Decoding Emotional Pain: 3 Things You Need to Know
When something feels off in our bodies and minds, it’s normal to want to fix or solve it. However, when we do so, we risk making our pain the enemy and not looking further into the roots, the reasons and conditions that made the pain occur in the first place. Often these roots are multiple – stress, trauma, poor nutrition, a sick society, little community support.
In the old model of mental and emotional health, we seek to mitigate pain, banish it, or make pain the problem, not realizing that pain always happens for a reason.
It is not our pain that makes us ill or broken, it’s our resistance to believing our pain that keeps us stuck.
3 Things You Need to Know about Emotional Pain:
1) Pain is not your enemy
I know anger, depression, anxiety, physical pain, or extreme emotions can be terrifying and destabilizing. Wanting it to go away is not wrong. However, when we make pain itself the enemy, and try to numb it, banish it, resist it, beat it, or force it – we deepen the wounds. Often the root of emotional pain starts with a lack of trust in what we feel, a childhood filled with punishment for emotions or caregivers that taught us to stuff it or numb it rather than honor it. In adulthood, this stuffing of emotional pain shows up as a lack of trust in ourselves, few tools to deal with it, and a constant seeking for an “answer” that will make it all go away. In my experience, what we fight, fights back. The path to healing always begins with curiosity.
2) Pain is a normal reaction to suffering
It’s not always apparent why we feel the way we do. Not everyone has had a single traumatic experience or a moment when it all fell apart. For some, it’s a slow unraveling - a moment too long in a stressful underpaid job and a life that doesn’t feel worth it anymore, a series of “small” heartbreaks and losses, a constant analysis of the next potential threat or concern that burns out our capacity to enjoy, financial instability, and so much more. What we have to realize is that when left unaddressed these moments add up. All of our pain is valid, rooted in something we have yet to acknowledge. When we look and listen deeply, every reaction we consider “extreme or pathological” begins to make sense.
3) Your pain contains all the answers
When we don’t listen or make time to honor our emotions, no matter how extreme or “illogical”, our body will make us listen. This can happen in the form of extreme swings from one emotion to the next, chronic physical pain, autoimmune disease, panic attacks, and so much more. These are the ways our bodies get our attention. Pain is a messenger, asking us to become more fluent in its language. These messages can lead us to a deep transformation – a commitment to honoring our needs, setting stranger boundaries, speaking up, taking rest, switching jobs, homes, starting or ending relationships, changing our relationship to food and nourishment, deepening spiritual practice, understanding our childhood or interpersonal relationships in a different way, knowing more deeply and intricately what we need and how to get it. Emotional pain is essentially a signal that something, from our inner world to our larger society, is off and that the next step in our personal and collective evolution requires us to step into a new way of being.