2 min read

Why are you hurting me?

Do we suffer more when we don't understand why we're being hurt?
Darsheel Safari crying from Taare Zameen Par
Darsheel Safari from Taare Zameen Par

As an introvert, my room is a safe haven from the outside world. When someone imposes their presence here or even asks to share the space with me, circuits in my brain go haywire.

"Why can't I just have my space?" my brain screams, "Is it so hard for other people to understand this?" The rational brain tries to calm an emotional heart: "Of course, they don't want to hurt you. They probably don't even know it's hurting you."

I try to focus on the rational explanation, but sometimes my heart just wants to dwell on the hurt it feels, and any attempt to dismiss it fails. When we complain like that, philosopher Simone Weil posited, we're really asking a very innocent question. It's the question a child who falls and starts crying asks, which is "Why am I being hurt?"

There is a particular kind of hurt where your heart just screams, "Why?" You don't understand why you're being hurt when you don't deserve it, and that's more hurtful than the pain itself.

I'll tell you an embarrassing story that my mom loves telling other people: When I was a child, apparently my dad bought me a Nutty Roll ice cream and while it was in my hand, he took a big bite out of it. From her recollection, I started crying and did not stop for hours. They tried everything, even bought me a new one, but I just wouldn't stop. The issue wasn't the quantity of ice cream. It was 'I don't understand why you would hurt me like that', and no number of new Nutty Rolls could answer that question.

Weil calls this a state of affliction, which is different from ordinary suffering. At the heart of affliction, Weil says, is the question, "Why am I being hurt?" to which one cannot find an answer.

In this essay, Agnes Callard explores both the personal and political aspects of affliction, from her husband asking "Why am I so lonely?" to protestors asking "Why is there so much injustice?" This piece will help you see complaint and suffering in a whole new light, and might even make you a better listener.

Why Am I Being Hurt? | The Point Magazine
What is complaint, and what would it mean to see it as “infallible”?