In this post, I’m continuing with my exploration of emotions and coming back to familiar ground: negative emotions. This time, I’ll talk about emotional pain and how we can overcome it.
What is emotional pain?
The emotional pain I’m referring to is the painful stuff we experience in everyday life: setbacks, failures, mistakes, rejection, loss, criticism, discrimination, exclusion, peer pressure, expectations, judgements, misunderstandings and so on.
Anyone who’s experienced these emotional pains will know they’re hard to manage. I’ve certainly had my fair share, and I still do.
Negative emotions – like discouragement, shock, anger, resentment, shame, unworthiness and so on – rise so fast it’s like a reflex; we have very little control over them. And the thoughts that get triggered afterward often occur unconsciously as well. It’s hard to stop them.
These unconscious responses are closely tied in with our mindset and the way we explain to ourselves why things happened. Mindset is created over a long period of time, so it takes some conscious and dedicated effort to change it.
Emotional pain is also stressful. Stress impacts our feelings, thoughts, behaviors and even physiology. The longer we remain in emotional pain, the longer we stay stressed. So we need to find effective ways to overcome our pain, for the sake of our overall wellbeing.
How can we relieve emotional pain?
These are some methods I’ve used on myself in the past which might be helpful:
- Pay closer attention to our feelings.
- Become aware of what the emotions made us think.
- Have a positive internal dialogue.
I’ll explain a little more about each one.
1. When we’ve experienced a negative event, we know what triggered us and how that made us feel. But we don’t always know why. Clarifying the reason behind the emotions helps us understand our trigger points. It’s often tied to an unmet need such as a need to be heard, understood, acknowledged, respected, encouraged or supported. Or a value, something important to us, was violated. Knowing these things can help us convey them more effectively to others (without holding grudges!).
2. Let’s say we’ve just had a stressful work conversation. What went through our minds immediately after? Example: “That manager is so difficult to work with.” → “I don’t like rude and demanding people so it’s hard to respect them.” → “I don’t feel motivated to prioritize what s/he’s asking for.” → Action: put off the task. Noticing our thoughts in more detail gives us insight into how we respond to a situation. By knowing how we respond, we can try to preempt the situation better next time and save ourselves some stress.
3. To disrupt the cycle of rumination, we can talk to ourselves as if we were talking to our most trusted friend or wise mentor who is 100% curious and compassionate and 0% judgemental. Doing this often can in fact strengthen our positive mental circuits and weaken the negative ones in the brain (see “Positive Intelligence” by Shirzad Chamine). It also broadens our perspective, too.
4. Refocusing could mean engaging in a mindfulness moment, a different activity or a different way of looking at the situation. It’s a way to “refresh” our minds – just like we refresh our screens. One caveat: refocusing without acknowledging the emotions and thoughts at some point isn’t so helpful, even though we do it all the time. Maybe we’ve succeeded in suppressing the emotion, but we haven’t learned from it yet. Facing it squarely might be unpleasant, but it will take the sting out of the emotion later if it surfaces again.
Does energy clearing heal emotional pain?
Yes! And it also depends.
When the issue is pretty straightforward or we’re fairly aligned within ourselves, that happens. The pieces just fall into place! But when certain limiting beliefs have been reinforced, habits have been formed and we’ve just started working on ourselves more intentionally, I’ve learned that we need energy clearing plus something else.
What else do we need?
When the thoughts and feelings don’t seem to budge with energy work, it helps to take different actions (i.e., try different coping strategies).
Why does this help? Because taking action changes us. When we take action – even small steps – new things come to light. We learn what works and what doesn’t. What we like and don’t like. We become aware of things we may not have noticed before. This opens up the door to new possibilities.
Understanding our thoughts and feelings is valuable. Clearing out the undesirable ones with energy work helps. Remember to keep in mind the power of action, too!
I hope these thoughts on how to overcome emotional pain are helpful. If you’re going through some emotional pain right now and struggling to get a handle on it, I would be more than happy to support you! Please feel free to reach out to me here and mention you’re replying to this post.