How do you get rid of emotional pain?: An Ode to a friend

Hey girl,

This question has passed all of our minds at least a few times especially when we start feeling that swell of emotion.

All you want is for the hurt to go away. You want to take a magic pill. You feel completely helpless to your emotions.

I have many days out of the month that I struggle to deal with emotional pain.  It’s not that I’m feeling depressed, but my  anxiety  flairs up at random times and I sometimes feel helpless to them.

I honestly just feel like a crazy person half the time.

But

what I’ve come to realize is that my mistake for many years was that I tried to fight against it. I would think I had to get rid of the feeling, because it was too overwhelming.

So I ended up distracting myself because I couldn’t accept the pain that I was going through.

I learned that  you can’t get rid of pain. Well at least not in the way you think.

Getting rid of pain is about accepting it as part of you.

I’m a big advocate of having those days where all you want to do is get in your jammies, watch netflix and stuff your face with bonbons because you feel sorry for yourself.

I was thinking about this question recently because it’s something I’ve worked through over the course of several years.

 I got my own baggage, too, girl.

sorry-i-packed-so-much-emotional-baggage-on-our-vacation-1Rx-share-image-1479839945

Anyways, I had this deep conversation with a friend recently who is going through a difficult time right now.

lol, I’m not the friend

We spent close to an hour and a half over the phone talking about how she feels so unloved and unappreciated by her current boyfriend. 

UGH I hate those conversations. It F-ing blows.

Not that I want to minimize her situation, but I imagined her face looking a little something like this:

.kimkcry.jpg

This next part of this letter is really going to be an ode to her. It’s going to be very honest, but I need to say it because it’s a great example of the cycle of thinking we all put ourself through when we feel deep emotional pain.

So before I start, if my friend is reading this I mean this in the best way possible. Love you, girl.

So here’s the story, and I’ll get to my point hopefully by the end of this.

Let’s call my friend Kim K.

Kim explained to me all the things her BF did wrong in the relationship (which were pretty bad) and then spoke about everything in the negative. “Maybe it’s something I did,” or qualifying any of my advice  with a “…but it’s not fair he’s acting this way.” 

And the truth is, I agreed with her. From what I understood of the situation, she was totally justified to feel what she was feeling. 

What I really couldn’t stand was that she was blind to any other option available to her. It was like the only choice she had was to stay with this guy and wait for him to be the one to make the first move. 

I was like “girl, you’re better than this.”

She just wasn’t willing to get out of her own way. 

And it’s not like this was the first time I heard about her relationship issues. I started to notice a pattern. No matter what you did to help the girl out, Kim would always go back to how her situation is hopeless. 

She secretly loves playing the victim. 

Kim told me how she wanted him to change and how she just wanted him to show her real love and affection. But I knew she was just kidding herself.

What she really wanted was for him to apologize. She wanted him to take responsibility for the way she was feeling. 

That would have been a more honest answer. But she still couldn’t accept this reality when I brought it to her attention.

It only took a few more minutes for her to return to feeling sorry for herself and read off the laundry list of problems again.

That’s #1. When we are going through emotional pain we like to feel sorry for ourselves. It’s very hard to work on finding solutions when all you’re focused on is finding relief.

Kim cried a lot in front of him. She felt it made her vulnerable in front of him. What she like many of us think is that 

crying = vulnerability

I stopped her and told her she wasn’t being vulnerable at all. At least I didn’t see it that way.

Crying is definitely a strength and I admire her ability to connect to her emotions, but she wasn’t doing it because she wanted to move forward. She was crying because she wanted her BF to finally recognize what a douche he was being. She wanted an apology. She wanted him to change.

She was crying because playing victim is what she is comfortable with. And that is exactly the very reason why she continues to feel miserable in her relationships and why she continues to live in her emotional pain.

But you know what?! I know she knows how to stand up to her emotions.

Because she has no problem sharing her expressing herself to her friends. And if she doesn’t get her way, she doesn’t start crying to get sympathy.

Interesting, no?!

I’m not trying to be a crappy, judgy friend. It’s just that this chick is super cool, and I honestly believe she is better than she gives herself credit.

Sometimes I just want to shake her silly!

See, I’m not discounting the negative way we feel at all. We can’t always help that. I’ll never fully understand what my girl is really going through. I never know what I’m always going through all the time in the moment.

But no advice will help unless we finds a way to stop over-identifying with her feelings and with her relationships.

Kim has the tools, but will she use them?

And this is what I want you to take away.

