04 June 2007

I feel your hurt

Over the last few years I've heard such sentiments as "I feel your hurt" more and more frequently.

Occasionally I've heard it augmented, as in "I feel your hurt and anger."

Whenever someone has said it to me, I hadn't felt any anger until I heard that sentiment uttered.

Why does it anger me?

Well for one thing, why "hurt"? To "hurt" is to deliberately inflict pain on another living creature. What they feel is not "hurt", but "pain". In that context "hurt" is a weasel word.

But the second reason is more important. Saying "I feel your hurt" strikes me as patronising, condescending, and above all dishonest.

If someone has had an unpleasant experience -- an illness, an accident, death of a close friend or relative, in the past people would say something like "I'm sorry to hear about your misfortune."

My sorrow, your misfortune.

But saying "I feel your hurt" is dishonest and hypocritical. If I break my leg, you do not feel my pain. If you break your leg at the same time, you might feel pain, but you feel your pain, not mine.

It's like the headmaster caning the school boy and saying "This hurts me as much as it hurts you."

I'm wondering if this kind of thing isn't media-driven.

When there are reports in the media about unpleasant incidents in schools, for example, as when one pupil shoots another or stabs another with scissors or something, there is almost invariably something to the effect that other pupils or students are receiving trauma counselling. But the one who has suffered the greatest trauma is the one who has been shot or stabbed or whatever, not the vicarious hurt feelers.

So I wonder if the media are primed to ask whether the non-victims are receiving counselling because they don't know what else to ask, and so the school authorities feel they have to say something because it seems that they are expected to.

Perhaps it is because in the West psychotherapy is the one religion that it is taboo to criticise.


Sally said...

Thank you!!!- I can say no more....

The Scylding said...

Right on there - Steve. Having been a victim myself I heartily concur. "I feel your pain" is one of those nonsensical phrases which people utter when they feel constrained to say something, and want to soothe their consciences. There is a whole host of other such phrases - some in a very "Christianeze" context like - "I plead the blood over this car", or "This car is protected by Psalm 91" or "May the Holy Spirit be your roadmap"...

Sometimes people utter nonsense and even heresy in the effort to sound compassionate or "spiritual".

Steve Hayes said...

Perhaps I can add a couple of things.

"Crime victim counselling". When I was working at Unisa I used to edit criminology study guides. One of them was on "victomology" (I kid you not!) And a lot of it was about crime victim counselling.

A couple of years ago people broke into my house while i was out. I phoned the police. While I was waiting for them to arrive and making a list of stuff that had meen stolen, they stole my car. I saw it driving up the road, I phoned the police again. They arrived within five minutes and I had two policemen and two from the security company sitting in the house taking statements, and I was increasingly impatient and angry, because all the time the car was getting further and further away. They probably passed it on the way to me. I don't want victim counselling, I want my stuff back.

Instead of spending money on "victim counselling" they should put it in a "crime victims compensation fund", to pay the medical expenses of victims of violent crimes. Counselling does nothing to pay the doctor's bills.

philjohnson said...

I have perhaps inadvertently done this in reply to your post on evangelicals and Orthodoxy (before reading this entry). The note I made is one where I hoped to convey that I express empathy with your view on what evangelicals have written about Orthodoxy.

In my case I do not agree with the stance taken in the document. In that respect I would stand alongside you in agreement that the document has deficiencies and serious shortcomings.

Steve Hayes said...


I suppose that illustrates what I was getting at -- I felt no pain. I simply pointed out that as a statement of the differences between Orthodox and Evangelicals, it was inadequate.

I wasn't saying what I said because of pain or anger, but rather saying that the report couldn't be relied upon, and so a better statement is needed.

I'll say more in response to myour other comment.


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