“If you love your story, you love your life.” This quote of Byron Katie stuck with me the last week. I’ve went through painful times. And I realised how much power our thoughts have about the reality that we’re experiencing. After a week of crying and self-pity I decided to move beyond the pain, to create and to celebrate my life again. Today I’m sharing with you what I’ve learned the last weeks on dealing with emotional pain.
When the pain hits us
I’ve never met someone who never had a painful experience in his life. As we grow up we all face struggles. It’s so normal to experience pain. If it’s a death of a close person in our life, a heart-break or we’re getting abused or bullied by others.
Pain seems just to be a part of life. As if we would need to experience the pain, to know what love is. As if we would need the shadow, to see the light. There’s a yin in the yang, and a yang in the yin.
There’s no challenge without a gift for you.
Who would we be without those struggles? I see people rising through the ashes of pain, and create the extraordinary, create even deeper and more loving relationships. People who become ultimately strong the moment they evolve out of their struggles.
But there are also people who get killed by their painful story. People who can’t get back up. People who are lost and become the slave of their own pain.
Rising from the pain
It’s fascinating that I had the ‘privilege’ to feel this pain so much the last month. My heart felt so broken. I felt devastated. It hurt so much, it reminded me to the past, to my childhood… I completely forgot how much it can hurt.
But what I’ve learned from this, can’t be learned in any other way. It’s such a precious gift. It’s a gift I’m so grateful for – now. I felt so lost in the moment, but seeing the bigger picture, this gift helped me to understand relationships better. Others better. And understand myself better.
I know a couple depressed people. Who are stuck in their emotional pain for more than 10 years now. I also know incredible human beings who went through unimaginable pain, became incredibly strong and live a life filled with even more love and joy.
So what’s the difference? How can we rise out from struggles? How can we deal with emotional pain?
The different approaches to deal with emotional pain
There are different approaches to deal with emotional pain. To be honest, when this ‘issue’ came up last month for me, I had no idea how to deal with this incredible energy of pain within my body.
I was confused. Because it’s the first time in my life where I really tried to deal consciously with emotional pain. Without supressing the feelings or running away from it.
I found that nobody taught me this before. As a kid I dealt with it in some kind of a natural way. I cried my ass off for a couple minutes, and then I was fine again.
As a teenager I just ignored it and went to hang out with my friends. Drinking booze. Smoking cigarettes, getting wasted. Hover around in the city. Breaking rules. Starting random fights. – That was our way to express our pain. My way of expressing the feeling of not being loved. Of not being enough.
How adults deal with emotional pain
At one point even I grew up. I got more conscious about my actions. I realised that resisting and fighting the pain, creates even more of it.
So here I was. 24 years old. Thought I was ‘mature’and ‘evolved’. Having my own brand built around relationships. And this unimaginable pain hit me! And I didn’t know what to do. I was lost. I felt empty.
I was so confusing at first. In that dark hole it’s hard to see the way. But it made me observe the world differently. How do others deal with emotional pain? And I found that there are mainly 3 archetypes of how people deal with their pain. Maybe you can find yourself in one of those… maybe in more than one.
None of those ‘approaches’ was serving me in my life. I realised that I was ‘running’ away from myself since I’m a little kid. I was mostly avoiding my emotional pain the last 15 years.
1# The (Spiritual) Bypasser
Are you also one of those ‘positive thinkers’? Well, I see myself as a big optimist. But there is this new-age spiritual way of dealing with emotional pain and I just realised for how long I was supressing my pain through that – unconsciously.
I used to tell myself: “Everything is fine, there’s no pain, the world is beautiful” – I’d simply ignore what is.
That to me is suppressing the pain. That ignorance of the emotional pain is self-avoidance. I love people who are positive. But as soon as this positive thinking is used as a vehicle of self avoidance, then even the optimists are not healthy.
How can you be happy– knowing that you’re broken inside, without being in alignment with your truth?
I believe there is a reason that we experience pain. It’s here to show us something. Something about yourself. Something you’ve been running away from. Pain is a signpost for you, about your understanding about the world, about your thoughts and beliefs.
Suppressing and ignoring that is almost like you ignore a little kid crying after you and think that your ignorance will help the kid to be in peace.
2# The Fighters of the Emotional Pain
A real warrior faces the pain. He doesn’t hold back. He is filled with courage. – And yet, he slowly kills himself.
I know some of those warriors. Some of them were very close to me in the past. I personally thought, that’s the way to deal with pain. But upon this day, I still see them fighting!
It’s an endless battle. A battle that can only be won by giving up.
