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Life, while mostly enjoyable, does have its ups and downs. The sun shines on the evil and the good. Pain is an inevitable part of life. Never think that you’ve been singled out for pain. We all seem to understand that physical pain takes time to subside, and as the wound or illness that caused the pain heals, the pain will ease. What we have more trouble with is realizing that emotional pain also takes time to heal.
- Don’t try to cure what is normal. Temporary emotional pain is caused by any number of events: death of a loved one, a breakup, thoughtlessness or cruelty on the part of others. When you’re hurting because of any of the above, accept that it’s normal to feel hurt or angry for a short time. Let’s face it: if a loved one dies, only a very cold person would be unaffected by it. If you love someone and that person dumps you, it’s natural to feel hurt. These things are normal. Trying to cure what is normal is pointless. Expect to feel pain for a while – it’s normal.
- There’s a statement that goes something like, ‘If you get (enter mad, hurt, insulted, offended, etc., here) it’s your fault.’ That’s just not true. That suggests that people don’t love, or bond, or trust, or invest emotions. If you have emotional pain, there’s a reason for it.
- Don’t pretend you don’t feel it. The pain is real. You have to address it, or you will never get beyond it. Don’t try to rush through this season of pain. Even though all you can really think about is ending the pain, the truth is that just allowing yourself the feelings is important. Masking your pain when you’re trying to work or just get through each day may be necessary to a point, but make sure to allow yourself some “me-time” – some time to allow yourself to really feel all of the feelings you are having, rather than just suppressing and denying them.
- Identify all of your feelings. Are you just heartbroken? Or are you angry, too? Maybe just the tiniest bit relieved – which is also making you feel guilty? Do you feel betrayed? Insecure? Afraid? Giving some thought to exactly how you are feeling can be very helpful in processing all of your emotions in the wake of a traumatic or life-changing event.
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- Endure it. Things that cannot be cured must be endured. It sounds obvious, but sometimes, thinking of emotional pain as if it were physical pain can be very helpful. Think of your broken heart just as if it were your arm that is broken instead. A broken arm takes time to heal, and it hurts like crazy just after it’s broken, even after it’s been set and casted. A few days later, it doesn’t hurt so much. But weeks or even months later, if you bump or jar it, that pain can come roaring back to life with a vengeance. You baby it a little, take care not to aggravate it, and eventually, it’s stronger where it was broken than it was before. You have no choice – you can’t cut off the arm. That won’t make it hurt any less. You just have to endure it while it heals.
- Talk to someone. There are times when it seems that the hurt you feel inside is just too deep to talk about. You feel like no one could understand. Or maybe you worry because your loved ones didn’t share your feelings about whatever it is that’s hurting you. Maybe they didn’t care for your boyfriend, whom you just broke up with, or they didn’t know your friend, who passed away. You may be right – they may not totally understand. But right now, it isn’t being understood that you need. It’s compassion. Your family and friends love you. They see you hurting and want to help. Sometimes, if you will just try to talk out your feelings, say something about what hurts, it can help start your healing. Letting someone put his or her arm around you and hearing them say, “It’s going to be okay” may not seem that helpful, but it really is, because it helps you feel you’re not totally alone. Realizing that someone wants to be there for you will help.
- Don’t let anyone tell you that your feelings aren’t real. They are real, significant, and important. And, they’re your feelings. Feeling alone doesn’t mean there is no one around. Feeling sad doesn’t mean you’ll never be happy. Feel your feelings, think your thoughts, but realize they’re just feelings and thoughts.
- Get your mind off yourself and how bad you feel. You have the right to feel sorry for yourself – for 10 minutes. Then move on. No exceptions. Go out with friends. Tell yourself that you will not talk about your pain for more than a few minutes – you will not bring down the activity by wallowing in it. Don’t let your friends walk on egg shells around you just because you’ve been traumatized. You still need to live. Distract yourself by just forgetting it for a little while. If you’re grieving a death, or heartbroken over a breakup, especially, giving yourself a little time to just be without obsessing on the event that hurts will help you to heal and move past it. That’s not to say that you just forget about it and move on – no. It’s only to say that even grief needs to take a breather. Give your weary heart a little respite, and let it mend with the love and lightness of heart that comes from being with friends, or doing something that brings you pleasure. There will be time to cry again, but not just now.
- Allow time to heal. This is part of just enduring. You will need to muster up the patience to allow healing to commence. There isn’t any substitute for just … waiting. Time requires one thing: that you allow it to pass. Getting past emotional pain requires a grieving process, which takes time.
- Don’t let your pain define you. Remember you are greater than this hard time, you have a past and a future. You have awareness and creativity. This was a single episode which will soon pass.
- Write a letter. Writing down your feelings can help you to sort them out. It can help more if you use positive “I messages” instead of negative ones. If you don’t write, talk about your feelings with someone close or a therapist. Don’t justify them, just talk about them, get them out, and listen to what you say.
- Stay away from statements that blame you or others. Take responsibility for your actions, and your part of whatever went wrong, but do not indulge in blaming. The question of “And whose fault is/was that?” does not apply.
- Develop a learning orientation. Life hands you difficulties so you can learn from them. People who have really easy lives fall apart when bad things happen because they have never learned how to cope or let things roll off their backs. Everything, even very painful times, can be used to learn better coping skills and to develop wisdom and perspective about life that will help you deal with many difficulties in the future. Whatever doesn’t destroy you can serve to make you stronger.
- Make a ‘Thankfulness List’. Write down what you are thankful for, even basic things like having clothes and a warm place to sleep, then moving to people who care for you, and good things in your life. Being thankful is naturally healing and will balance out any trauma over time.
- If the pain is lasting more than a week or so, or you’ve lost hope or you’re thinking of suicide, you’re either suppressing your pain or you have deeper unresolved issues that you need to complete. The strategies above are healthy ways to deel with emotional pain. Often as kids, we didn’t use these strategies and instead incorporate the pain into our character, our subconscious. Said another way, when we’re young, it’s easy to let emotional pain define you. Often this needs to be undone, teased apart and handled in a healthy manner for us to be free. If a current incident upsets you too much or for too long, or your whole life is colored by a negative outlook, consider getting some help to unearth, re-examine and complete a prior incident.
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- It’s normal to feel hurt or pain for some time after an event. How much time is up to you. Don’t let others rush or pressure you into “getting over it” on some timetable. But if you feel hopeless, or helpless, and this feeling doesn’t improve over time, but instead seems to linger, seek professional help. Emotional injury can lead to depression, which can be treated – don’t let yourself continue a downhill slide indefinitely. You should reach a peak or plateau, and things should start to turn around. You shouldn’t just feel like you’re continuing down, down, down.
- Watch out for addiction to drama. You can get a lot of attention when things get bad – but it’s not healthy to keep working your friends for attention to your dramas. It can be hard to give up the experience of having people sympathize as you tell how bad it is, but drama can become a way of life that sucks all the good feelings out of your relationships. If you find yourself telling the same story over and over again, or similar stories where you are the victim and someone else is the villain, it’s time to get a handle on yourself!
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