Over the next few months, on this website, we will be looking at the five Reiki Principles, individually, each in turn, and first off we will start with:
Just for today, I will be kind to all living things
Believe it or not, this was one of the Reiki Principles that I struggled with the most. The idea that I should be kind to those who were not kind to me was a concept that was difficult for me to grasp. I also struggled to understand the answer to the question, why do hurt people hurt people? I was afraid to open up my heart to the injustice going on in the world for fear that by being kind and showing love to those in pain I would be a doormat for other people to walk all over. What I didn’t realise was that by acting out in anger I was enabling those very people who were hurting me to gain control over me. Essentially, I was giving my power away to them.
Being an empathic person as a child who absorbed negative energy like a sponge, this was very much my experience in the past and it followed me into adulthood by manifesting in relationships through the form of co-dependent behavior. So, let me be very clear here to avoid my words of advice and experience being taken out of context. Being kind to those who harm us under no circumstances’ means that we need to tolerate abusive behavior or people in our lives. Certainly, this Reiki Precept tells us that we must be kind to all living things including those that hurt us, but first and foremost we must include ourselves in that statement. Are we not also a part of the universe’s creation?
It is not uncommon that the journey of understanding true unconditional love begins with ourselves. Therefore, the undertaking of implementing this precept into our daily lives must begin by cultivating a place of safety within our own hearts. A good analogy for unconditional love that I like comes from one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Teal Swan. Imagine that there is a table full of cups sitting side by side and that the liquid poured into them is love. The rule is that you can only fill up your own cup with this liquid love not that of another person. It stands to reason that if love continues to flow into your cup then eventually it will reach a point when it is full, and only then can it overflow into the surrounding others. Unconditional love is exactly like this, we must fill up our own cup first.
In order to understand this topic further, let us take a look behind the psychology of why we may choose to cause harm to others subconsciously or consciously. Why do hurt people hurt people? There are four main reasons for this. In this blog I will cover the first two of these in detail and hopefully it will help you to gain some insight on how to approach difficult people. Let us look at each of these in turn.
1) A desire to gain human connection and understanding through a craving for other people to empathize with our pain
One of the important things to remember when someone else is behaving hurtfully towards you and you find it confusing or difficult to understand is that other people will subconsciously set you up to feel how they have been made to feel in the past. If you are struggling to understand why a person is acting in a certain way, then look at how they are making you feel. Chances are that they have been made to feel this way either by you or by someone else in their past. This can be a confusing concept to get your head around initially. However, when other people sympathize with our painful experiences then it creates a deep connection and belonging with the world around us. We crave this understanding from others because it creates a sense of safety within ourselves and within our external environment. If we cannot create this safety and connection consciously then we will seek to create it subconsciously through the manipulation of setting other people up to experience the traumatic events of our past.
Often with this type of behavior it is very unconscious, therefore any attempt to confront the issue directly in the wrong way will likely cause some kind of backlash. If someone is behaving in this way, then it is doubtful that they will accept the truth about the psychology behind their behavior when confronted with it in an equally aggressive manner. However, we can approach it with caution and empathy in the correct way. For example, “I am feeling X from you. Is it safe to assume that I or another person has made you feel this way in the past?” If the answer is yes, then you can use your own experience to empathize with their pain and validate their emotions. If you feel that you have not behaved in the way that they are accusing you then that’s okay, you can still empathize and validate their feelings without needing to take it personally or agree to take it on board as the truth about you. Many times, all that another person needs from you is to listen and attempt to understand. This is often all you need to do to defuse the situation completely. When emotions get involved it can be tricky and make the issue seem bigger than it actually is. If we approach others with an intention of understanding and patience, then big problems become small.
Always remember that as confusing as it may seem, when another person attempts to hurt you then they have a positive intention for lashing out. That positive intention in the majority of cases is to subconsciously create a sense of empathy and connection from the other person by inflicting the same hurt onto another that was done to them. They may not know how to create this consciously or even understand that is what they are in fact seeking. However, if we can attempt to understand their behavior then we can meet their needs directly, thus diffusing their need to manipulate us. Another one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Matt Khan, has an affirmation that states, “No matter how deeply I hurt, I will never hurt another, and may it begin with me”. This is a good phrase to remember and repeat when caught in a situation where you feel like lashing out. It helps to hold this perspective, that even if we do not know how to handle hurtful injustice thrown our way, we refuse to contribute to it and add fuel to fire. By doing so we can begin to implement one of these Reiki Principles into our daily lives, regardless of our circumstances’.
2) A desire to protect those that we love or to protect ourselves from injustice, projected anger, or hurt from other people
I understand the psychology behind this one particularly well… For years, I attempted to stand up to the injustice and projected anger that I saw going on around me. It was very much a part of my childhood programming and trauma which followed me into adulthood. Allow me to elaborate briefly in regard to that because it is relevant. The full comprehension of it came to me during a trip I took to London.
I was traveling back on the overnight bus from London to Glasgow and halfway there a man got on who had been drinking. From my perception at the time he seemed to be hassling some other women on the bus inappropriately. When I look back now the situation seems quite trivial but at the time I was extremely triggered by the event. My immediate instinct was to stand up and challenge the guy head on about his behavior. I understood that this was an opportunity to look at what was going on for me emotionally, so I decided to remain silent and not react.
