Inside hurts and outside hurts

I’ve just been having a conversation, via comments, with a reader about “inside hurts” and “outside hurts”. To me, an inside hurt is something I’ve said, done or thought which has or is causing me pain – in other words, it has an internal trigger. Perhaps “internal hurt” would be a better term. Therefore, an “external hurt” is in response to an external trigger – someone else’s words, for example, or something I’ve seen.

This is how these different “hurts” appear to someone with a strong sense of self:

Healthy sense of self

If, however, our sense of self has been eroded or damaged, then external hurts affect us far more deeply; we experience them as internal hurts, thus:

Unhealthy sense of self

In this view, external hurts affect us more deeply because they impinge directly on our selves (and yes, that space was deliberate).

For me, a valuable tool has been to reflect on distancing myself from the triggers of external hurts. The first step for me was to understand the difference between the type of triggers. . Naturally, the next step is to see external triggers as just that – external to my self (and, again, that space was deliberate). I came up with this visualization exercise last weekend which has really helped me in doing this.

Do the above pictures make sense to you, or would you have sketched something different? Do you experience or respond to internal and external hurts differently?


Filed under Out

28 responses to “Inside hurts and outside hurts

  1. That makes perfect sense to me.


  2. hellokalykitty

    It makes perfect sense.


  3. I like the visuals. Boundaries can be such tricky things, can’t they?


  4. I’ve never really thought about it like this. I like your diagram and I think it applies to me very much.


    • Great! Sorry, I meant “great” that it was a new way of thinking for you, obviously 🙂 I’d be really interested in any new thoughts which it inspires in you. We learn through mutual support, right?


  5. Can external hurt include other people’s situations that you somehow personalise?


    • Um … I’ve been thinking about this. Of course, it’s up to you to decide, but for me, I think I’d classify that as an “internal hurt” because the reason you’re hurting is not because of your own situation, but theirs … does that make sense? But, if you’re like me and tend to internalize external hurts, this would definitely fit into that category.


      • Hmm. All this thinking! I see it could be internal because it’s how your internal self thinks about an external event or situation. It stems from self, triggered by external event.


      • P.S sorry for the random question.


      • Random questions are always welcome 🙂

        There are some people who argue there’s no such thing as an external trigger – all our hurts arise because of our internal reactions to things. I think there’s a helpful distinction to be made between internal and external triggers, though. External ones are easier to think about objectively, for a start! And that makes them easier to deal with constructively.


  6. Jay

    I really struggle with distinguishing between internal and external hurts sometimes because I find myself taking responsibility for others’ emotions and reactions. And I’ve battled to set down boundaries in the past, which leads to a kind of blurring of my life with other lives… Put it down to low self-esteem and being made to feel as a child that I must have everything under control and bend to satisfy authoritarian demands. In other words, I exist to obey, placate and follow. Hope some of this makes sense. Still trying to understand it myself! Thanks for the post.


    • It makes sense. I hear you. I have really screwy relationships with authority figures these days … sort of extreme compliance or rebellion; it’s easy to see why, looking at my life over the last 10 years, but it’s a pain in the butt sometimes, because it makes being assertive (as opposed to aggressive or passive) harder! I’m working on it, though.


  7. Essentially, as you say, if you have a strong sense of self, and self management, the only external hurts that should cause a reaction are physical and result from our automatic reflexes. Our thoughts and emotions are all our own and and we choose how to react to external stimuli. As the great Eleanor Roosevelt once said ‘No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent’.


  8. They make sense to me. The GG said to my yesterday “Why do you have to be so negative”? My reply was “Do you think I like being like this”? and my day went downhill from there. The outside hurt became internalised as I beat up on myself.


  9. I’ve been wanting to reply on this post before but somehow I couldn’t find the words or was not in the right mindset and needed some time to think about it I guess. Your post makes a lot of sense though I see it a bit differently, but I guess it can be different from person to person and there is no ‘ right or wrong’ 🙂

    I drew the way I think it looks like for me, but I have no idea how to place that picture in a reply …I’m not sure it’s possible. I will try to describe what I drew.

    First I was thinking about what inside hurt and outside hurt are for me. Somehow I came up with different types and levels of these things and they are a bit connected and not completely separated.
    Also the causes; Inside and outside hurts caused by -myself, -other persons (this can be divided more, but I try to keep it a bit basic and to the point here before I end up blurting out in a long bookwork), – happenings – what I would call here the ‘ Weltschmerz’ and -the physical inside hurt, though maybe not directly relevant related here but it is a form of it for me depends on how you look at it

    The external hurt can contain a happening or feeling or anyway, it touches something inside of me that when it affects me one way or another, crosses some kind of barrier what makes it inside hurt. I’m not sure about this ‘ area’ and where exactly the lines are, it is interesting for me where inside hurt becomes outside hurt and outside hurt becomes inside hurt in a way since it has a bit of a vague area.

    About responding to those things, I guess for me it would be impossible to give a clear answer on that since it depends on the subject and changes in time – though sometimes changes to how it has been before, but it’s not something that is simply the same.

    Anyway, I made this drawing: In the middle, the center, is the heart. The heart of things, which represents the person. Inside of the heart is ” the black hole’ and that heart (and with it the black hole) is surrounded by a circle, which I called ‘ Circle of protect/Prison walls’ . This area represents the outside – the external hurt. In this area a lot is happening. There are going these arrows of attack towards the heart and sometimes they get through the circle of protect/prison walls and sometimes not. I am not sure if this makes sense and if I’m not drifting of too far, and I wish I could put the picture in here somehow since it is more clear then my i-didnt-count-them how many words, but I’ll guess this has to do for now.


    • I’m so pleased you found the words and I really liked the picture you “drew”. I think I understand what you meant, and I could relate to it. I love it when these conversations flesh out our understanding! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, and in such detail – I really appreciate it. “It’s all about the mutual support”, or in this case the mutual learning, right? XX


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