“There is nothing that harshness does, that loving firmness doesn’t do better.” –Terry Real

Despite my best intentions to be loving and kind, when I get scared, hurt, or activated, my reactions tend to become more forceful. 

I raise my voice. 
I get more intense. 
I speak with more emphasis and vehemence. 

Some part of me believes that I need to do these things to “break through” to someone else, to penetrate their denial, to dismantle their defenses. I feel a desire to break down their walls.  

Unfortunately, these harsh and forceful strategies simply create more hurt, more distrust, and more disconnection. They entrench our conflicts, increase our pain, and lead to increased distance and wariness. Although we may know that connection always suffers from harshness in our relationships, we still sometimes find ourselves stuck in old habits and patterns, often simply replaying the painful ways we were parented by others.

Harshness tends to shut us down. The shame, pain, fear, and force become too intense to metabolize, so we learn to numb-out from our feelings and disassociate ourselves from the moment. In attempts to protect ourselves, we shut down and fight back. We might use sarcasm or submission, express contempt or become conciliatory, or move into rebellion or resignation.  

However, no matter which fight-or-flight move we make, one thing is for sure: once we shut down our feelings, our relationships no longer have the potential to be a space for healing, learning, growth, or development.   

We cannot feel our deeper feelings when we’re busy protecting ourselves from harshness or blaming others for our hurt. 

We know this already: 
We cannot heal what we cannot feel.  
Feelings are for feeling. (Not for fixing.)
We are supposed to feel everything. 
Sometimes we feel happy, and sometimes sad. 
We can feel indignant. 
Vulnerable. 
Afraid. 
Grief. 
Agony. 
Hypervigilance.
Pain.  

We miss true self-connection when we numb, fix, deflect, dismiss, hide, or ignore our feelings, whether painful or pleasurable. 

When life gets hard, it’s not because you are wrong or at fault. It may mean because you are engaged and learning and growing and healing.  

Sometimes, healing involves feeling hurts and vulnerabilities. 

Remember, what hurts in you is not a weakness. You are not supposed to just “suck it up” or get over it. You are allowed to feel it.  

Start allowing yourself the dignity of feeling what is arising and alive in you. 

If you carry any messages that you are supposed to lock it down, shut it up, or make it go away, let’s reprogram that message now. 

I will remind you, nudge you, give you permission: You are allowed to feel what you are feeling. (Yes, you are also responsible for what you do and say, but we’ll save that for another blog post!)

Kindness allows us to stay open, stay vulnerable, stay undefended.  

Kindness with yourself and others is like fertilizer for life-affirming relationships, ones in which you can heal and grow into increased love and intimacy with others.


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