Healing My Own Emotional Pain

Trauma. The relationship ends, the baby dies, the firing happens, the illness takes over, the collectors call, the accidents happen, the abuse, crime, and calamity all take their toll. The nervous system goes into hyper-protective mode, senses heighten, adrenaline courses through the body, focus narrows, and for the time being, my defenses are up. Strangely enough, the pain doesn't arrive until later.

When the dust has settled, and I'm left alone to process what has happened, then the pain comes. My mind is flooded with thinking - thinking about the loss, thinking about an unknown future, thinking about who's to blame, thinking about revenge, thinking about how I can manipulate the Universe, thinking about putting a gun to my own head. All this thinking keeps the pain alive, and feeds it.

Behavior becomes impulsive. I yell at my kid, I curse at my wife, I become self righteous, I power up, I justify my actions because I'm in pain. My compulsions ultimately become futile, and I turn to numbing out. Staring at a screen for hours, drinking until I can't feel, eating until I'm uncomfortable, looking at anything else, in as large a quantity as I can find, so I don't have to feel any more.

Ultimately I become exhausted. There is a letting go. A release. I can't do anything but sleep and rest. The body restores itself as much as it can, and the cycle starts again. 

This was the story of my life for over 50 years. A cycle of trauma, pain, grief, reaction and exhaustion. All those many years, there were a few basic truths that would have spared me from much of the drama surrounding my trauma, had I known them.

First: Much, if not all of my pain has been self created and inflicted. My insistence on focusing on the "wrongdoing" of others has perpetuated more of my suffering than anything they had actually done. My fixation on pain being caused by external forces that I am powerless over keeps me in pain. My perception of someone else being responsible keeps me in that powerless state. The rub is that I'm the one that is creating that construct. Brick by brick, I'm making this shit up. All of it.

Second: Blaming, raging, numbing out, and trying to figure it out are all ways that I avoid actually dealing with my pain. I carried these out mostly unconsciously and habitually. There was no intention or thoughtfulness about it. They were infantile reactions that were ultimately futile, and their results have been a source of even more pain and shame.

Third: Humans have an inborn ability to decide to feel better. This realization is a key to our liberation. No matter our circumstances, we are able to choose our emotional state. If there's a technique to this, it goes something like this:
  • Identify my current emotional state honestly and without judgement.
  • Remove my focus from any thinking I have about this emotional state or the circumstances that I am blaming for it.
  • Say to myself "I am transforming this emotion to one that is more loving?"
  • Repeat the question until I experience a higher emotion.
  • Repeat throughout the day. There is no upper limit to our emotional state.
We are free to choose how we feel, no matter what happens. Our feelings are not caused by our circumstances, nor are they a reliable indicator of what is true or real. They only reflect our state of mind from moment to moment.

Fourth: Our natural state is well being. My pain is an indicator that I am yearning to return to my natural state of being. It's like a weather instrument. My pain doesn't measure any objective reality. It only reflects my inner state of being. While it's compelling to think that my pain is caused by the actions of others or the circumstances of life, the truth is that my pain is a manifestation of my own distraction from the truth of who I am. Returning to that truth releases me. It has always been here. It can't go anywhere. It is the essence of my own being. 

I'm now responsible for my own pain. I'm no longer limited by a sense of powerlessness at the hands of other people and circumstances. I am more free than I've ever been, and there is no limit to this inner freedom. 

Do you want to feel better?