Instead, I chose to delve deeper into the aspect of me that felt so threatened by this man’s behavior. I wanted to understand my emotional reaction better. It was not me that was being threatened here after all, and I was taking on responsibility for the safety of people that I didn’t even know. These other women were perhaps capable of defending themselves without my assistance. There were also staff on the bus who’s job it was to look after the passengers. I therefore reassured and reminded myself of all of these points and realized that I had the opportunity here to take a bird’s eye view, so to speak, of what was going on for me emotionally.
I looked at this aspect of my personality and tried to understand why it was so important to me that I stand up to this man with that kind of aggression. When I felt into it the answer that I got was “because it is your job to protect everyone else on the bus. If he is going to hit anyone then it needs to be you. If he is going to verbally abuse anyone then it needs to be you”. For many years, I had been acutely aware of this pattern within myself and I understood largely where it came from but what I hadn’t been aware of was how much it still impacted every aspect of my daily life.
There was a lot of anger projected onto others in my family growing up. This was very normal and not an uncommon occurrence. I witnessed first-hand, the suffering that this caused to both of my sisters, not to mention myself. Being empathic I felt the pain of it in my body. Their pain was my pain. Being still a child, it was often a situation that I felt powerless over. I couldn’t stop that anger from being projected onto them. The only control that I possibly had over that situation, was to manipulate how that anger was going to play out, and to direct it towards myself. By doing so I could protect my siblings from harm.
Long story short, what I was eventually able to see was that my reaction to this behavior was a mirror image for the aggression outside of me. I may have been choosing to approach this sense of injustice from a more righteous standpoint, but I was playing out the same behavior as my aggressor and I had done so in other areas of my life too. What’s more I was hurting those around me by attempting to help them. Instead of standing back and remaining silent, allowing the fire to burn itself out, I was choosing to add fuel to it to make it burn even more violently.
Lastly and perhaps the most painful was that I had to look at how much damage I had done to my inner child over the years by reacting to things in this way. I work with children and one of the things that I attempt to teach them is self-preservation. Often in a childcare setting, arguments can break out and one child will come to an adult to “tell” on the other child. Whenever this happens, I attempt to speak to the child that is hurting the other and ask them to stop behaving in that way. I explain why they are hurting their friend by acting that way.
If this behavior continues however and the child that is being hurt comes to me two times, three times with the same story then I will attempt to teach them about self-preservation. I will tell the child that is being hurt, “You do not have to stay in a situation with another person that is causing you harm. If someone else hurts you and you ask them to stop but they ignore you and keep doing it, it then becomes your responsibility to walk away from that person and not be friends with them anymore. If they prove that they have changed and that they are sorry for their behavior, then you may go back and talk to them again. You do not need to stay anywhere with another person that is hurting you, regardless of who that person is”. I will explain this in an age appropriate way.
I saw that my attempts to protect other people from injustice and projected anger had been my abuse against my own inner child for years. I needed to take my own advice and walk away. My responsibility and priority ought to be caring for myself and my own safety first. Not that of others. Given my experience I do not believe this to be selfish. In fact, quite the opposite.
I don’t know about you, but remaining silent in the face of injustice is one of the more painful and difficult challenges that I have ever had to face. I still struggle with it a lot today. It doesn’t come easy to me. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense to the ego, reacting in this way. We want to fight to protect that which we love and to challenge hatred head on. By doing so we feel that at least we are doing SOMETHING. Choosing to walk away and do nothing can seem like the weaker option but this is not true. It is in fact the stronger and more powerful. By remaining silent and walking away, not only are we healing ourselves by protecting our inner child from negativity, but we are enabling the attacking party to heal as well. We comprehend on a deep level that a person who lashes out at another is a person in pain and we are refusing to contribute to that by attacking back with anger from a more righteous standpoint.
These are just a few answers to the question, why do hurt people hurt people? Other reasons include:
3) We choose to consciously or unconsciously manipulate other people into meeting our needs because we are afraid to ask another person directly
For example a person who participates in what we would call “attention seeking behavior” because they have been taught that to ask for attention from other people is wrong. Or a partner who cheats on his wife because there are serious issues in the relationship that he is too afraid to address directly with authenticity.
4) We are taught in our childhood upbringing, or in adulthood through societies conditioning, that a particular behavior is the correct way to behave
An example of this might be that we consume meat and animal products which causes great suffering to the animals as a result. Yet in the majority of households nobody would even think to consider the pain that results from this behavior, never mind to examine the morals of our eating habits. Another example might be differing perceptions on parenting techniques. For instance a child whose emotions are invalidated because the parent is attempting to “toughen them up”.
In many instances it is likely that we may cause harm to other people without intending to. We can only do our best and forgive ourselves when we do not meet the mark. Often our own expectations of ourselves can be extremely high. It is also possible that another person’s truth may not be our own truth. In these types of scenarios we can validate the other person’s truth without needing to agree and abandon our own perspective entirely.
Thank you for reading my blog regarding “Just for today I will be kind to all living things”. I will be writing about a different one of the Reiki Principles every week until all five have been covered. So check back here regularly for more posts on the various precepts. If you have any more insights on this specific topic that I have missed, regarding why do hurt people hurt people, then please do leave them in the comments section below. If you have enjoyed this article then let me know as I would love to hear from you.
Take good care of yourself and stay out of trouble 😉