How to Process Emotional Pain
All of us experience pain at regular intervals in our lives. We often turn to food, alcohol, shopping, work, or something else to ignore the pain we feel. These temporary distractions only prevent the process that needs to happen to let it go.
- Something happens to trigger your pain.
- You can hardly make sense of it, and it’s tormenting.
- Emotional pain ravages your body—the vibrations caused by the thoughts are excruciating.
- You make a choice to avoid it, resist it, react to it, or process it.
This never works long term. The truth is that avoidance causes pain to fester.
When you choose to avoid your pain and pretend it isn’t there, you are, in essence, lying to yourself.
The more you avoid it, the more you have to avoid it. You might eat, for example, instead of feel. Then you might get upset because you ate when you weren’t hungry. Then you might obsess about your body or your exercise routine. All of these tactics keep you from addressing the cause of the pain and multiply undesirable symptoms such as weight gain.
Option #1 – Avoid It
Eat food you’re not hungry for, feel sick, gain weight. Drink, get a buzz, get drunk, add emotional and physical hangover to pain. Buy stuff—get something pretty and pretend there is no ugly.
Option #1 – Resisting or React to It
Yell at people around you.
Blame, hate, and rail at the universe.
Argue with the injustice of it all.
Lie about it.
Another way to deal with pain is to act it out or fight against it. You might yell at the person you believe caused your pain. You might give them the silent treatment, you might talk behind their back, or you might take even more drastic measures against them. This may help with the pain temporarily because it releases the vibration slightly, but these attempts almost always backfire.
When we react from negative emotion, we almost always get a negative result. It’s usually uncontrolled and unthoughtful. Ultimately, the fight against the emotion is a losing battle, and anxiety speeds up the vibration of the already painful emotion, creating even more intensity.
Option #3 – Process It
Processing pain is really another way of saying you choose to feel it. We are so reluctant to feel pain on purpose. We tell ourselves that feeling pain is a bad thing because it feels bad, but this isn’t the truth. When we allow ourselves to feel our pain all the way through, we see that it’s manageable and it can do no long-term harm (unlike avoiding and fighting, which can have many long-term consequences).
Allow the feeling to be in your body even though you can’t make sense of it in your mind yet.
Watch and notice. Say in your mind “I am processing pain” over and over as you feel the pain.
Don’t try to fix it.
Notice any desire to react, resist, and avoid. Say the desire out loud or in your mind or write it down. Don’t act on it—just acknowledge it. Say “That won’t help” or “That’s not worth it” every time you notice the desire.
Say “This is pain. This is part of my journey.” Allow the painful vibration to be there as you wash dishes, drive your car, or talk on the phone. Notice its heaviness, its hum, its ability to rob you of breath. Notice.
As you do this, you will begin to see that your thoughts about the situation appear more clearly. It may take a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks. Let it take as long as it takes—don’t try to force it. Just keep noticing what you notice.
Your thoughts will begin to appear in your mind. There may be many of them. WRITE THEM DOWN as they appear. Some thoughts seem innocent but may be very painful. Thoughts like “I deserve better” might seem empowering but check the emotion they create; often, it may be one of resistance and pain. That is why it’s very important to write them down and then try them on one at a time.
Don’t try to change the thoughts at first, especially because there may be so many. Just get them out of your head and see them with no judgment. Notice the thought. Notice the emotion it creates in your body.
Sample Thought Download – Pain of A Broken Relationship
- I don’t like him anyway
- That was cruel
- He is so mean
- I was going to leave anyway
- He shouldn’t behave that way
- Who does he think he is?
- I am sure he is lying about me
- Why does this always happen to me?
- I just want to love him
- I hate being used
- I deserve better
- He is a liar
- I hope a car hits him
Most likely, this will be incredibly overwhelming. Seeing all those thoughts and the feelings they create might take your breath away and bury your heart in heavy vibrations. Allow yourself to be overwhelmed, and yet still functioning.
- This is happening for me, not against me
- It was always going to happen this way for my highest good
- Nothing has gone wrong here
- I have much to learn by staying open to this
- Other people can be who they are
- How can I use this?
- How is this perfect?
- What can I do that comes from peace, is for me, and is not trying to change or fix anything?
- How can I accept this with grace?
After you have been able to process a thought without reacting, own it.
Own your pain. It’s yours.
Say to yourself, “I am responsible for this pain. I have created it with my mind. I can learn so much if I go in without resistance. I can meet myself intimately on the inside. I forgive myself for my part in this. I accept myself for who I am. I am not this experience. I am good. If I create pain with my mind, I can create relief with my mind.”
Now, invite yourself to let the thought go. Give yourself time to respond to the invitation. Tell yourself, “To release the pain, I must acknowledge that I am holding it.”
If you repeat this process and allow it to take as long as it takes, you will notice that often, time really does make it easier. The further away you get from the situation, the more perspective you will have if you are paying attention. One day, you will notice that you can release your grip on the pain. You can allow it to go. You can stop reacting, resisting, and avoiding, and eventually you can stop processing the pain because you no longer have it.