I have written before about emotional pain as a reaction to a perceived threat and our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. Mental pain is not the enemy. It is the messenger. And it is very important not to kill it.
Many people will tell you that when you come out of the other side of pain, you feel stronger. I have learned the hard way that the fear of pain takes more energy than the pain itself. Worry is an example of it. When we worry, we experience mental pain from something negative we have imagined in our head. Yes, all in our head.
Pain and Joy are temporary
Pain is short-lived, just like happiness and extreme joy. When I experience great joy, I want to carve it into my mind and keep it forever, but it passes, because emotions are temporary. Whatever you feel, remember the saying “This too shall pass”. We can take advantage of this when we feel pain and look beyond it.
On the other side of pain, there is lots of strength. My mom used to say (and still does) “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. It is an old saying that only when you accept it, you can tackle the pain not as an enemy, but as a helper, a messenger or a warning bell.
There are many techniques to turn mental pain into psychological strength and the more you use them, the less you feel the pain. I have gathered some of them here to share with you. All of them are proven and practical. I use them with my clients.
It is amazing how quickly the pain fades and comfort comes. Some of my clients need two or three techniques, but most of them only need one. After getting to know my clients, I pick the methods that will produce the best outcome in the shortest time. Since you are doing it yourself, you will have to try them one by one and figure out which is best for you.
From mental pain to personal power
- Use every pain as an opportunity to grow, an “emotional stretch”. You grow, you learn. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this pain?” If you ask good questions, you will find good answers. Questions about learning are good.
- Separate facts from meaning. “He didn’t come to our meeting on time” is a fact. The possible meanings are endless, from “He has no respect for me” to “He was stuck in traffic”. When you feel hurt, it is hard to stick to the facts, so practice thinking in terms of “facts” and “meaning” about what happens to you. Once you realize that your feelings always come from the meaning that you give the facts, it is easy to eliminate the pain.
- Admit that you feel pain or you will stay in pain for a long time. It is OK to feel disappointment and it is easier to admit that you feel disappointed than to hide it to avoid conflicts. You may not need to express it to others, but make sure you express it to yourself. We all need values, rules and standards, but we do not need to force them on others and it is OK to keep them to ourselves. “I am disappointed he didn’t come to our meeting on time. There must be a reason for his late arrival. I will still make sure I come on time, because coming on time is important to me“.
- Let go of thoughts, perceptions and objects that cause you pain. Most people think that others and circumstances cause their pain, when in fact, the thoughts associated with them are the cause. If he did not come to the meeting on time, he is not the reason I am in pain, but the expectation that he would come on time.
- Look on the full half of the glass. Why? Because there must be some good in everything. This is the rule of life. Rain wets the laundry? Bummer! But it waters the garden too. Yay! Seek the good and you shall find. He came late to our meeting, so I had time to go through my voice messages, or meditate, or call my mother, or…
- Pain is not a stop sign. Many people consider pain as a sign not to do anything, as if the body is punishing us for doing things we should not do. It is not! It is only an alert, a message telling us that something needs to change.
- Action is the best way to overcome mental pain. It is a sign that we need to change something and then check if it works better. If you make enough changes, you will find something that will make your pain go away.
- Celebrate your achievements. Why? Because this is a great reminder of what works. Many times you can use past achievements to overcome current pain. “He is not being disrespectful, because he did come to our meeting on time last time”.
- Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Often, you can ease you mental pain by sharing it with people you trust. Look for those positive, non-judgmental people and they will help you ease the pain with their caring. If what caused the pain was something that others have said to you, expected of you or done to you, adopt the belief “Whatever others think about me is none of my business”. We cannot live based on what others expect of us, if only because different people’s expectations may contradict. We have to develop our own thoughts without the desire to please others and this will save us from experiencing lots of mental pain.
- Focus on the future. Ask, “What can I do now?” We cannot change the past. Some things, we cannot change at all. We need to learn to choose our battles and focus on what we can do right now and in the future.
Emotional pain is always at the edge of your comfort zone and when you push against it, you grow and become stronger.
For your growth!