Dealing with mental pain

10. December 2021

I’m reading a book right now, called “Love Warrior” by Glennon Doyle, and I find it very touching. It’s about a woman who for the first half of her life, has not been authentically herself, playing roles to please others. She ignores her own needs, wishes and dreams completely and only pays attention to what others want from her and what expectations they have of her life. She writes about it so honestly that I find it very inspiring and can relate to many parts of her story. Because we all know it big or small waqys- we often live life according to other people’s ideas instead of our own. In many of her thoughts and feelings I recognize a part of myself. The book has inspired me to write more honestly, more authenticly also about what is going on with me here on the blog.

Today I want to reflect on the subject of pain. By that I mean mental or emotional pain.

Dealing with pain

Pain, I’ve had a lot of that in my life. You sure too. We all know it, on a small and large scale. I know pain in connection with my family, especially my dad, very much in connection with love, i.e. romantic relationships and also with simple everyday transactions with other people. Be it earlier in school when someone told me I look like a giraffe because of my long neck, and later in work when an idea of mine was symbolically thrown in the trash. In moments when I was not listened to or there was no room to really be seen and understood. We cannot escape pain, it is part of our life.

What are we often doing after a painful experience? We swallow it, pushing the emotions down. What I find interesting is how little we actually talk about it in society. It’s so difficult to admit in front of others that you’ve just been hurt. Revealing something so vulnerable about us would surely hurt a lot more than the pain already, wouldn’t it? Imagine if we all spoke honestly about our pain … Perhaps you were even part of a situation once when another person opened up and talked about the challenges and the pain in their life. How did that feel? Wasn’t that healing and calming (“oh, it’s the same with others!”)? Didn’t it connect you to the other person in a certain way?

I believe we cannot be open about our pain because we cannot even deal with it within ourselves. Pain is not recognized in our society, we learn that early on. We all need to be strong and happy, and when we are not, others react strangely and give us immediate advices like “just look at it differently”, “there is no need to be afraid”. While it is meant in a loving away, it is another way of saying: don’t feel the pain. This way we learn since childhood not to allow our mental and emotional pain. When it happens, and that is inevitable, we respond with resistance. We absolutely do NOT want to feel this way and are afraid that the pain will stay forever. We want to DO something right away to make it stop. We have developed very good strategies that keep us from feeling the pain, from social media “numbing” to love, alcohol, food addiction, binge watching, extreme sports and drugs. I’m not saying that all of these activities are bad in general (of course not – most of them 😉), but if we do them to numb something inside, then it is not really supporting our emotional maturity.

What if we learned to observe our pain and letting it be for a bit? To accept and surrender to it?

From my own experience I know: As soon as we stop fighting our pain and create a space instead in which it can be there, magical things happen. The pain transforms itself through our acceptance, our surrendering, our letting go. It loses the strong grip on us and this creates such great potential for personal growth. Because only through pain do we change and grow. Only when we learned it ourselves, we can deal with the pain of others and give them space to feel it without us having to “help” directly.

Meditation for Accepting Pain

I can recommend meditation for dealing with painful emotions and feelings. Sit down, close your eyes. Mentally give yourself and the present pain a hug. Tell it: “you can be here as long as you want”. If you feel like it, cry. Remain in this kind of contemplation for at least five minutes, because it usually takes some time before the pain dares to “come out”. I promise you that in this short meditation something will change. Without your having to do anything, you will let go of some of the pain. And where the old goes, there is space for wonderfully new and exciting things.

To also support you in this process, I have also recorded a meditation for you to help you let go of pain:

De-stress beathing meditation with Sophie Bachmann