“If someone throws salt at you, and you don’t have any open wounds, it won’t hurt,” a friend shared, after hearing about a situation that was upsetting for me.

A few days later, my wife, Yvette, got bit on the thumb by one of our cats while trying to get her into the cage. Later that afternoon, she was walking around with her thumb in a glass of water.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Soaking my thumb in salt water,” she said, “I’m hoping it will draw out any infection and reduce the swelling.”

Salt Helps Wounds to Heal

So, it seems that salt has a couple of healing properties; it lets us know that we have a wound, and it can help a wound to heal.

A few days later, as my entire body jumped dozens of times and I yelled out, the doctor said, “Wow, you’re really sensitive. Are you always this sensitive?”

Yes,” I said, “Don’t all people react this way when they’re being electrocuted?” (I was having a nerve conduction test done, which “isn’t electrocution,” my neighbor-the-electrician assured me.)

“No,” he said, “Well, I mean, sure they jump the first time, but then they know what’s coming, and they’re fine.”

“So, let me get this right… most people don’t react to electricity going through their body after the first one?”

Does It Matter if You Know It’s Coming

“Yeah. I mean, look,” he said, and then proceeded to electrocute (shock) the side of his arm. “I know it’s coming, and so it doesn’t bother me.”

Baffled, I asked again, “So, most people don’t experience electrical shocks going through their body with the same intensity that I do?”

“No… you’re definitely an outlier,” he said, wrapping his used gloves around his hand before tossing them into the trash can.

Beyond miffed, I was also struggling with embarrassment. I wanted to tell him about the day I swam five miles in the open water, during a storm, after just learning to swim a year before. Something to get him to stop judging me. But who was judging, really?

Lean Into the Agitation

The next day, still agitated with this interaction, I stopped and asked, “Why does his comment about my sensitivity bother me?” What is the salt, and where is the wound?” Here’s what I found—

The Salt & the Wound

The salt (their words or actions): “You’re definitely an outlier.”

The wound (core belief that hurts): “There’s something wrong with me.”

If I had grown up trusting that the way I experience life is valid, his comments would not have bothered me. They bothered me because they triggered some of my early wounds—

“You’re too much.”

“You’re not enough.”

“You’re over-reacting.”

These are the shame-filled words that well-meaning adults sometimes use to try to control others. Doing so reduces their exposure to painful experiences. Too embarrassed by these kinds of comments, it’s easy to apologize, stuff our emotions, or try to pretend it doesn’t hurt.

But it does hurt sometimes. Life hurts sometimes. People’s comments hurt sometimes.

What Is the Pain Teaching You

We don’t get to control what happened to us in the past, what will happen in the future, or what other people think, say, or do. What we get to do is turn toward ourselves and ask, “Why does this hurt?”

When it burns. When their words or behaviors hurt. When you feel less than, too much, not enough, or ridiculous, see it as an invitation to your healing. Rather than avoid it by chastising the one who threw the salt, lean into the hurt and ask it what it’s trying to teach you.

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister

Misti Burmeister helps companies and leaders motivate and inspire excellence. For nearly 20 years, she has facilitated communication that results in trust, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Make sure your communication is coming across the way you intend, visit https://www.MistiBurmeister.com