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Words from a loved one that hurt deep

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi all,

In my 20's I took off from society with a half planned escape from the world. I did that 5 times before I figured out it couldnt work. Why? In a nutshell- people...or rather my ultra sensitivity.. likely both.

It's the same old story from then till my now 65 years, one reaches out to give love and down the track words are said that cut through all my defences. I used to allow others to throw their stones, take the damage and retreat. Then in later years I've learned that fighting back with an immediate response works better, it neutralises the attack. That's ok for neighbours, acquaintances and people you do business with, after all why take their aggression? However, close loved ones are different.

To keep this general rather than select a few personal cases of mine- do you get extremely affected emotionally if you receive nasty words from a loved one? What is your reaction?

Actually I will give you one example. In 1997 I built my own house while working shift work. It was way above my physical capability but I finished it. Last year I built my recent house at 64 years of age and just finished it. including landscaping. I've had a small altercation from a reasonably close relative that saw me in the supermarket. As I knew I was going out that morning I changed into what I thought was better clothes but didnt realise there was some paint on my shirt which was hidden by my pot belly lol. The lady said "hey big fella, why dont you get into something more presentable when you go out, bit of laziness creeping in there". I looked at where she pointed- it was the paint blotches, 3 in total about fingernail size. I joked it off.

When my wife and I returned home it hit me, certainly a trigger and its been a struggle today. In true form I'll get over it in a few hours.

I'm aware my mothers dominance when I was a child right up to 10 years ago when I stopped seeing her, plays a major part in being triggered. I've dwelled on it and that word "laziness" is what grates me. It is exactly what I'm not.

Does anyone have ideas on how to battle this? Of course, I've tried many things over 50 years.


6 Replies 6

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Tony,

I don’t have any suggestions, but I also suffer deeply when on the receiving end of other people’s barbs. Having suffered with an emotionally abusive parent as a child and then a long-term relationship with someone I loved but who was also abusive towards me, I can’t help but wonder if there is something in me, a weakness, that causes me to be a target. For example, I have recently started playing sport of an evening after a long hiatus. The thing is, I know I’m one of the better players there, most of the feedback has been as such and I was always in first grade when younger. But every now and then I strike a teammate who is quite critical of me during the game and barks orders at me. I look around and they only dare do it to me. I pretend I haven’t heard it, but I usually end up quitting the team shortly after. Loved ones, I’m sad to say, that I’ve come to expect that they will turn on me, that has been my experience anyway and so that feels more predictable to me.
I think in this case you were (rightly) annoyed at the insinuation that you were somehow lazy. Particularly since you had paint on your shirt because you had just built a house!! It’s also a difficult situation because you don’t want to be seen as not being able to take a joke but then the insinuation goes uncorrected. I used to have the same issue with my ex-partner. As part of his gaslighting/manipulation, he used to make out to his family that I was high-maintenance and a princess in front of them. Which also couldn’t be further from the truth as I have always been a tomboy at heart. But I had two choices, either laugh along with the joke and show I’m a good sport but that impression then goes uncorrected. Or correct it and that makes me look like I can’t take a joke and potentially like someone who is high maintenance. It’s a lose-lose situation. In truth, I think that some people are just jerks and go through life making passive-aggressive comments and we would probably be better to pay them no mind or call them on it! I have recently called out a relative over their poor behaviour and hurtful words and I am going to make more of a habit of it in future. It seems that these people don’t really censor themselves so I’m tired of biting my tongue and not standing up for myself. Ironically, I find it a bit easier to do with close family than with strangers, I’m not sure why they is, I suppose it’s because I’m more comfortable with them.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor
Hey Tony,
You know, I read different things in your triggering comment "hey big fella, why don't you get into something more presentable when you go out, bit of laziness creeping in there".
To me, it sounds like a satirical dig at your proficiency - constructing your own home must reflect poorly on those that have not, inferring their own laziness perhaps? Also, paint on your shirt in such miniscule amount would suggest an eye of scrutiny was cast as the primary focus instead of toward the person within - what does that tell you?
Meeting people unexpectedly can lead to all sorts of ridiculous comments drawn from threads of information and just trying to sound jovial/lighthearted in some form of one-upmanship - saying anything to avoid being awkward.
Our memories and insecurities stay with us for a long time, but that doesn't mean they are telegraphed to all and sundry. Associating words to a ledger of experiences can be a trap unless we can maintain objectivity in finding the intention behind the comments.

Hi Tranzcrybe

An old man once told me "jealousy is the root of all evil and...more common than we know"

You might be onto something there.

Hi Juliet

I do agree, the tall poppy to some needs to be cut down. Isn't it sad how some less able players see better players as opposition instead of embraced...not without that jealousy factor I'd imagine.

