What Hurts? What Helps? Who Am I At The End of the Day?

Jul 14, 2021 | boundaries, codependency, dysfunctional family systems, featured, Getting Past Your Breakup

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Author, Attorney, Podcaster, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, and Creator of the World's Most Successful Breakup Program. 

  • Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (Hachette Book Group 2009)
  • Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup (Hachette Book Group 2015)
  • Getting Past Your Past Workbook: The Definitive Workbook to Emotional Healing, Health and Happiness (La Bella Vita Publishing 2012)
  • GPYP Power! Affirmations (La Bella Vita Publishing 2019) 


How can we tell someone to stop hurting us if we’re not sure it hurts? How can we identify it as inappropriate if that’s all we’ve ever lived with? To us, it’s normal. How can we know what we want if nobody ever told us it’s okay to want something? – Melody Beattie

I mentioned in the last post that in boot camp, we work to discover our authentic self or the person we were meant to be.  That DOES NOT mean discarding the person who learned how to survive all the dysfunction and drama and chaos.  What it means is learning to relax some and getting in touch with who we were born as and who we might have been if we had been not subjected to all kinds of terrible things. 

It’s not a matter of getting rid of your strengths, but of learning what you would have liked to have been if things had been different. It’s about getting rid of knee-jerk reactions, hypervigilance and projection…all the things we learned and incorporated as defense mechanisms. Now that we’re living a healthier life, we can channel those energies into something new…a creative force that is there – somewhere.

When I suggest observation through journaling and listening to our own thought processes, it is to begin the long journey home to oneself. It is to get in touch with a self that may have been ignored, abused or inconsequential to people to whom we should have mattered.

Learning to IDENTIFY what we want and what hurts and what is good and not good for us BEGINS with the observation of the state we’re in. It continues through our struggles with affirmations and self-care. Is it hard and why? What affirmations are really difficult? Are you hearing your negative self-talk or is it so ingrained that you aren’t even sure what it is. Writing and listening is the first part of observation. It’s the first part of “What hurts?

We may be too long detached to who we are and what we want and we need to get in touch with that (again or for the very first time).

The way to figure that out is by journaling and developing the habit of writing our thoughts and feelings and a review of our day. When I stress journaling to my clients and boot campers, there is a REASON. It’s NOT busy work. It’s also not optional. 

I tell people to write down what you’re thinking if you wake up in the middle of the night. I tell people to write their dreams down. If you’re driving along and having thoughts, write it down or tap it into your phone as soon as you stop driving. Get into the habit of listening to your thoughts, feelings, dreams, wishes, “what ifs”, “If I could do anything….” etc. The process of “What the hell am I thinking/feeling?” “What am I so sad about?” “What am I so angry about?” “Why am I struggling with affirmations?” “Why am I so down on myself?” “What do I really think about me?” “What do I want?” “Where am I going?” starts with journaling and writing things down.

There’s nothing in the book that is filler. There are no exercises I give my clients or boot campers that is busy work. And almost always I start it with journaling and finish with the inventories, but you cannot be successful in working out the garbage and working in the good stuff if you cannot get into the rhythm of writing or talking it out in a way that gives you a written or verbal account of your thoughts, feelings, wishes, dreams, regrets etc etc. Tap it into your phone, put it in your computer, record it on a device, but DO IT. Find something you are comfortable with. I always used loose leaf binders and then discovered Moleskine which I still use and love. I also use Cambridge notebooks for keeping track of things. It helps with organization and to-do lists. I also buy pens that I like and post it notes. I find that writing things down helps with a lot of things in my life and it’s a habit I started when I was journaling like a maniac.

So start to put thing down on paper, on the computer, on your phone or record it onto something.

It takes a while to get into the rhythm but don’t analyze it each and every day (at first). Take a while and then step back and look at it and tune into what is happening (and not happening) on a daily basis.

We tune into ourselves when we start to LISTEN to the thoughts going on in our heads. Are we berating ourselves for the smallest things? Are we constantly filled with negativity?

Do we have a feeling such as hurt or anger and question ourselves instead of the person who is or has hurt us or made us angry? What is our pattern when we have a feeling, a thought, a dream, a desire, a gut feeling? Do we brush it away? Do we question ourselves before we question the other person? Do we simply have no idea what we are thinking and feeling and why? Are we used to being harder on ourselves than anyone else? Are we angry because we missed red flags or because we were sold a bill of goods that turned out to be untrue? Were we told we were loved and cherished and then treated terribly or were we told we were loved and cherished and had lots of evidence that it might not be true? Are we completely lost as to what is okay and what is not okay, what is acceptable and unacceptable? When or how to set a boundary? How to learn a lesson from this? How to figure out if we’re afraid, lonely, sad, angry, guilty, etc if we’ve never had our feelings affirmed and have no idea how to do it for ourselves?