Kimmy derives her value as a woman from how others make her feel. And as long as she continues to believe that the world runs the show, she will always be miserable when the chronic emotions take over.

“Everyone is always the reason why  I’m so upset. If only others changed than I would finally feel better about myself. If I had a better situation I would be happier… “

But hey, I’m not telling anyone to change cuz I know just how difficult it is. It takes a lot of self discipline and honesty to admit that you are responsible for your own damn life.

I know it’s hard to hear so I asked Ryan Gosling to cheer you up before we continue.

heygirlryan.jpg

LOLz

Maybe we aren’t strong enough to overcome our emotional pain. What I do know to be true is that we all have the power to make a choice. A different one. Whatever that looks like. Most choices would be better.

“What if I make the wrong choice? How do I know?”

You don’t. No one does. 

Einstein once said something like

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

We spend so much time focusing on minimizing pain or running away from it by making excuses and pointing the finger that we never actually get out of the cycle of pain. 

The pain of facing our faults is often times greater than finding a scapegoat to throw our problems on. If you understand that emotional pain part of human nature, you can work against it. 

I hope that my friend has the strength to push herself forward whatever she ends up deciding to do. I cannot take away her pain, but I will continue to tell it like it is when she speaks craziness.

It’s a lesson for all of us. It’s much easier to say this when you’re not smack dab in the middle of a problem.

Emotional pain is a totally justified response to something negative we have experienced. But I don’t think that your repeated choices are.

Even if you went through something totally unimaginable you still have to get help. Sitting around is not acceptable.

I’m giving you some tough love I wish someone gave me when I was beating myself up over my broken relationships or the loss of a parent.

People just enabled me. They focused so much on giving me the pity party that I wasn’t able to work on finding new solutions.

That is until I decided I was tired of it. I found my own strategies to work though these difficult times.

So I did a little digging.

There are some great coping strategies I found over the web. Here are  two that I thought were great to skim through:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201310/7-practical-strategies-overcome-emotional-pain

https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/09/30/how-to-sit-with-painful-emotions/

I also put together the  strategies that have worked for me and might be useful to you to help you feel more in control of your emotional reality:

  1. Observe your emotions. Work on self-awareness. When you feel a negative emotion ask yourself where does it come from? Those feelings are clues that you have unresolved emotions about something. They are clues to understanding your inner world.
  2. Accept your pain. Accept the pain as a part of you. Don’t judge it. Don’t psycho analyze yourself. Stop blaming yourself for the wrongs in your life. Just stop. You are human. You have a right to feel pain. Let yourself feel it. Let the thoughts come and go. 
  3. Learn your triggers. If you notice that certain situations make you really anxious, don’t expect to not feel anxious the next time you are put in one. If you realize this about yourself, you can plan ahead to minimize the effects of the emotion. It’s funny how we always act shocked when the same pileofpoop happens over and over again. There’s a reason for it. Figure out why and then use your brain to find a new solution.
  4. Reach out. When you do feel emotional pain, it’s super important to reach out to people. If you don’t you risk pulling away further. Remember it’s great to talk it out, but there are those who will talk forever about the same problem and do nothing about it. Talk a few times with one or two people to get it out of your system and then either ask for guidance or trust your internal compass to help you make the next move. You do not need to speak indefinitely about the same problem. If you can’t get out of that cycle, definitely seek professional help. 
  5. Plan ahead. Make plans for what to do in stressful situations when you’re feeling less emotional. When you’re highly emotional, reason is going to go straight over your head because all you’re focused on is the pain. You want relief. When you finally calm down, take the time to actually reflect on what happened. Don’t just wait for it to occur again. Cuz it will, and you won’t be ready for it.
  6. Read between the lines. Understand that what we tell ourselves is hardly what we mean. Read between the lines. If you find yourself blaming others for your feelings there’s a good chance that there is unresolved emotional baggage beneath the surface. Figure out what that is. Don’t lie to yourself.
  7. Take responsibility No one can turn your life around. You don’t have to accept the actions of the other person, but you do have to take responsibility for your well-being. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you can actually start living the life you want. 
  8. Fake it until you become it. You don’t have to start feeling better to start making new choices. You’ve been telling yourselves a story up until this point. If you really don’t believe you have autonomy, that’s cool. Lie to yourself and say positive things anyway. The brain has a funny way of believing the things you tell it regardless of it’s foundation in reality. You’ll start to see yourself differently and your behavior will follow suit.

What do you find helps you get through emotional pain?


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