As soon as the fighter feels the pain, he focusses on it – Because he is a ‘conscious’ person. The fighter focusses on it so much that his whole life becomes a fight.
It’s the counterpart of the “spiritual bypasser” – It’s going to war with the pain.
But also fighting is a resistance to what is. It creates even more pain.
We can live in war or we can live in peace. And I believe this is a simple decision.
But thinking that fighting those ‘bad’ emotions will bring peace is equivalent to the nonsense-war-politics in the ‘real-world’.
You can live a life with focussing on what you don’t want, or you can live a life and focus on what you do want. Pain attracts more pain. (Most people don’t know what they want, but they know exactly what they don’t want.)
What you resist persists. And if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
3# Mrs. Self-Pity and Mr. Poor Me
I was Mr. Poor Me. Addicted to my victim story. Telling myself the same sad story over and over again.
Yes, I know it hurts. But living in self-pity doesn’t serve anyone. In fact, I see it as an avoidance mechanism. We play the victim. And we search for love from the outside. The love that we fail to give ourselves.
The last month, I was living by that pattern. What an exhausting way to live.
We slowly become energy vampires. Addicted to bad emotions, addicted to others attention.
Yes, there’s a time for sadness. And we’re all human beings – when it hurts, it hurts. But nobody is born in self-pity. Nobody is born poor.
That’s just not who we are. We are so wonderful and amazing beings full of energy, love and power. All that keeps you sad and shrinking is the holding on to a victim story.
It’s just a story. It’s not even real.
And yet, there are people who live by the same victim story for years.
We can hold on to the story, let go of it or we can just change it. It’s a decision. Because our stories are often just made up anyways. There are always multiple ways to tell a story.
My good friend and filmmaker Adam Halmos once told me: “You can create a love story or a thriller with the same video material. It’s just on what parts you put you’re focussing on and the way you tell the story.”
If you love your story, you love your life. Byron Katie
We can decide which story we want to paint. And each story can be turned into a victim story or a heroes journey. You have the power over your own script.
But the self-pity energy wasn’t serving me. It left me powerless, having the same repeating thoughts again and again. It’s not who I am.
Evolving into loving what is
There’s a 4th way I discovered. A way, that helped me to heal myself. At least, I’m on a really good way to step out of the victim role and rise out of the ashes.
I realised that being Mr. Poor Me, Being the Pain Fighter or even Mr. Positive didn’t really help me on dealing with that incredible pain. They all helped me to avoid the moment but none of them helped me to face the pain and helped me to overcome it.
But suddenly, I was sitting in my living room, and this amazing rush of love overcame me. This amazing feeling of accepting this pain. I felt so much love, I can’t really wrap it into words. Everything just became so clear.
- How about the pain we feel is just here…and it’s okay?
- How about we wouldn’t need to supress it, we wouldn’t need to run away from it or fight it?
- How about we can just feel it? Without attaching the victim story to it. Without judging the pain.
- How about if ‘good’ or ‘bad’ feelings are just defined by your mind? How about: There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ feeling? There are just feelings.
- How about we don’t need to search for ways to demolish it or to cure it, because our natural state is well-being anyways?
This opened up a new world for me. My reality completely changed. If well-being is my natural state, I finally could relax.
The way to overcome pain and to experience love is to stop resisting it and to accept what is.
I discovered that pain is nothing more than energy. It’s not good or bad but we can use it for our higher purposes.
Now the biggest shift: If it’s energy, then I don’t need to fight it – I can appreciate it! Because I can use it to create something amazing! I can welcome the pain, I can acknowledge it, I can look forward to it.
It’s vibrant, it has power. For example: When I’m angry, I go to the gym and I tend to perform my best workouts. This is one way to use this energy.
Dealing with emotional pain is a conscious decision we can make. It’s the responsibility we can have over our live. It only hurts if we attach our victim story to it, if we judge it.
Out of that I realised: I’m literally the only one that can hurt me.
We can use the energy to destroy us. Or we can use the energy to create amazing and beautiful things.
Take your broken heart and make it into art
Meryl Streep had this wonderful quote at the end of her Golden-Globe speech. “Take your broken heart and make it into art”
This is where I see the difference of people who rise out of their ashes. They found a way to take this energy and used it to create something beautiful.
I hope this article helped you to see that we don’t need to be fighters of pain – we can just relax. We also don’t need to force ourselves to think positively – we can just acknowledge.
It’s the acceptance of what is. Sometimes life hits us, and it hurts, but there is no challenge without a gift for you. Because we can learn so much about ourselves.
What is your way of dealing with emotional pain? Can you find your past-self in one of those archetypes? Post your comment below!
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