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What you need to know about emotional pain

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Pain is a universal connector, in that, each person has experienced it at least once in their life time. The word “pain” comes from the Latin word “poena”, which means penalty. Often in the Hellenic cultures, the strong and common emotions or experiences are personified. In the Roman myths, Poena was the spirit of punishment and was attended by Nemesis, the goddess of revenge. The idea of pain as something more than a bump on the head, is not a new concept. Even humans that had a difficult time understanding the vastness and abstract reality of the world, understood the power of pain.

The first step of getting rid of any problem is to understand you have one. Acknowledge your pain. Think to yourself or write in a journal, “What in my life has caused me pain?” You may name or write down a few things or the list may go on and on. Whatever happens, happens. You need to acknowledge and fully understand your pain.

The next question you must address is, “Why did this cause me pain?” When answering this question try to think of the situation or moment in a holistic perspective. For example, if you lost a love one, instead of saying this person left me, say this person was ill and passed away. In most cases of pain there is an idea that everything happened to “me”. Everything occurred to hurt “me.” In most cases, that is not true. A situation occurred and you received it and interpreted it as a personal attack on the self.

Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth, beautifully explains how the mind can build an identity with pain. He goes on to illustrate the various roles people play because of pain. The most common role is the victim. The role of the victim is the idea that was stressed in the previous paragraph, the idea that bad things happen to “me” directly. Tolle elaborates how a painful moment or situation can allow us to identify with the pain.

For example, one of the most common painful experiences most children in America experience is the leaving of a parent. This can occur in a divorce or having someone walk out of their life. As the child grows up without one or two parents, the child creates an identity from that painful experience. Many children grow up with the belief that their parent did not see their child as “good enough” to stick around, so they walk out of their life. As the child grows they begin to carry the pain and it turns into resentment. The resentment reflects its self in the adolescence’s or the adult’s relationships. Unless the pain is understood and the person does not identify with the pain, the person will try to fill that void caused by the pain by any means necessary.

The idea of dis-identifying with one’s pain or illness, begun when psychology and the medical field joined hands. Many physicians and therapist stress that when addressing a patient keep in mind you are speaking about or to another person. The patient is not a mentally ill man; he is a man with a mental illness. Take this example and use it in your everyday life.

Now that you acknowledge, understand and dis-identify with your pain you need to let it go. Letting go does not mean that you’re weak. Letting go is all part of growth. Think of it this way. If you grew your hair out and you went to the hair dresser and they said, “In order to grow you need to cut your split and dead ends,” would you keep them? Hopefully you wouldn’t because you understand that in order to grow you must love and respect yourself enough to let go of what no longer serves you, respects you or makes you happy. The easiest way to let go is by using your negative emotions for something positive. If you have so much emotional pain that you’re crying, go to the gym and work out. Your sweat will combine with your tears and no one will know. If you are in so much pain that you feel like your story needs to be told, tell it. Your story may inspire others. If you are in so much pain that you cannot find the words to express yourself then use art.

Pain is a normal part of life but it is not necessary. It is however, necessary to understand your pain. Do not be afraid to ask for help. The most intelligent people know when they cannot achieve something alone.

In the words of Iyanla Vanzant, “You can accept or reject the way you are treated by other people, but until you heal the wounds of your past, you will continue to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex, but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them.”

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