Have you ever wondered what is beneath a micro-aggression? Or maybe why a certain small situation might have rubbed you the wrong way? Or even why you continue to analyze that one moment over and over again?

One explanation and term that I’ve used to describe this phenomenon is called a micro-hurt. Essentially, a micro-hurt is the equivalent of an emotional papercut. It is not life threatening. It is an emotional hurt that has often times been minimized or downplayed. However, though they may be seemingly small, don’t be deceived. They have the potential to pave the path for mistrust, disconnection, and misunderstandings in relationships.

When these micro-hurts fester and remain unresolved or repressed, they find a way to express themselves. The Gottman Institute has identified what they refer to as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” which include: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. If we take this micro-hurt concept one step further, it becomes evident that these four horsemen are simply reactions to a buildup of micro-hurts that have gone unaddressed over an extended period of time.

Ways in which one could identify a micro-hurt include feeling a touch annoyed, feeling a bit upset, or feeling slightly anxious, but not being able to clearly identify why. These are indications that a boundary or sensitivity may have been slightly activated, causing a micro-hurt in the relationship. It is important that once you have identified a micro-hurt that it is tended to, in order to prevent a larger hurt or argument from occurring.

Some examples of micro-hurts could include experiencing a micro-aggression, being the butt of a joke that doesn’t land well, seeing a mean comment online about something you care about, or exclusion from an outing with friends. None of these situations are life threatening per say but they do impact the quality of one’s day and possibly over time how a person may view themselves depending on the frequency of these micro-hurts.

Now you have the knowledge and insight to be able to go forth and be more intentional about micro-hurts. Micro-hurts are bound to happen, they happen every week. The important thing is to be upfront about them when they occur and seek the appropriate support when necessary.


Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse | The Gottman Institute. (n.d.). Www.youtube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o30Ps-_8is&ab_channel=TheGottmanInstitute

Image Attribution: <a href=”https://www.vecteezy.com/free-photos”>Free Stock photos by Vecteezy</a>

Share your thoughts and comments.

Our members are talking about this article on Belongly.
Register today and join the conversation.

About the Author: Meredith Adams
Meredith Adams, MS, NCC, Resident in Counseling received her Masters degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelors degree in Animal Science from the University of Florida. She has experience working with clients that are struggling with anxiety, depression, stress management, trauma/PTSD, grief, relationship issues, life transitions, and career changes. Meredith enjoys working with young adults, adults, couples, and seniors. Her therapeutic approach is client-centered with a positive psychology and strengths-based perspective in addition to other evidence-based practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), attachment-based, and mindfulness. She hopes to empower you to find meaning in what you are going through and foster your resilience. Meredith will work with you to incorporate the skills you already possess while developing some new tools to help you build a brighter tomorrow.

Keep Reading

Want more? Here are some other blog posts you might be interested in.