Emotional pain, or hurt, varies in intensity from the slightly uncomfortable to so searing as to feel unbearable. Mental illness, whether mild or severe, can be a consequence of our inability, either temporarily or permanently, to deal with the emotional trauma of pain and hurt.
In my experience there are countless ways for us to be emotionally hurt and experience emotional pain. I have noticed an interesting consistency and that is that we are the sole custodians of our feelings and as a consequence ultimately responsible for how we feel.
I have found it extremely common to hear ourselves saying “you hurt me”, “he hurt me”, “they hurt me”, “she hurt me”, “that hurt me” etc blaming others or circumstance for our hurt and pain. My view is that while you, he, they, she, that etc may have had a part in causing us the pain or hurt, if the potential for being hurt or feeling pain did not already exist inside us we would not get hurt or feel the pain. I believe that we have the capability to control this internal potential for pain and hurt.
Controlling this internal potential should not be confused with denial and avoidance. Denial and avoidance are temporary coping mechanisms that can cause serious problems down the track if not appropriately addressed and resolved. Gaining control confers a permanent change in us that enables us to feel and bear any hurt or pain while remaining consistently content regardless of external circumstance.
In my view one of the most significant factors in preventing us from effectively dealing with hurt or pain is fear. In her excellent book ‘Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway’ Susan Jeffers describes three different levels of fear:
- Level 1 – These are surface fears, the stuff we whinge, whine and moan about on a day-to-day basis e.g. financial security, getting old, asserting oneself, public speaking, becoming a victim of crime, being late etc
- Level 2 – These are fears stored in the memory banks of our Parent and Child e.g. hurt or pain, rejection, helplessness, acceptance, failure etc – see my previous article on Perspective for a description of the Parent-Adult-Child (PAC) model developed by Thomas A Harris
- Level 3 is simply “I CAN’T HANDLE IT!”
Of Level 3 Susan says:
“AT THE BOTTOM OF EVERY ONE OF YOUR FEARS IS SIMPLY THE FEAR THAT YOU CAN’T HANDLE WHATEVER LIFE MAY BRING YOU.”
She goes on to say:
“ALL YOU HAVE TO DO TO DIMINISH YOUR FEAR IS TO DEVELOP MORE TRUST IN YOUR ABILITY TO HANDLE WHATEVER COMES YOUR WAY!”
So there we have it, if we trust ourselves and back ourselves we will go a long way to gaining control of our internal potential for pain and hurt. Furthermore letting go of blame, see my previous article on Blame, also plays a major part in gaining control of reducing our internal potential for being hurt or caused pain.
Hurt or pain typically begins with some sort of transgression or slight against us either real or perceived. Whether real or perceived it feels very real to us. This kicks off the grief cycle, see my previous article on Loss for an explanation of the grief cycle. In brief the grief cycle is made up of five stages or states which are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance or, as I abbreviate it, DABDA.
As I understand it, when we are hurt or in pain we cycle randomly through four of these stages/states:
Denial – This is the “I don’t believe it!” state
Anger – This is the “I want revenge!” state
Bargaining – This is “I’ll do/give anything to stop this pain.” state
Depression – This is the “I’m very sad, miserable and teary.” state
Because these states all cause us extremely emotional low moods, we should not try to sort our problems when we are in any of them. As Richard Carlson says in his excellent book ‘You Can Be Happy No Matter What’ (the words in [italics] are mine):
“It is in our lowest [worst] moods, when we are least equipped to do so, that we are tempted to try to solve problems or resolve issues with others.”
Richard also describes some wonderfully simple methods for managing the inner turmoil that accompanies pain and hurt.
“All ‘deluded’ states of mind, all afflictive emotions and thoughts are essentially distorted, in that they are rooted in misperceiving the actual reality of the situation. No matter how powerful, deep down these negative emotions have no valid foundation. They are based on ignorance. On the other hand, all the positive emotions or states of mind, such as love, compassion, insight and so on, have a solid basis. When the mind is experiencing these positive states, there is no distortion.”
He then goes on to say:
“Our positive states of mind can act as antidotes to our negative tendencies and delusory states of mind… As you enhance the capacity of these antidotal factors, the greater their force, the more you will be able to reduce the force of the mental and emotional afflictions, the more you will be able to reduce the influences and effects of these things.”
In my experience, meditation, whatever form it takes (interestingly prayer is considered by some to be a form of meditation), is also extremely helpful in alleviating pain and hurt.
Stay strong and serene.