Learning Not to Hurt

An adult autistic expressed puzzlement about the way some people react with anger when told they have hurt one's feelings. I responded:

I was thinking about this post last night, hours after first reading it, trying to figure out how such a dynamic might evolve. All I could come up with was that the other party might be feeling along these lines:

"By telling me that I am hurting you, you are telling me that I am a bad person, the kind of (bad) person who would do something that hurt you. It hurts my feelings to know that you think I am a bad person. If you believed I was a good person, you would assume that what I do is well-intentioned, and therefore you would take responsibility for whatever unintended side-effects occur. But you do not take that responsibility. Instead, you blame me for your bad feelings and try to make me responsible for them by defining me as a bad person because if you weren't thinking of me as a bad person, you wouldn't tell me I was hurting you."

No logic there at all, and it also violates several fairly obvious truths about human operating systems. But I think I can imagine someone (especially perhaps an NT who lives inside a cloud of mutually reinforcing relationships based on emotional content) getting his/her mind wound up into such a self-justifying mess in order to avoid having to examine his/her own behavior.

The "escape hatch" outlined above has some kinship, I think, with the social habit of blaming "unrest" on those who resist injustice rather than on those who have institutionalized the injustice into a nice, quiet, acceptable form of oppression.

[Further in the same thread, I had occasion to remark that if we don't tell one another when we've done something hurtful or even wrong, how can any of us be expected to learn from our mistakes. Sometimes being "nice" -- e.g., hiding one's hurt rather than expressing it -- condemns a friend to ignorance about something important. The alternative is to provide an opportunity for learning and growth by being willing to address the problem openly.]