Hurting to Heal







Hurt People; Hurt People.

This phrase has a certain element of truth.

Think about it. If we pay sufficient attention to those who knowingly or unknowingly cause suffering to others, they are likely to be observed as unhappy people in the first place.

And when unhappiness cannot be expressed appropriately and processed healthily, it becomes uncontrollable for such people. With striking out at others as the only coping mechanism or defense mechanism or even protection mechanism available to them, it causes even more unhappiness for others and for themselves.

Such behaviours are even more obvious in cases of abuse, regardless of their nature; verbal, physical, mental, psychological, or sexual. Thus, creating a vicious cycle.

A few of my clients encountered adverse childhood experiences and these misfortunes negatively impacted their lives as teenagers and adults, who may even be in their twilight years. The hidden grudge, misery, and sorrow in their lives may have been unconsciously transferred to others.

I am afraid this observation can be applied to ourselves as well; that is, if we dare to admit it.

An anonymous wise person said, “If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you.

It has been suggested that one of the ways to get ourselves healed and stop the bottomless downward spiral is to “forgive and forget” these tragedies.

The question is, can we really forgive and forget these adversities easily, willingly, and fully? My answer is not an absolute “yes”.

Let me illustrate with the following ex-client of mine.


A Hurt Child

A newly-wed young couple sought my help due to some challenges in their relationship. On the surface, the wife looked healthy, learned, capable, and doing well in a promising career.

However, after major quarrels with her husband over some stressors, she has a tendency to display self-harming behaviours at home. This triggered much fear and anxiety for her husband, as well as creating further conflict and friction in their marriage.

After a couple of sessions with Mrs D alone (name changed for confidentiality), the causes for her outbursts began to unveil.

For starters, she was diagnosed with a childhood skin problem, which led her to be constantly bullied during her formative schooling years. During this time, Mrs D also felt that her best friend in school betrayed her for self-protection. This “best friend” joined Mrs D’s bullies and ganged up to ostracise Mrs D. Mrs D’s school was also unable to completely shield her from being verbally and physically harmed by these bullies for years.

Due to this skin disease, Mrs D’s class attendance and academic performance were affected. To make matters worse, her extended families tend to compare school rankings and standings, education streaming and examination results, non-academic awards and recognitions, leadership titles and responsibilities amongst the cousins, belittling Mrs D.

In spite of these distressing setbacks, Mrs D studied harder and sharpened her leadership and creativity qualities in the educational setting. After graduating from a famous University, she joined a reputable organisation and was placed on an accelerated development track.

Mrs D’s resilience and determination in academia and career pursuits were remarkable and commendable. Although her skin condition was under control in her adulthood, the deep feelings of humiliation, hurt and unjust since childhood haunted her frequently. She had nightmares, flashbacks, and sensations of collapsing at times, which gave her much mental anguish.

When Mrs D was triggered by some tension in relationships, especially related to family and marriage, the emotional turbulences of a hurt child would emerge and engulf her suddenly. This steered her to lose her rationality and senses, causing her to physically hurt herself to cope with the psychological torment, sometimes in front of her husband.


Remember and Recover

I could not help but recognise and acknowledge Mrs D’s willpower and courage to seek professional therapy for her past traumas and the prevailing crisis. Her self-awareness and self-preservation were indeed affirmable and admirable.

During a pivotal therapy session, Mrs D sobbed uncontrollably, stating that she knew she should forgive and forget those people who had hurt her since childhood, but she simply could not do so.

I told Mrs D gently yet assertively that she was not expected to “forgive and forget”. She was stunned.

Instead, I suggested to Mrs D to consider another option instead – “remember and recover”. Such a paradigm shift challenged her morally-nurtured perception and socially-conditioned practice.

To Lewis Smedes, “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.” I am totally aligned with this perspective.

(At that stage of the therapy process, I was mindful that Mrs D’s “moralities”, “beliefs“, “values”, “musts”, “shoulds”, “have-tos”, “ought-tos” etc had unnecessarily built another burden of “moral kidnapping” and self-blaming on herself, while her willingness and readiness to “forgive and forget” were not fully internalised yet. Thus, it was more important for me to focus on her situation as it was.)

I also agree with how Susane Colasanti puts it reflectively, “I want to be the kind of person who can do that. Move on and forgive people and be healthy and happy. It seems like an easy thing to do in my head. But it’s not so easy when you try it in real life.”

Mrs D was psycho-educated that “remember and recover” were even much harder to attain, yet more beneficial and valuable for her own self-growth, self-compassion, and self-love.

To me, “remember and recover” are an advanced stage of self-evolution.

Over a few therapy sessions, Mrs D and I spent the needed time, energy and resources in:

  • exercising bodily relaxation

  • practicing physical grounding

  • upkeeping emotional stability

  • establishing graphical life timelines

  • processing traumatic memory works

  • story reframing

  • “inner child” imagery re-scripting

  • event interpretation

  • exploring perspective-taking

  • strengthening self-compassion and self-love

  • conditioning self-forgiving processes

All these were aimed at what Bree Despain emphasised, “We don’t forgive people because they deserve it. We forgive them because they need it, because we need it.”, with an ultimate therapy goal in mind – a full recovery.

