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!

4 Powerful Lessons to Create an Empowered Life

Here are four of the most significant lessons that I have learned and used to create an empowered life.

These lessons have changed my life in radical ways – helping me to let go of what I can’t control and focus on what I can. These lessons have taught me how to know myself better and how to positively influence every direction of my life, creating what I want on purpose and not by default.

 

1. Stay out of everyone else’s emotions.

I’ll admit, this one took me a long time to learn.

I used to believe that it was my responsibility to create other people’s emotions.
I believed that it was my job to make people feel happy, appreciated, included, calm, engaged, interested and special.
Therefore, I believed that it was also my responsibility to ensure that the people in my life never felt disappointment, anger, sadness, frustration, worry, fear or loneliness.
I thought that was my job and just the way things worked.
It meant that I spent a lot of time trying to ensure that people would feel the way that I wanted them to. Of course, I wanted the people I knew and loved to feel good (positive emotions) and to never suffer (negative emotions) so I worked really hard to manipulate situations, so there would always be happy endings and positive outcomes. I tried to anticipate potential negative outcomes and remove that possibility if I could.
It was a lot of work. It took so much effort. It was exhausting.
Sometimes I felt like I was successful and a lot of the time, I felt like I was not.
I continued to do this, until I learned the important lesson that other people’s emotions are none of my business.
People get to feel and experience any emotion that they want.
I have no business going into their lives and trying to manipulate circumstances in order to create a specific outcome.
Their emotional experience is 100% their own responsibility. It is for their benefit. What they do in their lives is entirely dependent on what they feel. I have no place trying to influence their experience of processing their own emotions – whatever that means for them.
My only job is to create, observe and understand my own emotions and manage them effectively. Lesson one of living an empowered life.

2. Stir up some fear and self-doubt on purpose.

I used to be very risk adverse.
I was afraid of experiencing fear.
I hated feeling self-doubt.
So, I lived in a very cozy comfort zone. Everything was safe and predictable. I loved trying to control everything and make it perfect.
Perfect to me – meant stable and consistent, reliable and steady.
And it also meant my life was stagnant and stuck.
The safety and security that I had created around me was like a protective shield and it was literally sucking the life out of me.
I craved growth and evolution in my own life. I loved learning new things. But as soon as a little fear of the unknown or self-doubt about my abilities to create something new creeped in, I retreated back to the security of my comfort zone.
I started new things and stopped when I got scared, felt uncertain or uncomfortable.
I didn’t know that evolving and growth automatically meant that fear, self-doubt, uncertainty and discomfort would show up.
I didn’t know experiencing the feelings of self-doubt and fear are exactly what I had to experience in order to grow.
I learned that those emotions came from my thoughts.
Those emotions are actually harmless.
The worse thing that could ever happen is that I would feel some self-doubt, some fear, some uncertainty and some discomfort.
Those emotions would wash through my body and I would feel them.
And by being willing to experience them, I would grow towards the new thing that I wanted to learn. I would evolve and stretch myself towards the new experience and ultimately create a new experience in my life.
I learned the lesson that fear and self-doubt are a necessary and manageable part of growing out of a comfort zone. Lesson two of living an empowered life.

 3. Protect my yes.

I used to believe that I had to do it all.
I had to always say yes.
To create the best for family. To make everything perfect. To please everyone. To never disappoint or let anyone down. To always be prepared for anything.
And that I could never ask for help doing it all.
And guess what?
I completely wore myself out.
For a while, it was fulfilling work. I told myself that it was noble.
It’s what women do – they just take care of everything.
And then, my exhaustion caught up with me.
I stopped taking care of myself.
I was angry.
I felt unappreciated.
I was disappointed.
I was deeply resentful.
I didn’t understand why I had these feelings and then I felt badly that I had them. I was ashamed that all my attempts to take care of everything and make it perfect didn’t bring me more satisfaction. It was distressing to realize that I was actually making myself miserable trying to be a woman who took care of everything all the time, at my own expense.
Then, I learned the important lesson of constraint. I learned that I could protect my yes. And most importantly, I did not need to say yes to others at my own expense.
I learned that I was trying to take care of everyone and make everything perfect, so others would be happy.
I was always saying yes to manage other people’s emotions (lesson 1).
This was a big wake-up call for me. If other people are ultimately responsible for creating their own emotions, then it doesn’t matter how much effort I expend and how many times I say yes to everything to try and control their emotions.
It doesn’t work that way.
I was suffering by over-extending myself to do the impossible – manage other people’s emotions.
I learned the lesson of protecting my yes, so that I could take better care of myself and focus on what I could control, not what I couldn’t. Lesson three of creating an empowered life.

4. Love myself, no matter what.

This is my most favorite lesson.
This one is powerful because it means that I have learned to generate my own self-love – under any circumstance, no matter what.
I am not reliant on others to love me, so that I feel love.
I am not dependent on taking care of everyone, making everything perfect, managing all the details, manipulating happy ending and outcomes, so that I will experience love.
My job is to love myself.
When I do this, then I can show up and allow other people to experience their own emotions without trying to change them.
When I love myself, I don’t feel compelled to influence other people’s emotions. I allow them to feel whatever they want and I am ok.
When I love myself, I know that I can embrace fear and self-doubt as a necessary part of growing and evolving into the best version of myself.
I use self-love to help me overcome the moments when fear and self-doubt tempt me to quit, give up or sabotage my dreams.
I use self-love to keep from retreating back to the comfort zone of my old life.
When I love myself, I protect my yes, with ease. I know exactly how to ensure that I do not over-extend myself to my own detriment.
When I love myself, I know that perfect doesn’t matter.
When I love myself, I know that taking care of myself is my top priority. And that I can take care of myself without feeling selfish and guilty – because feeling selfish and guilty never inspire me to take care of myself. Those feelings are unnecessary, not useful and do not feel good.
Love always feels good.
And I am the beneficiary of my love.
I get to enjoying the double experience of creating love for myself and receiving the love that I create for myself.
And now I go out of my way to create and experience more of it, every day. Lesson four of creating an empowered life.

How Empowered Feels

It feels like I know where I belong.

It feels like I know why I am here.

It feels like knowing when to listen and knowing when to speak.

It feels like being centered.

It feels like knowing exactly the right time to say “no thank you”.

It feels like being authentic.

It feels like letting go of my old story about myself.

It feels vulnerable.

It feels like walking towards my fear, instead of away from it.

It feels like when I stop making excuses.

It feels like loving myself more than I thought was possible.

It feels like my truth.

It feels like connecting with my purpose.

It feels like when I forgive and let go.

It feels like being a grown-up.

It feels like stepping out of the fog and into the sun.