You can't heal a pain you're ignoring.
Many of us will do anything to not feel our pain. We unconsciously throw moderation to the wind and numb ourselves in excess. We OVER eat, drink, watch sitcoms, work, exercise, medicate and shop. We fill and stuff and numb ourselves so that we don't have to feel. And the pain always returns.
You have to feel it to heal it.
In addition to excessively 'stuffing' our feelings, we choose to relive our struggles many times over by replaying a hurtful situation in our mind and experiencing the pain anew with each replay.
With all the DOING that we do to avoid the pain, it doesn't go away. With all the obsessive REPLAYING of the tape, the suffering gets worse.
When we get very upset about people or circumstances, our pain doesn't even stem from our current circumstances. It is bringing up old hurts that never healed and integrated into our adult self. Our current feelings of abandonment, rejection, shame, guilt, etc, stem from our childhood hurt. Our tender sensitivities existed in us long before our spouse was even a part of our lives. The more upset we get, the older the pain. In 12 step programs the saying is, 'if it's hysterical, it's historical.'
You have to feel it to heal it.
What does it mean to really focus on feeling your pain?
The next time you are upset, release the person who is seemingly causing your pain. Do not to react and engage in a confrontation (drama or chaos that enables us to avoid feeling our pain). Do not replay the story. Do not reach for that glass of wine or cupcake.
Sit with the discomfort. Just BE with it and pay attention to how it feels.
Where do you feel the pain, in what part of your body? Is it in your stomach, your neck, your head, or your heart?
Is it throbbing, shooting, or dull?
Is the pain moving and if so, in what direction?
Does it feel hot or cold?
As you pay attention to the pain, something interesting happens. It begins to subside. As you shift your focus from the story of what happened to concentrating all your attention on the physical pain, your emotional reaction begins to lessen and your physical pain subsides.
Another set of question you can ask yourself to go even deeper is this…
Does your emotional pain feel familiar?
When else in your life have you felt this type of hurt? Take a few minutes to go back in time.
Did you feel it when you were a young adult?
What about your teenage years?
Many times, we find that the emotional pain we felt is so very familiar because we began feeling it with our mom, dad or siblings. We often repeat the emotional patterns that were created with our first intimate relationships—our parents and siblings—and play them out on the stage of our marriage. We each have our unconscious scripts and we fit together like perfect puzzle pieces...except we are not conscious of our part in it, so we blame each other.
When you focus on your pain, two things happen.
First, you realize that both your emotional reaction and your physical pain begin to dissipate. Why? The pain is a result of the story in our head. For instance, a breakup is always hard. However, if your thought is that he used you or she betrayed you and you were simply the unwitting victim, the pain is great. The more you replay the tape, the greater the pain.
Focusing on the physical manifestation of the pain takes your attention away from the story. Both the emotional reaction and the physical pain recede.
Second, being able to trace familiar pain back to our formative years, enables us to connect the dots and see the pattern of emotional pain that arises when we are in relationship. We sometimes ask, 'why does this keep happening to me?' as if we are not active participants. Noticing patterns enables us to wake up and begin to consciously take responsibility for our part in our difficulties. The pain lessens when we are an active participant and not an unwitting victim.
- Focus on how pain shows up: where in your body, the movement, the temperature, etc.
- Focus on going back in time to find when this emotional pain first surfaced.
- Enable yourself to cry and/or simply sit with the discomfort.
- By feeling our pain (even if we cannot trace it back or see comparisons) we integrate it into who we are today and its intensity dissipates, enabling us to move through and out of it.
This article was originally published at Journey Beyond Divorce. Reprinted with permission from the author.