Published: 11/06/2014 - Updated: 01/02/2018
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
Emotional pain is something that everyone has suffered from at some point in time, and which is felt in different ways: like anxiety, loneliness, anguish, sadness, emptiness, or other unpleasant emotions derived from different life experiences like rejection, nonacceptance, lack of understanding, guilt, loss of those we love, etc.
When people experience emotional pain it is difficult, to a certain extent, to focus on other things, especially when it is sharp and deep. Emotional pains steals attentions and concentration from daily activities, and generally tends to cause the following reactions:
- Isolation from others
- Emotional distance from those that surround us
- Behavior related to anger, like screaming, etc.
- Pain evasion, from distractions like watching TV or listening to music, to even stronger evasion with substances like alcohol or drugs when the pain is more acute and becomes intolerable.
- Coldness or indifference caused by resisting wanting to feel
- Attitudes like “I don’t care” or emotional hardness with oneself or others.
Why do we feel pain?
Pain is described in many ways, but in order to speak of emotional pain, we need to also speak of love, which is the opposite of pain. The more we lack love, the more we feel pain.
Feeling emotional pain could be caused by several things, but emotional relationships are the primary causes of emotional pain. We are going to focus on this topic by giving a brief orientation in order to understand what it is that causes pain and how it can be transformed into learning.
Emotional pain from affective relationships
This is one of the most common types of pain, and for a lot of people, it is the most difficult to understand and overcome. Everyone knows how difficult it can be for two human beings to understand one another and learn to live together. Everything seems to be going great until pain starts to enter, caused by certain relationship experiences.
This happens when you want to other to accept or approve of you and we suddenly perceive their rejection or disapproval. The pain felt from rejection can be so intense that a lot of people truly feel attacked, which could cause intense anger and could cause the relationship to deteriorate; it could damage the relationship and could even lead to a break up.
This is due primarily to low self-acceptance, a lack of value for who one is. When you don’t accept yourself, or have very little value for who you are, this creates a personality that searches to please and impress another. You will be motivated by acceptance or admiration from others, so that others can provide you with the acceptance and approval that you lack. The more pain you feel from being rejected by others, the more you will be motivated by outside acceptance. The truth is, it is not being rejected by others that hurts, what hurts is that you break your own internal laws. This means that you are not truly honest with yourself, you take part in games you don’t really like just to please, or to catch someone else’s attention.
Rejection hurts because we reject ourselves in the first place, or we disapprove of some part of yourself. By doing so, we are leaving behind what we truly are in exchange for “being loved” by others.
What should I do with the pain of rejection?
You must start by observing as much as possible and trying to find where you are not being yourself, or how you reject yourself, disapprove of yourself, or act artificially. You must learn to observe your weaknesses and to observe pain not as an enemy to avoid or struggle against, but as a messenger that wants to help you grow and be more grandiose.
Pain is a great teacher if you learn to understand it and to transform it. In this case, the message that pain send you is that centering yourself once again is essential. This means, in the simplicity of who you are, learning to react in a simple and honest way to what happens to you. You also need to learn to accept your weaknesses and strengths, to see yourself and to feel yourself as valuable without becoming vain or arrogant. This requires constant self-observation.
Pain from guilt
Guilt is a feeling of self-punishment, of feeling like you did “something wrong” or that you went about something in the wrong way. You reprimand yourself and disapprove of it. This type of pain is easily felt when, for some reason, you observe that someone rejects you or disapproves of your behavior, and they’re right. Recognizing that you haven’t acted in the best possible way, you could feel guilt and self-punishment, which causes emotional pain.
What should I do with pain from guilt?
The important thing is that whenever you feel guilty, you begin to understand that life is a time of experiences in which everyone grows and learns about each other. Expecting perfect behavior from ourselves only makes you fall into rigid thinking and feeling, which causes immediate self-rejection when this perfection doesn’t happen. We, and everyone in general, are always trying to do our best to understand and to relate. A lot of times, we do and say things that aren’t favorable, but that can happen to anyone. The problem is when the other person reacts in a way we didn’t want them to, or caused a reaction of discomfort, distance, or rejection. We then feel “bad”, or guilty. Understanding that relationships are a means of getting to know yourself, and which allow you to learn from them more than to be perfect, you can then clarify your attitudes and see and recognize your possible weaknesses in them.
You can then have a conversation so that the other individual can understand your reactions or feelings, but not by feeling guilty, but rather in a dignified way. This means that you accept your weaknesses by being honest with yourself and with the other, and stop wanting to control the situation in a perfect mold. You should also avoid scolding yourself, severe criticism and rejection for your actions.
Pain from growing apart
This happens when two people who care for each other, either a couple, a mother and a child, two friends, etc., separate for some reason or end the relationship.
What to do?
A lot of times we create emotional dependency with people that surround us and that’s why, when they distance themselves or step away from some reason, we feel pain. This translates from a deep sense of missing to anxiety or strong anguish. It’s not that dependencies are bad; in one way or another, we all depend on someone we love. Yet, when the pain of separation is very acute this means that the dependency is surpassing the limits of your well-being. If this is the case, you should then begin by focusing on your personal life. It’s quite likely that you have placed your happiness or well-being in the hands of another. In this case, the pain from “loss” warns you that you have set your own essential interests aside. You have grown distant from what really brings you fulfillment. You must begin by asking yourself and focusing your attention on what truly makes you happy. Focus on how you have abandoned yourself, or perhaps, you need to learn to be more independent or to value yourself more, especially when a relationship ends and you did not wish it.
Because this is a very extensive subject, we have only covered one part of all of the possible causes of emotional pain. However, let us say that as a general summary, whenever you feel emotional pain, do not reject it or try to avoid it. It is not easy to feel things that a lot of times, you don’t like. But if you learn to vent yourself and to see your pain as a messenger, you will be able to learn a lot from it. At the end of the day, pain wants to teach teach you how to understand yourself and to accept yourself more. It wants you to discover the depths of what it is you call love.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 01/02/2018
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