How To Process Pain In A Positive Way

katie pulsifer coaching, processing pain

We all experience pain at regular intervals in our life. And yet, most of us will go to great lengths to never experience painful feelings or understand the options we have in how we process pain.

Often, we turn to food, alcohol, shopping, work or something else to ignore the pain we feel. These temporary distractions only prevent the process that needs to happen to let the pain go, permanently.

Here is what happens:

something happens to trigger pain
a rush of thoughts flood our minds
these thoughts create emotions (vibrations in the body) that can feel unbearable
we make a choice to avoid emotions, resist and react to the emotions or process the emotions

Avoiding the pain

When we avoid the pain, it is like we pretend it isn’t there. Which, is essentially lying to ourselves. This feels better in the moment but never works long term. Because the more we avoid pain, the more we have to keep avoiding it. So, if we make a choice to drink wine instead of feeling the pain, then we teach ourselves to respond to negative emotions with wine – which can lead to drinking when we really don’t want to – which can lead to overdrinking, lethargy, fogginess, weight gain and guilt – which can produce more pain in the long run.

Resisting and reacting to the pain

If we resist the pain, it looks like acting out or fighting against it. This is usually uncontrolled and responses towards something or someone that we may perceive to be “responsible” for our pain. We might yell, over-react and blow something out of proportion. We might slam a door, talk about someone behind their back or give them the silent treatment. These behaviors can provide a temporary relief from the pain, but ultimately the pain takes on more intensity as we fuel it with these negative responses. And when we react from a negative emotion, we always get a negative result – and this can produce more pain down the road.

Processing the pain

When we choose to process pain, it means that we are deciding to feel it. Many of us have a very difficult time doing this. We are reluctant to feel pain on purpose. We have told ourselves that it is a bad thing to do or that it will be too hard. And yet, processing and feeling our pain is always more manageable than we think and it means that we can avoid long-term consequences that come from avoiding, resisting and reacting to it.

I am a firm believer in processing my pain. I have learned how to get very comfortable experiencing painful feelings – allowing them to be with me and knowing that the immediate discomfort that they create is only temporary. I can control when the suffering ends. I have learned how to do the work and it has changed my life.

Here’s what I do and what I teach my clients to do:

  • Allow the painful feelings to be in my body, even when I can’t make sense of them in my mind
    I watch and wait
  • Notice that I may want to distract myself from my feelings with _________ (food, wine, sleep, social media, shopping, etc…)
  • Notice that I may want to act out________ (place blame, speak harshly, be judgmental, be manipulative)
  • Decide that I am processing the pain instead of any of those other things
  • Commit to this decision
  • Go on with my life, bringing the painful feelings with me
  • Keep noticing what wants to distract me from the pain. Tell myself that it is not worth the temporary relief. Tell myself that I am choosing the harder path, but it will be well worth it.
  • Recommit to experiencing the painful feelings as often as necessary
  • Keep going on with life
  • Take notice of the new thoughts that start to emerge – this may take minutes, hours, days or weeks. Let it take as long as it takes
  • Keep the thoughts that help the healing process and ditch the rest
  • Feel more positive when the pain subsides

After you go through the journey of processing pain, there is something that you must do.

Own it. Own your pain. It’s yours.

Remember, this is how it happens.

something happens to trigger pain
a rush of thoughts flood our minds
these thoughts create emotions (vibrations in the body) that can feel unbearable (the painful feelings)
we make a choice to avoid the emotions, resist and react to the emotions or process the emotions

Whenever I am confronted with pain, I tell myself this:

I am responsible for this pain. I have created it with my thoughts. I can use this opportunity to learn so much about myself – if I am willing to process this pain, instead of avoiding, resisting or reacting to it. This is happening for my benefit. If I can create pain with my mind, then I can create the relief with my mind.

If you prefer, we can do this work together – because I know that two minds are better than one. Book a complimentary Breakthrough Session to see how to shift your approach to processing pain so you can feel more positive and empowered moving through it. Let’s take 30 minutes to talk about it. Book your session today!

on the fence.

ask yourself this question life coaching confidence self care

Do you spend a lot of your time “on the fence”?

The place where we like to hang out when we have a decision to make. We like this place because it’s neutral and protected. It’s a safety zone, of sorts. It buys us all the space and time we need as we prepare to make a decision.

We consider all our options.
We ask for insights, inputs and information.
We weigh all the pros and the cons.
We think. We imagine. We worry.
We go get more information.

We are prudent and responsible, thoughtful and considerate, in taking the time to make the decision. It is imperative to gather all the information and to consult with the people in our lives who might be impacted by our decision. We look at our money. We consider our time availability. We question our commitment and investment. We ask for support and buy-in where we need it.

These are all necessary and very important steps. These steps are what allow up to climb up to that place where we are sitting on the fence, checking out the view on the other side. With each piece of information, we climb higher. We get more of a perspective of what life would be like on the other side of the decision.

We see opportunity. We see possibility. We see transformation.

It’s exciting. We climb higher.
It’s scary. We hang out right where we are.
It’s exciting. We take another step.
It’s scary. We stop moving. We focus on fear we are feeling.
And then we wait.
And wait.
And wait.

And for many of us – this is as far as we get. We never get to the other side of the fence. We never make the decision. We stall out right before we have to make the commitment and decide. We freeze. We get stuck.

Stuck in the indecision. 1/2 in where we are now and 1/2 in where we would like to be. We argue with ourselves about the comfort and stability of where we are now versus the discomfort and unpredictability that change could bring. We are tempted by what is on the other side of our decision and the fence, yet we love the safety of where we are right now.

Staying “on the fence” for too long is exhausting – it depletes us, drains us and distracts us. We prolong having what we really want and then we begin to make up excuses for why we can’t have it. It becomes a vicious cycle and the sad part is that we look for reasons to justify it. We use excuses like we are afraid of making “the wrong decision” or we blame someone for not supporting us.

Yes, making big decisions is hard. Sometimes very hard. But I truly believe that nothing is harder that wanting something and not giving yourself the chance to have it because you are afraid of making a decision. Not ever knowing what it is like to get over the fence and experience what it is like on the other side – seeing the opportunity, the possibility, the transformation and never having it – that is a million times harder than the process of deciding.

A decision often creates short-term discomfort and some level of inconvenience.

Know that going in. Are you willing to experience the discomfort and inconvenience, in order to have want you ultimately want? If so, then find people in your life who will support you. Find the people that will cheer you on and hold you accountable to your decision. Surround yourself with friends, family, mentors, coaches, advisors that see your “other side of the fence” and will help you get there, no matter what. Once you get “off the fence” and over to the other side, you will find everything you need to make the decision “right” and to move your life in the direction that you have always wanted.