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hurting people

Hurting People Hurt People

Dr. David Hawkins, Director of The Marriage Recovery Center, talks about relationships that become dysfunctional because “hurting people hurt people.” Wounded people don’t know how to “hold” and “contain” their pain and thus express it in hurtful ways, sending the relationship into a downward spiral. He offers some thoughts about creating health in the relationship.

Hurting People Hurt People

In this video, the focus is on the concept of “hurting people hurt people.” It delves into the common human tendency to retaliate and inflict pain on others when we ourselves are hurting. This pattern is particularly damaging in relationships and can lead to a vicious cycle of chaos and emotional distress. There is a big importance of recognizing this destructive pattern and taking decisive steps towards building healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

The Cycle of Hurt: Understanding the Retaliation Response

When we experience emotional wounds in our lives, our natural instinct is often to retaliate and hurt back, whether it’s in response to bullying on the playground or emotional pain in a relationship. This pattern of reacting to hurt with hurt is a common but immature way of dealing with our emotions. However, retaliatory actions only add more chaos to our relationships and prevent genuine growth from occurring.

Escalating Dysfunctional Behaviors

The transcript highlights the ways in which hurt individuals often act out in dysfunctional ways. These behaviors can range from withdrawal and silence to name-calling, creating a rollercoaster-like on-again, off-again pattern in relationships. It becomes evident that continuing down this path is neither sustainable nor healthy for anyone involved.

The Necessity of Intervention: Setting Boundaries for Healthy Relationships

To break the cycle of hurting people hurting others, intervention is crucial. The video stresses that a mere idle threat won’t suffice; instead, it is essential to set firm boundaries. Both parties need to communicate that they are no longer willing to perpetuate the hurtful patterns in their relationship. This intervention may involve the use of the word “threat,” which can prompt the necessary crisis to ignite change.

Embracing the Power of Change

The transcript encourages individuals to recognize their own power in influencing change within a relationship. By taking a stand and setting boundaries, one can assert their willingness to prioritize healthier ways of relating. While it may seem challenging to exert influence over their partner’s behavior, the bond between them can provide the impetus for transformation.

Seeking Professional Help for Healing

In situations where dysfunctional behaviors have become ingrained, seeking outside help becomes crucial. Whether through individual counseling, couples therapy, or a combination of both, the aim is to create an environment conducive to growth and healing. The emphasis is on embracing change and refusing to perpetuate the same harmful patterns.


“Hurting people hurt people,” but this destructive cycle doesn’t have to be perpetual. By recognizing the patterns of retaliation and acknowledging the power of change, individuals can take decisive steps towards healthier relationships. The key lies in setting boundaries, intervening when necessary, and seeking professional help when the wounds run deep. Together, couples can embark on a journey of healing and growth, transforming their relationship into a haven of safety, comfort, and happiness. Ultimately, love should uplift and nurture, not inflict pain.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like?

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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