I think I have a better understanding now of why people are so likely to hurt others when they themselves are suffering – it’s not necessarily that they *want* to hurt others (though that’s also sometimes the case), it’s that their own pain so totally fills their perception that they cannot even realize the effect they are having on the other person, and/or just have no emotional capacity left to care about what the other person is feeling. I see now that this was true for me, and I understand for the first time why I deeply hurt some people during college.
The way to short-circuit this cycle of suffering-causing-suffering is, first, to really convince yourself that anyone who hurts you is suffering inside in some way. They may be hiding it very well – they may not even be fully, consciously aware of it, themselves – but it is there. Since this suffering is the real, root cause of that person’s hurting you, the most effective way to stop them from doing it is to end their suffering. The way to begin that is simply to sit down with them, face to face if possible, and compassionately, calmly, acknowledge that they have hurt you, and then just listen. Sometimes, we are too angry to be able to approach that person with compassion. In that case we need to wait, and show compassion to our own anger, so that we can listen compassionately to the one who hurt us. (Read Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh if you would like more information on how to do this.)
Many religions teach some version of “love thy neighbor as thy self”. Read it again: “Love thy neighbor as thy self.” The problem with that is, when there are so many people who don’t love themselves, then “as thy self” isn’t necessarily a useful reference point for how to love others. We can only show love to others if we first love ourselves. As Single Dad Laughing put it, “People who love themselves don’t hurt other people.” The way to stop ourselves from hurting others is to love our selves. Only then do we gain the ability to help other people stop hurting others, by showing them how to love themselves.
There’s a beautiful song called “Let Peace Begin With Me“. The beginning of peace is the end of suffering. Let suffering end with me.