We need to listen to the messages and change them through affirmations and positive self-talk.

We need to listen to what hurts and stop the pain. For many years we may have been a victim of someone who was hurting us but saying they loved us. We may have cried and been called a baby or a whiner. We may have been called overly dramatic or sensitive. Part of us may suspect that is true and that part, our inner voice, has become accusatory as well.

We may be angry, even outraged or feeling rage and we KNOW what we’re angry about. We’ve been mistreated, used, or not appreciated. Someone has toyed with our feelings, wrecked our life and just toddled off. I have heard people say, “I don’t have to write it down! I know what I’m angry about! Writing it will just make me angrier!” I understand that but WRITE IT DOWN so we can talk about it or you can talk about it with someone else. I remember journaling about what I was angry about and then my coherent sentences just dissolving into a full page of I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU and then just stabbing the paper with my pen and eventually just started screaming at my journal, the walls, the world. I screamed in my car the next morning and punched my dashboard. I was pretty angry for a few days. Although prior to this night of journaling when all this anger came tumbling out, I KNEW what I was angry about, and felt as if I could kill someone I was so angry, I couldn’t seem to get it out. I just felt angry, full of rage and almost homicidal. The process of writing it out led to getting it out. I was angry for a few days with almost blinding rage, but I was writing and yelling in my car and ripping up paper and at one point I smashed a bunch of dishes in the garage. There. I felt better.

And it was episodic, meaning that the anger would come back at some point and I would repeat it again. Eventually it was gone. Just knowing what you are angry about and feeling angry is different than “getting it out.” You have to scream, cry, yell, pound the dashboard, the pillows, kick the door and maybe throw things (so long as you don’t hurt anyone or yourself). If not you can become bitter, guarded, untrusting and start to be irritated and upset at inappropriate times at people who have done next to nothing to us.

But maybe it’s not anger that is our issue. We may be hurt and don’t want to write about it. We have cried and felt horrible grief and angst and don’t want to relive it on paper or on the computer. But we have to get it out. Write, scream, cry, walk the floors, wring your hands (literally) and freak out. Cry in the car, howl at the moon…whatever you need to do to get it out that will not hurt you or someone else.

Otherwise we become bitter, guarded, untrusting, and start to get upset over everything and anything. You may take it out in inappropriate ways and it could lead to hurting someone or yourself or doing something to someone’s property that is not okay (and/or legal). People who have unresolved hurt or anger key others’ cars, leave terrible messages on people’s facebook pages, talk about them behind their back, start malicious rumors etc. Or they simply take a victimized stance and go through life with “wha wha wha, whoa is me” over and over again waiting for someone to rescue them and just wondering why no one ever does (or worse, victimizes them all over again).

But we may not even know if we are hurt or angry. We may be confused and very unclear as to whether something hurts or not. We may have spent our life overreacting and underreacting and we don’t have the APPROPRIATE RESPONSE to someone or something hurting us. We’re not even sure it really hurts or if we’re simply being overdramatic.

We may be out of touch with ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically. We’re not sure if something hurts and we’re not sure what we think or feel about anything. We cannot get ANYWHERE until we tune back in.

Getting back in touch with ourselves gives us a better roadmap and clearer understanding to who we are and where we want to go.

The boot campers always wonder why I emphasize journaling, affirmations, grief work and inventories.  I allow a lot of other stuff that we work on to be optional, but those things are REQUIRED – because there is no recovery without them.

In a group, I tell them to read through the inventory stuff and then journal and share with each other what stuff is coming up before they formally sit down and do the inventory.

For my clients working alone or my readers and listeners, it’s important to journal before the formal process of doing the inventories.  That way you will have some idea of what stuff is coming to the surface and what needs to be addressed when you get to the inventories.  Many people are afraid to do the inventories and if they’re not in the habit of journaling, they may skip or shortchange this important step. 

The inventories are a purging of a sort.  Garbage OUT….and that leaves room to turn back to your authentic self.  Who are you?  Who do you really want to be?  That is why journaling needs to continue after the inventories…

It is ESSENTIAL that we learn to come home to ourselves in order to figure out how to be in the world. Without that first important step to start to listen to your thoughts, feelings, dreams, wishes, goals etc., nothing else can happen.

Figure out who you are and what you want.

Tune back into your authentic self.

Think about it, feel about it, write about and talk abou it. And your authentic self is there waiting for you.

The next GPYB Boot Camp starts 7/20/21 at 7:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time.  For more information or to join, please visit https://www.gpybbootcamps.com – scroll down to the FAQ at the bottom of the page.

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