be complimented. We also all make mistakes.

But we all want to be complimented; we want to be praised. When we mistake that want for need, our happiness, our self-worth becomes dependent on what other people think. This causes so much suffering.

Because people can only really praise others when they feel good about themselves. When they feel so good about who they are, they have extra compliments that they can give away. But when someone feels terrible about themselves, when a person is putting on a front that they’re confident and happy people.

But deep down, they feel inadequate. They only see inadequacy in others because what we see in the world is merely a projection of what we see in ourselves.

If we don’t have a certain quality that we would love to have, or maybe we’re not even aware that we don’t have it, we don’t see that in others; we don’t see the positive when we are thinking so negatively about ourselves.

If deep down we feel we are stupid, then it’s very easy to call someone else stupid and feel better about ourselves, and to correct that inadequacy, or that sense of it. I encourage you to notice in others when someone criticizes someone else, look at how often that same thing could be said about the person who’s criticizing someone else. Almost always, what people say about someone else is more true about the person saying it.

That goes for negative and positive things. When we can recognize someone’s brilliance, and we tell them they’re brilliant, it’s because we’re smart enough to recognize when someone is smart. If someone’s talking about quantum mechanics, and you don’t know what they’re talking about, then you may think they’re talking nonsense. But if you know a little bit about it, if you’re pretty smart in that topic, then you can recognize when someone else is smart about it.

So the more we recognize that what people say is just a mirror to them, a projection of how they feel about themselves, that they are putting out onto the world.

Then suddenly, people saying mean things is met with pity and empathy, not feelings of hurt and pain. Only when we lose sight of this deep truth do we get hurt when people say mean things.

The reason we forget this essential truth is because of number two.

2. Being Self-Focussed

The second reason why we feel hurt when people say mean things is that we are self-focused.

As soon as someone says something mean, instead of thinking about the other person and what they’re going through, and what kind of person would say that, we think, “How could this happen to me? How could they say that to me?” We put ourselves in the center of this drama, making ourselves the victim and the focal point of the story we tell ourselves in our minds about this injustice that happened.

We immediately lose sight of the fact that someone said something that clearly expresses some kind of suffering in that person; it is no reflection of us, but rather a reflection of them. Because no good, kind, decent person would say a mean thing to someone. That’s not to say that the person is a bad person or that they are in the category of the unworthy or irredeemable. It’s rather to say that in this moment, they are acting in an unkind way. So, what kind of cruelty did they face? Because no one who is loving, kind, and has had a life of positive experiences with people says mean things to others; someone who is in a good place shares compliments and freely gives kind words away.

So when someone says something unkind, we know that they are reflecting their own view of the world, which is one that has been unkind to them.

Maybe we don’t even know what it is in their life that made this person turn out this way in this moment. But we know that there is something. Maybe they had a parent or two that focused on money more than love and kindness. Maybe they’re going through something really difficult right now in their lives, and unconsciously, they’re making sure that everyone around them is as miserable as they are, feeling their pain.

This is another very real phenomenon where, when we are miserable, we subconsciously and sometimes consciously make others feel the way we’re feeling. We’ll be in a bad mood, and we take it out on someone, or something will really upset us, and we’ll become complaining or mean and nasty to whoever is around. It’s almost like a cry for help, like other people should know what I’m going through.

But when we start to react unconsciously to a hurtful word, we stop thinking about the other person. We only think about ourselves—our pain and our suffering—and that becomes our total focal point. So, when something becomes the focus of our attention, whatever it is gets amplified, and it gets bigger and bigger until it takes up our full attention.

That hurt and pain get so magnified beyond the actual slight and insult, and it takes on a life of its own. It is totally consuming, and we have a hard time thinking of anything else but how offended and hurt we are.

That hurt just gets exaggerated and exaggerated, and in the no-drama narrative of our mind, something happened that was totally unjustified and totally uncalled for. No one can ever treat me like that. And we get so mad. It’s not even to say that we did anything wrong or that it was our fault at all.

But it’s simply to point out that we no longer see where it was coming from because we can only feel where it landed. So, it skews our perspective of the situation and creates a one-sided tale about the situation. As soon as we notice that hurt, that pain, that downward spiral that we cannot get out of, that ruins our day, maybe our week, we’re thinking about the hurt and the pain and how we can maybe seek vengeance or whatever that downward spiral entails.

If we shift our focus to a bigger picture, we can get out of that hole. If we start to think, “Where is this person coming from? What would make them say that?”

How can I best convey what this person did and how it was wrong in a loving, positive way? Because it is that love that will heal your hurt and their hurt. This doesn’t mean being nice to someone who’s mean; it can be getting away from a person and saying, “I need to leave. That was not nice, not kind. I hope you get help for learning how to treat people better.”

By doing this, instead of screaming and yelling, and hurling insults back or getting into a fight, we leave with love. It’s not about rewarding someone else; it’s simply about healing your own pain, maintaining your own composure and dignity, and not giving away the power of your emotional state to someone else who is clearly hurting.

So, the more we think of others, the more we focus on not just ourselves, but the entire situation, the less attention we’re putting on ourselves. This is the antidote to being absorbed and feeling all that pain. It heals all of that pain immediately.

The core of this pain from someone’s cruel words comes down to feeling like we are at the center of this situation, versus we are witnessing a situation. It’s that difference between watching a movie where, no matter what any character says in the film, we don’t get our feelings hurt because we know they’re not saying it to us; we are just the witnesses.

When we are in a conversation, we think that the words are coming at us instead of witnessing those words. So suddenly, there is our false sense of self that is at the center of this story.

