When you’re not the one hurting, it’s easy to quote Epictetus, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” However, all logic tends to go out the window when the tables are turned for most people. Even the most encouraging quotes may mean little to nothing when you’re hurting.
Yet, if you must live above the whims and caprices of fleeting or long-term negative feelings, then you must master how to turn off your emotions when you’re hurt, especially by those you deeply care for.
In this article, I share a few strategies that could help you get a handle on your emotions when people hurt you. But first, let’s get clear about what I mean by turning off your emotions.
Regulating Versus Suppressing Your Emotions
Wouldn’t it be great if you could turn off your emotions entirely just by flipping a switch?
First, feelings don’t work that way, at least not in real life. And secondly, completely switching off your emotions isn’t healthy.
Your emotions are there for a reason; research suggests they serve as some sort of guidance system that helps us maintain optimal physical health and promote proper mental and emotional development.
While they are mostly fleeting, our everyday emotional feelings contribute to our values or moral conscience and determine what we interpret as spiritual experiences.
In other words, you don’t want to consciously suppress or unconsciously repress your emotions ― including difficult ones ― because they are essential to your overall well-being.
While trying to bottle hurtful feelings isn’t helpful, allowing them to run at maximum can be destructive to you and those you’re reacting to. You must find healthy ways to process and express hurtful feelings, and that’s where knowing how to turn off your emotions the right way comes into the picture.
Learning to stay on top of your emotions ― shutting them off when necessary ― is not only healthy but also an act of self-preservation.
For example, putting on a brave face when someone hurts your feelings in public is a more civic thing to do. This way, you can express your feelings at a later time when you are calmer by speaking with a trusted friend or writing in your journal.
By turning off your emotions, I mean managing or regulating them to bring balance in how you express them, especially when you’re hurt. This means you are in touch with your most uncomfortable feelings but don’t allow them to overwhelm you.
As you probably figured, finding this balance is easier in theory; practicing it is where the rubber meets the road.
The good news is that grasping and practicing this concept starts with knowing the right strategies for regulating difficult emotions.
As you read the following strategies, I suggest being patient with yourself.
It will take some time and consistent practice to get the hang of things, but once you gain mastery, you’ll be the boss of your emotions instead of letting them run the show.
How to Turn Off Your Emotions When Someone Hurts You
Allow Yourself to Feel Your Emotions
“Just calm down” sounds like good advice when you’re feeling hurt, but it is actually an attempt to downplay what you’re feeling in a bid to manage your emotions.
Your experiences are a big deal, and so are the feelings that come with them.
For example, if someone you love walks out of your life, it is a big deal, and you should feel hurt, sad, angry, or whatever range of emotions are triggered by the experience.
Grieve if you must, but never devalue your feelings when someone hurts you.
How exactly does allowing yourself to feel your emotions help you master turning them off? Isn’t that engaging your emotions rather than switching them off?
Here’s the thing.
Controlling or regulating your emotions will be impossible if you don’t accept and feel them to begin with. Knowing how to turn off your emotions starts with recognizing, acknowledging, labeling, and letting the hurtful feeling pass.
By accepting and processing your emotions this way, you can quickly identify potentially negative thoughts that can trigger hurtful feelings.
Also, accepting your emotions (though painful) allows you to heal. Psychologists say that people who have accepted their negative emotions and emotional pain tend to enjoy psychological health benefits, including fewer mental health problems and greater life satisfaction.
Step Back From Your Feelings
It’s common to feel victimized when someone hurts you, and feeling like a victim will keep you powerless (hopeless even) until you shift into a more empowering state.
You must find a way to channel your hurt into something more productive that allows you to step back from the hurtful feeling and see the situation from a broader perspective.
As you have probably experienced many times, detaching from your emotions can be difficult without the right tools. Grounding yourself in the present moment is one effective strategy for stepping back from your emotions.
No doubt, the difficult feelings you experience are painful and valid. But it is important to remember that feelings aren’t always factual, which is why you must stand back from them to see the bigger picture.
Do one or more mindfulness practices to re-center yourself when someone hurts you.
For example, you can take slow, deep breaths or find somewhere private to meditate for a few minutes. Mindfulness practices allow you to ground yourself in the present moment, clear your head, and logically consider the facts.
You can also step back from your feelings by temporarily distracting yourself in healthy ways, such as:
- Watching funny videos
- Listening to soothing music
- Spending time with your pet
- Taking a walk in nature
Avoid Emotional Minefields
Being emotionally involved with someone can make it especially difficult to turn off your emotions when they hurt you. That’s why you need a more hands-on approach when dealing with hurts from an ex, close friend, or loved one.
Besides accepting your emotions and stepping back to see things from a wider angle, you should protect yourself from constant reminders that can trigger hurtful thoughts and feelings.
Take time to remove as many things as can remind you of the person who hurt you from your home or personal space.
For example, delete their photos from your phone, bring down their framed photos, pack up their stuff, and stash them somewhere you won’t see them (or burn them if you plan to completely cut off all ties with them).
Leaving bits and pieces of reminders in your home, phone, and other places is the same as planting emotional minefields around you; they’re bound to go off once you step on them.
By avoiding emotional minefields, you give yourself enough time to heal without re-opening and rubbing salt into your emotional wounds.
Show Yourself Some Compassion
Being hurt, especially by someone you love, can easily become self-blame. You think of how your actions or inactions may have triggered their behavior, and soon enough, you start feeling not good enough.
However, practicing self-compassion ― treating yourself with empathy ― can help you avoid the downward spiral of self-bashing thoughts.
Instead of pestering yourself with questions like, “Why did he/she treat me this way? What did I do to deserve this? Why did this happen to me?” shift your focus to the efforts you’re making to move on.
Think of how clear-headed you are despite the situation, and pat yourself on the back for finding ways to be stronger, regardless of the hurt you feel.
Understandably, forgiving the person who hurt you can be a tall order. However, treating yourself compassionately and forgiving yourself for whatever part you played in the situation can help you overcome the hurt.
Talk to a Trusted Ally
Sometimes, negative emotions can be too overwhelming to handle all by yourself. This is the right time to talk to someone you can trust.
Of course, being hurt by someone you trust can make it difficult to trust other people with your emotional load. But don’t let that thought hold you back, as it can lead to loneliness, anxiety, depression, and trust issues.
You need all the support you can get from close friends and family.
On the off chance that you can’t find someone trustworthy in your circle, you should seriously consider getting new friends.
In any case, I recommend seeking professional help, especially if you lash out at yourself or others when you feel hurt.
Controlling Your Emotions Benefits Your Overall Well-Being
Knowing how to turn off your emotions and regulate them is the key to being in charge of your mood, decision-making, and connections with the people in your life.
You will get hurt ― that’s a given. And sometimes, it will leave an indelible mark on your heart, especially when you’re hurt by those you genuinely love.
While you can’t control people’s behavior, you can stay on top of your emotions. This allows you to do the things you want when you want and how you want while processing your feelings in a healthy way.