Do You Run From Emotional Pain or Sit with It?
How Do You Deal with Emotional Pain?
The natural, subconscious human response to physical pain is to flee from the source of the pain. If you touch a hot stove you don’t have to think about what to do next; your body instinctively jerks away from the heat and removes itself from harm or danger.
Much like wanting to avoid negative physical pain, over time we can also learn to avoid our emotional pain, because we are afraid of it and we feel it will harm us. Our avoidance is often instinctual and tends to be subconscious. To soothe our emotional pain, we choose coping mechanisms like busying ourselves, eating, shopping, or any of the other million things we can choose from.
Unfortunately, this evasion has negative consequences.
And it’s not just the extra pounds you may put on, the dent in your savings account or the pure exhaustion from overworking yourself. The ironic thing is, when we run from our pain, it just follows us until it catches up, and then it hits us again, spiraling us into a deeper cycle of pain.
Think about all the good reasons to endure physical pain. When it’s beneficial to us, we can willingly sustain quite a bit of pain: lifting weights for physical fitness, birthing a child, running a marathon, etc…
What about sitting with emotional pain?
In answering this question it should be noted that there is an extremely unproductive way of “sitting with pain.” If you find yourself in more pain after attempting to face your pain, you might just be inflicting more harm by beating yourself up or over-analyzing the circumstances.
Instead, when you have a moment to consciously “be” with your pain, or you notice that you’ve been emotionally triggered by something, start by taking a few deep inhales and exhales.
Focusing on the breath is an excellent way of bringing yourself into the present moment and calming the nervous system.
Next, without any judgment attached, observe the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Simply let what comes up, come up. And then let it pass. This step takes a lot of practice because we are so programmed to believe our thoughts and feelings are our identities, and we carry them around instead of simply observing them. Sometimes this second step is all the further you need to go. You might feel better after detaching from the stories you were telling yourself.
However, you may want to go a little deeper. Once you’ve come to a place of more peace and inner stillness, you might choose to journal. This time, as you write down your thoughts and feelings honestly, notice if there are negative stories or lies you are telling yourself in response to the pain. Examples could be: “This always happens to me”; “I’m unworthy”; “It’s all my fault”; or “I’ll never feel better again.”
Take It a Step Further
Journaling may bring to light the root cause of the pain. Getting to the pain’s source allows you to begin to deal with it honestly and compassionately, instead of staying stuck in a negative pain cycle. But depending on the degree of pain you’re experiencing, you may find it beneficial to reach out and allow someone to help you work through some of the tougher issues you’re facing.
As an inner healing prayer ministry, Agave Sozo comes alongside of Christian counseling to help set people free from the bonds of emotional pain. To learn more about Sozo or schedule an appointment, visit our website.
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