Deep emotional pain is the ultimate uncomfortable feeling humans can experience. It is a fact of life, and most will do anything not to have it. It’s my belief that pain, or rather the avoidance of it, is the strongest driving force in the human psyche. When things get rough enough, we literally will do anything not to live there.
One could kill the pain with drugs and denial. This will temporarily numb, but ultimately it will lead to more pain. Burying emotions is like feeding a monster that WILL find it’s way out of the deep abyss of one’s denial. It’s the low road, and we have all done it to varying degrees. The highroad, however, is far more interesting because it involves what we thrive on: Action. Herein lies the opportunity for growth.
When you are suffering emotional pain, follow these steps to feel more empowered and make a change.
Tell yourself the truth
Don’t deceive or manipulate yourself in any way. This is the time to get disturbed by your current state. Don’t ignore or make light of your pain. Getting disturbed is what is going to drive you into action.
Ask yourself, “what else could this mean”?
The reason why certain events cause us pain is because of the meaning we give to these events. Repeat that to yourself several times until it starts to resonate. Meanings such as, ‘my life feels over without this person’, or ‘no one will hire me now’ are just meanings that we have given the loss. Instead, if you can get really curious about your situation, and investigate another message the pain is trying to show you, then you’ll begin to catch glimpses of an empowering meaning. It won’t take all the pain away, but it will dissolve the suffering and give you back some control.
Make a decision
Once you identify the empowering meaning, then it’s time to make a decision. You may not be able to change the events, but you can change you and your life. Make a decision to move in another direction. One of purpose.
Make a plan
Immediately following a decision you must start to plan. Ever notice how you feel after making a decision? You feel strong and powerful. Which means you are in a powerful state. Use that state to create momentum. The greatest remedy to pain is ACTION. Why? Because action means we are in control again, and the main ingredient to suffering is the feeling that we have lost control. Think carefully about your goals in all the major zones of your life. Write them down. Be specific. Assign reasonable and measurable deadlines to them.
Keep up the momentum
Don’t stop. Not for a second. Seriously, whatever goal you set for yourself, think about it, strategize around it and do at least 1 thing – even if it’s small each day to achieve it.
Round up the troops
The friends and family who love you are going to be psyched about your interest in something outside of your pain. When you allow people to support you, you will feel a greater sense of connection and love.
Change your beliefs
Along the way, you will lose confidence, and fear and pain will set in. This is when the real work begins. You must recognize the beliefs you have about yourself and the world that are in direct conflict with where you want to be. Identify the internal conflict. Begin to notice all the insidious ways you have become adept at negative self-talk, and change your language to reflect acceptance and patience. Recognize all the rules you have about how things should be, and then consider breaking your rules.
We have to trust that something greater than ourselves has our back in some way. If you think, ‘faith is for the religious, and I’m an atheist’, I say bull. Faith is something we are born with. We get into cars, trains and planes because somehow we have faith that we are going to get from A to B. NO one can be certain that they will make it to their destination. But we trust, or have faith that we will make it. That’s the kind of faith I’m talking about. Trust.
Cultivate your spiritual life
Ultimately, this is about strengthening your connection to yourself. It’s understanding that seeking the empowering meaning is what gets us out of bed in the morning during painful times. It’s about connecting to your intuition - that knowing part of you where faith and truth reside. There are a myriad of ways to do this. Rituals are a fantastic way to deepen your spiritual life. Rituals such as daily exercise, yoga, meditation, volunteering, going to 12 step meetings, taking time to express yourself creatively, all give us a sense of connecting deeply with ourselves and with others.
Pain is an unavoidable reality of life. However, there is a difference between pain and suffering. Suffering is when we perceive we have no control, and that we will live in pain for an endless amount of time. My suggestion is that we do have control – not necessarily over the events, but to the meaning we give those events. Don’t succumb to the belief that you just have bad karma or that the world is out to get you. Instead, get brutally honest with yourself and get curious about what else it could all mean. The world is beckoning you.