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How to handle emotional pain

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We all have to face pain, and pain makes us grow. – James Taylor

Photo by Fa Barboza on Unsplash

Your mind and body naturally try to avoid pain. Pain is a signal that something needs to change. When experiencing physical pain, your body is compelled to move. This might look like quickly getting away from something, swatting at something, shifting the position of your body, rubbing your temples or massaging a sore spot, ect.

But emotional pain is different. While we can experience it partially as physical discomfort, there’s a non-physical quality to it. And that’s actually because there is a non-physical side to it. Emotion is energy in motion.


The energy of emotion

When you are experiencing an emotion, whether painful or not, the energy of thought is intimately bound to the emotional experience. Thought prompts a chemical reaction in your body that creates an emotional state. When the thoughts you have about something tell you that something is wrong, you experience a painful emotion to compel you to change or get away from the wrong thing.

This can happen around circumstances that aren’t quite that easy to change. The required change can actually be so monumental that you’d have to shift your identity as a person, and that is one of the least favorite activities of a brain. If you’ve ever experienced a bout of identity crisis, you know what this feels like. It’s uncomfortable to have your identity challenged. It doesn’t fit within the box your thinking mind created.

So knowing this, how does one deal with that emotional pain? Here’s one way to look at it.


Clear out the waste

So this might be a gross comparison, but let’s talk waste. As in bodily waste. When you have to go to the bathroom and are holding it in, how does that feel? Not great. If you have to sneeze or cough (another form of expelling something from your body) and you hold that in, you know how uncomfortable it can be. So let’s compare this to emotion.

In modern western society there’s an unfortunate belief that negative emotion should be avoided at all cost. And if you feel negative emotion regularly, there’s something wrong with you. And because of that, we hold it in.

Think about the end state of emotion as the release of energetic waste. It starts as a tool, but eventually needs to exit your body. Just like food and water start as tools, but also need to exit.

Holding negative emotion in by not allowing it to process all the way through, or taking actions to change it mid-course (like eating or drinking to change the way you feel) is like holding your bowels or bladder. Without release eventually it will poison you.


The anticipation of it

Negative emotion isn’t even the hardest part. The hard part is the anticipation of what we THINK experiencing a heightened negative emotion will be like. It’s a pretty nifty survival mechanism of the brain, but we used to have far fewer things in our environment that created negative emotion. Life was brutal, but the dangers were pretty clear.

Our intelligence and creative ability has created a far more complex environment that has led to so many more things to feel bad about, which means a lot more negative energy in the body. (And by the way, “negative” energy is just waves, or vibration that isn’t in resonance with the vibratory state of your body that you perceive as “positive”.)

So the best way to handle a painful emotion is to just let it happen. If you surrender to it, all that energetic waste will find its way out of you. That energy needs to exit your body. Allowing the emotion to play out in its entirety is the only way to completely clear it out.

You don’t halfway poop. (Yep, we’re back to that again.) You don’t halfway pee. You don’t halfway sneeze or cough, and if you do you know it’s totally unsatisfying.

Just let those emotions do their job. They are not there to harm you. They are part of the dynamic biological machine you live in and have a very important purpose. Your body knows what it’s doing. Give it a chance to work it’s processes completely through to the end.

If you have trouble doing this, as a coach I may be able to help you process an emotion you’ve been bottling up. 

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