As imperfect people in an imperfect world, I think we all know hurt is an inevitable part of human experience. However, it doesn’t mean we know how to deal with it very well. Instead, we do a number of things that not only don’t heal us but also create more problems for us down the line.
We try to ignore it.
We try and deny it.
We try to distract ourselves from it with social media and entertainment.
We try to suppress it.
We try to numb it with food (especially sweets), alcohol, legal or illegal drugs.
We project it onto others.
We turn on the people who’ve been there for us and have made us feel safe.
We make other people accountable and responsible for fixing our pain.
Sometimes we do these things without realizing it. Other times we’re fully aware of our poor coping mechanisms but are too hurt to care.
Why are we like this? Well, first of all, hurt hurts. But not because we’re weak or anything like that. Hurt hurts because we have legitimate, fundamental, internal needs. God in his strategy and intentionality designed us this way on purpose. We thrive when our deep, fundamental needs are met. We hurt when they’re not. Striking this balance drives us to create and maintain relationships with each other. It also motivates our need to seek him.
We have deep needs for:
- Safety and security. We need to feel safe from harm, both physically and emotionally. This means feeling protected from bombs, hurricanes, and burglaries, as well as ridicule, shaming, and harassment.
- Affection, connection, and belonging.
We need to feel like we belong somewhere and to someone. We need to feel wholly accepted for who we are. We need to feel the warmth of love and affection. We need to feel genuinely connected to people we care for, value, and respect.
- Significance. We need to feel like we matter in the world and to the people in our lives. We need to feel important. We need to feel needed. We don’t want to feel like we’re duplicates of somebody else. We need to feel distinctive.
- Growth and realization. We need to feel like we are growing and moving toward something. We need to see and feel progress. This explains our attraction to insight, awareness, and self-discovery. This motivates our pursuit of healing.
- Contribution and creation. We don’t want to just take up space in the world while we’re here.
We are made in the image of God, and his first work was creation. We too need to create something that we can give in our lives, however symbolic. We need to feel like we are contributing meaningfully to our world.
Hurt is what happens when our deep needs go unfulfilled. It’s the emotional fallout when these needs are disregarded, disrespected, or outright violated. Hurt, therefore, is self-protective. It acts as our first line of defense to psychologically threatening situations. Its goal is to alert us when there appears to be a problem in hopes of giving us a chance to fix things before permanent damage is done. Hurt feels like a hole in our heart . . . because it is.
Adapted from Why Do I Feel Like This? by Peace Amadi. Copyright (c) 2021 by Chynyere Peace Amadi. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com