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3. Misidentifying With Ego

This brings me to the third reason why we really feel hurt when people say mean things, and that is this misidentification with our ego, with the thinking mind, with those thoughts in our head, with that false entity that doesn’t actually exist but that hurts when mean things are said about it. That doesn’t exist at all. It is not who we are.

If you look closely at where this pain is, what actually is hurt, you won’t find anything. But because we identify with the ego and the thinking mind, with these thoughts in our head, it sounds like us, it impersonates us. We believe we are these thoughts, that this voice in our head is the core of who we are.

This voice is the one that says, “How could they say that? Those people are so mean. I’m not. I didn’t do anything wrong.” All of that whole story of the pain comes from these thoughts in our head. But we are so much more than the thoughts in our head. In fact, when we have moments of no thought, we are still ourselves; we didn’t disappear. That is proof that this voice is not us. It is simply a product of having this body and brain.

But it is not the essence of who we are. The essence is that point of consciousness inside of us that hears those thoughts, that witnesses those thoughts and emotions, that can choose to ignore the thoughts, believe the thoughts, or simply let the thoughts be.

The best thing to do to disidentify with the ego is to watch it. Give it some time every day to pay attention to the thoughts. Notice how they pop in and come out of nowhere. We aren’t choosing them; we don’t know what our next thought will be. This allows us to recognize that thoughts come and go; they happen beyond our control.

We don’t have to follow those thoughts, become attached to those thoughts, or even identify with those thoughts. We can witness their coming and going, their arising and falling away, like we witness sounds around us arise into our field of consciousness and disappear.

We can witness positive thoughts; we can witness negative thoughts. We can always remain that peaceful watcher. The more we do that, the easier it is to witness the words of other people, positive or negative. We can remain that peaceful watcher because we are becoming identified with that instead of thoughts and words. This is recognizing our true nature, our deepest level of consciousness from which every experience of our life is perceived, and that consciousness is unchanging and deeply peaceful.

Only the things that come into the field of consciousness can fluctuate and be chaotic. But when we identify with consciousness itself, and the more we become aware of awareness, the more peace we bring into our lives. This can happen in meditation or even in the shower—wherever we are, whenever we can remind ourselves that we don’t have to do anything right now.

Be present. Watch our thoughts. Anytime we put the phone down and we’re not distracted by people or entertainment, we sit with ourselves. Or if we’re sitting with others, we have one foot in the conversation and in the experience we’re having, and we have one foot in that deep field of consciousness.

Simply aware that we are aware, and we can do this anytime, whatever is happening. We can simply become aware that we are witnessing the situation.

The more we become aware of our senses, and not just the objects that our senses are perceiving, the more we notice that our consciousness expands out into space in every direction, from the sound that we’re hearing to the sights that we’re seeing. We are beyond our body.

As we become beyond our body, then that sense of being a separate entity, a separate human being that is independent of everything else, slowly fades away. A sense of oneness emerges. When we tap into that oneness, that one life that connects all living beings on this planet, as we become more than these physical bodies, and we recognize that animating energy within me, and that’s the same within you, and with everyone else, that life force energy.

We’re recognizing that Stardust that has evolved into every living being on this planet; then a sense of separate self, which can even be hurt by any act of cruelty or unkindness, disappears.

here is nothing on this earth that can hurt an infinite being. We are connected to everything. When we identify with that ego, and that ego needs to be inflated, or else it feels hurt, then we are creating a target. The bigger the ego, the bigger the target, even if someone seems very confident. That is typically a person who needs constant praise or has to tell themselves constant praise, or else they feel worthless because they have inflated an ego.

But an ego is a target, and the bigger the target, the easier it is to be crushed by a lack of praise or an unkind word. But when we disidentify with that ego, and we recognize the oneness within all things, when we recognize there is no separate self that can be hurt, that we are all perfect manifestations of this universe playing out in the beautiful, ever-changing forms we see around us, everything simply becomes the dance of life.

When there is no separate self, there is nothing that can be hurt. When we recognize the oneness, that we are simply a manifestation from our parents, and our grandparents, and all the way back to the first single-celled organism, we are all deeply intricately connected.

When we see that we are the plants whose air we breathe, we are the earth whose food we eat. When we see that we are that everlasting, eternal, and infinite consciousness, changeless and formless, we become invincible to any words, any thoughts, and only a deep sense of profound peace and bliss can remain. We simply have to practice being in that state until it becomes a habit.

Once that happens, we become free from all negativity, pain, and suffering. As long as we can remember, we are perfect expressions of a perfect universe with no need for praise. We are not the recipients of what’s happening, but rather, the watchers. We are more concerned with others than ourselves, which again, connects us to everyone and everything more than that self-focused thinking.

The more we recognize the ego, the more we can disidentify with it. Notice that it is simply a thinking machine within us, great for creating tools and finding food and mates, but not great for when our own peace of mind becomes dependent on creating perfect external situations.

When it runs amok and disturbs our inner peace, then we are finally immune from any harsh words that anyone who is feeling harsh about themselves could ever say to us. So those three things are the key to getting through the holidays, this season, and anything else, any other time of year, where you’re in a situation and you’re around negative people who are lashing out and projecting their negativity onto others.

Simply recognize that you are perfect, and you don’t need that praise. It doesn’t even matter if there is criticism because you are enough, God in human form. Remember to turn that attention and focus toward the other person and toward the situation and think about how you can best share, express, and be love for them and yourself.

Recognize that we’re all one. We are not these egos, these thinking minds that are always fear-based and living in scarcity and lack, never enough, never good enough. Recognizing we are that eternal, changeless, formless consciousness that can never be hurt.

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