The journey of recovery was not smooth for Mrs D. So, you can imagine my elation when she finally gained an insight that she could be in a better position to move on with her own life after her wounds were healed. At the same time, she accepted that the physical and psychological scars would stay, which serve as a memory, reminding her to treat herself and others, better and nicer.

Healed People; Heal People.

The best revenge is none.

Heal, move on,

and don’t become like those who hurt you.


Pamela Short

Note: As this article is mainly catered to general members of the public, the case conceptualisation, intervention formulation, discussion and terminologies used are deliberately simplified and presented for an easy reading, comprehension and relevancy.



This article was originally published on on 17 May 2022.

In or Out


This is the estimated number of decisions an average adult makes daily. These decisions are related to work, learning, eating, drinking, movements, shopping, dressing, sleeping, play, and so on. Well, that’s what my online research revealed.

For the purpose of this discussion, and factoring differences in culture, society, ethnicity, age, gender, and other demographical traits amongst us, let’s just take 10% of 35,000 decisions made. We are still looking at 3,500 decisions made each day!

Then, out of these 3,500 daily decisions, how many are vital decisions that determine the Quality of Life for ourselves and/or our loved ones?

Vital decisions include those that affect our wealth, employment, environment, physical and mental health, education, recreation and leisure time, social belonging, religious beliefs, safety, security, and freedom.

Most of us would feel stressed and anxious when making important decisions. The main reason is because of the fear of losing out due to the uncertainties that we are facing. Let’s look at these in greater detail below.


Holding On or Letting Go

A seemingly simple decision of whether to stay or leave is not easy during different stages of our lives. And especially so when we are playing the role of Persecutor, Rescuer or Victim.

Questions include:

· Should I stay on with this relationship?

· Should I make this declaration of health status?

· Should I get out of this employment?

· Should I take up this educational course?

· Should I still go on with this investment project?

· Should I establish this business?

· Should I continue staying in this neighbourhood?

· Should I proceed with this medical treatment?

· Should I move out of this country?

· Should I start this…?

· Should I stop this…?

· Should I sustain this…?

Some say, “Be strong enough to hold on if it’s worth it and strong enough to let go if it isn’t.”

While some others say, “Don’t let go too soon, but don’t hold on too long.”

Rumi, a Persian poet, summed it right that “Life is a balance between holding on and letting go.”

These are wise words no doubt. But the question is “How to decide whether to persist or quit?”

Some have suggested these techniques and frameworks to decision making:

· Limit our options for a faster process

· Simply listen to our gut and feelings

· Do a limited-time trial

· Do a thought experiment

· Review the lessons and behavioural patterns of the past experiences

· Conduct a Benefit and Cost Analysis

· Conduct a Win and Loss Analysis

· Follow through the various Decision-Making Models of great leaders

These are indeed good suggestions. The uniqueness, circumstances, and encounters in each of us demand some kind of personalisation when we engage these recommendations. Again, this may not be an easy task for some of us, especially if we want to be the last man standing.


Back to Basics

So, what should we do? Stay on or get out?

There is one approach that we can consider taking when making a vital decision. My suggestion is to stay on for a while, and have a professional therapist to be involved in the process.

The role of a professional therapist is not to make decisions for their clients. Instead, the therapist’s role is to:

· be an extra pair of eyes and ears

· walk along with them on the challenging journey

· direct them to greater self-understanding

· help them to be more self-aware in terms of body, mind, and soul

· facilitate them to uncover the resources in them and available to them

· explore, analyse and evaluate what options they could consider

· lead and guide them in making the most appropriate and suitable decisions for particular moments for themselves and/or their loved ones

During my therapy sessions with my clients, I avoid the words “best decision” as this may not exist in the first place. This is because the “best” is always changing from time to time, based on our experiences, situations, and conditions which are always unique, dynamic, and fluid.

So, the “best” we could do is to assess and examine some possible factors, such as:

· What are the ultimate purposes of this particular decision?

· What is the most desirable bigger picture?

· Where is the exact direction to head towards?

· What is the possible impact and outcomes in the longer term?

· Who will be affected and involved besides us, and how much?

· What are the trade-offs if the decision made is not the most appropriate one?

· What are the possible internal and external resources available in the future?

Also, the focus in guiding my clients is on the process of making a decision, rather than what is the decision? This includes leading my clients back to the drawing board to look at their influences and conditioning through the deep-rooted beliefs, values, cultural practices, family and societal expectations and conventions, etc.

For many, it is easier to avoid making a choice and stick with the status quo, perhaps even continue adopting a Persecutor, Rescuer or Victim mentality. However, it is not about being brave or weak in such a situation. It is truly about reaching out for help when we have to make a vital decision. During such troubling moments, can we give ourselves one more chance to take a step forward? This time, with an objective peer walking along with us on the way?

The way out is in.

Thich Nhat Hanh



This article is written based on Krish Phua’s greatest aspiration to be a mind healer, facilitating his clients to cultivate and explore “Inside Mind Insights” for improving their Wellness, Wholeness and Wiseness.

This article was originally published on on 5 Dec 2021.