As you mentioned, you often end up leaving a club due to such aggression.

I've built two caravans. A man 13 years older than me I've known for 50 years visited me when the latest caravan was at frame stage. He's a retired house builder. He walked around the frame in an authoritarian manner, hands behind his back. "Have you tested it on the freeway to see if it sways"? Me- "it's over 3 metres long, it has to be registered to be on the road". Him "have you had it engineered"? Me- "I don't need to as long as it meets Australian Standards...by the way...how many caravans have you built".

None! Defence rests!

The effect of these attitudes hurts me deeply. Why are we other peoples punching bags? I have a gut feeling our demeanour encourages it or rather, portrays that we look up to others opinions, rather than displaying some arrogance. Or maybe they know how to hurt us? They know we're sensitive.

20% of the world's population is HSP highly sensitive persons. A good topic to google

But I too was a child of a mother that manipulated and bullied.

I've met the opposite of me. 42 years ago I was a warder in a notorious city jail. I met some prisoners that didn't respect other people, didn't care if they harmed them and created conflicts. I'd rather be a HSP, at least I know I'm caring and kind.


Hi Tony,

It is a pleasure to read this topic as someone who also struggles against the small-minded and callous nature of some people. I once read a quote along the lines of “in a world full of critics, be an encourager”, and I try and live by that. In the case of your builder friend, I think it is probably driven by a need to insert himself in the situation and assert his authority over all matters related to building. Despite the fact that, as you point out, he has built zero caravans in the past. Rather than be impressed by it and commend you on your work, he has chosen to try and make it all about him.
I saw this first hand with my ex-partner and his sister, both abusive and manipulative but incredibly insecure people. We would go out for drinks to a pub and they would sit there and systematically go around the room and tear down anyone who looked young and attractive and as if they were having a good time. For some reason, they saw this as a particular affront and worthy of their vitriole, where I just saw a group of young people having a good time.
The reality is that some people use others to make them feel better about themselves, more superior or more dominant. Perhaps attach is the best form of defense, I don’t know? The way I see it, there will always be someone better than you, brighter than you, richer than you, I am secure enough within myself to know that. But not everyone is, and I think that’s where the problem stems from. But it’s a bitter pill to swallow when I am being yelled at during a game and I look over at the person doing it and they have just missed a ball or made a mistake. Still I say nothing but maybe I should start doing it back to them and see how they like it? Teach them that I’m not such an easy mark. Perhaps some people consider attack to be the best form of defense? I don’t know, it’s a shame because I find myself withdrawing from people as a result and the idea of a reclusive life somewhere on a farm is sounding more and more appealing. But it’s a shame when all I want is to be surrounded by emotionally mature people who consider other people’s feelings.


I had a loved one tell me my tshirt was embarrassing just funny maths slogan, to take it off or I was not come to a family picnic. This person has also told me I embarrass him in front of their friends.

I just cry and feel angry . I know I am not a classy dresser but my clothes are clean. When you feel someone who is supposed to love you is disappointed in you snd feels the need to be critical it triggers you.

Hi Juliet

These challenges with people can make hibernation attractive. But it isn't practical. An old friend once told me "some people move interstate to escape their goes whereas the next town does the same while not losing your roots".

To a similar extent a nosy or bossy friend can be eliminated by ceasing to acknowledge, to give them the contempt they deserve.

Or retaliate as you eluded by giving them some of their own "medicine "

All of these responses are problematic. My 1st wife used silence as a weapon. I've since learned it's a form of narcissism.

Revenge tends to lower you to their level. Or it can escalate and have greater consequences.

As one workmate told me "what happened to good old adult discussion? I'm guilty of retaliating rather than discussing. Reactions are indeed just that, an immediate response. It comes with our DNA. It might also be part of immature emotional maturity something I'm aware of in myself.

There is one other reaction I've been working on for years now. It's covered in the thread

Wit- the only answer for torment.

Worth a read, it shows how you can turn around passive aggressive words, swiftly. Eg when my builder friend was questioning my caravan building expertise..."so did you test the caravan you built, on the freeway"(knowing he hadn't built one). Another act is to slip away and put the kettle on. "I looked around and you weren't there" he'd say. "Well, l left school a long time ago".

Yes it's sarcasm but you have to hit home some how.

"But it’s a shame when all I want is to be surrounded by emotionally mature people who consider other people’s feelings."

Sadly, people that are considerate are few now. It's become a more selfish world.

In another thread

Fortress of survival

I speak of a revised method of allowing people into my life. Rather than fully trusting them the metaphor is like a castle with many rooms that the new friend must enter before acceptance. It's a fluid world, friends come and go. And you control the trap door.