Emotional pain is sadly an inevitable part of life. It’s not something we look for, but it finds every one of us at some time in our lives. I look back over my own life and I can identify four events that caused significant pain and subsequently shaped the way I view life. So, if it’s something that we all face, how do we deal with it? I wanted to write a few thoughts that have helped me navigate through the pain and come out the other side with the ability to smile again.
1. You will get through it
When you’re in the midst of pain it can feel totally overwhelming. Your mind can be consumed by the thoughts surrounding your circumstances and there is little room for anything else. As a parent of young children, one of the worst things I can imagine would be losing a child. I’ve often thought, how could you ever recover? In talking with parents who have walked that journey, they all say something similar; the pain doesn’t disappear, but you learn to live with it, and in time you learn to live again. The truth is, no matter what you face, you will get through it. There is life on the other side of emotional pain.
2. You can’t compare pain
At times I’ve seen in myself the extremes of comparing pain. On one hand I look at my circumstances and think, how can I complain when others have it so much worse. And then at other times I can be drowning in misery and feel that no-one else in my life could possibly understand the pain I’m going through. Both extremes are not true. You cannot dismiss your own pain because it doesn’t seem as bad as someone else’s. Likewise, you cannot dismiss someone else’s experience because yours is worse. Pain is pain, it has to be dealt with and comparisons are not helpful.
3. Don’t ignore your feelings
Dealing with emotional pain is not a time to adopt the stiff upper lip approach. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and take time to process them. It’s ok to grieve. It’s ok to feel angry, to be upset and to feel helpless. During my time working with a charity, we often used the saying, it’s okay to be not okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way. Self-reflection is an important part of the healing process. Write a journal, have some counselling or talk about things with a trusted friend. However you do it, acknowledge your feelings, give some time to process them and then come to a place where you are ready to move on.
4. Remember the good things
At MCM we often use the phrase, an attitude of gratitude. I’ve found time and time again in my own life, that when I choose to focus on the good things, I always feel better. The temptation is often there to stay in a place of reliving the pain and justifying the feelings. But there comes a time when we must choose to move on and focus on the good again. It doesn’t mean the pain will be gone, and it doesn’t mean that everything is ok, but focussing on the good positions you to get on with life and see a hope for good things in your future.
5. Practice the art of forgiveness
It can be natural to feel angry in the midst of emotional pain. I’ve been angry at people, angry at God, angry at circumstances and just angry. But unforgiveness holds you in a toxic place of ill felt feelings towards people and circumstances that you often have no control over. I try to remind myself of the well-known Ghandi quote, the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. Walk through the emotions of anger and bitterness, don’t get stuck in them. They have the power to destroy a healthy recovery and the ability to deal with emotional pain. Be strong, forgive and move on!