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!

Avoidance.

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Not wanting to do something that we have to do.
Keeping away.
An escape from consequences.

We love to create all kinds of worse case scenarios for the way that things will turn out, so we can avoid doing things that we don’t want to do.

We dream up terrible outcomes. We imagine bad endings. We create all sorts of evidence why avoiding the situation makes perfect sense. Then we distract. We procrastinate. And we resist wanting the thing that we have worked so hard to avoid going after.

The negative self-talk begins and all sorts of feelings emerge. These are usually, the not-so-great feelings, like frustration, guilt, disappointment, worry. Each of these unsettling feelings created, because we decided to avoid doing something we needed / wanted to do.

The truth is that we avoid doing difficult and challenging things because we want to avoid feeling uncomfortable. And yet, when we don’t follow through and take action on things we need to do, we experience all kinds of negative emotions anyway. We trade a potential negative feeling and taking action for wanting to escape a negative feeling, taking no action and feeling negative emotions of avoidance anyway.

So here are my tips on how to move through avoidance.

Identify your WHY. Why do you need to do this thing? Search for the meaning and connect to it. Does it improve your life in some way? Will it have long-term positive consequences if it goes well? Is it about helping someone that you care about? Look at the big picture. If you can’t find and identify the why and stand behind it, then perhaps this thing is something you are doing out of obligation or for the wrong reasons. Make sure you know your WHY. Be truthful and connected to it.
Focus on the positive outcomes. What are all the amazing possible outcomes that can come from taking this action? What is possible? Use your imagination to predict best-case scenarios – let this motivate you in a very powerful way towards making decisions and taking action.
Be willing to sit with negative emotion. Accept that negative feelings are going to come up. Knowing ahead of time, that negative emotions will show up as guilt, regret, disappointment and worry if you don’t take the action that you need to. Understand that taking action may trigger discomfort, fear, embarrassment for you. Be ready for those feelings. Expect them. Welcome the uncomfortable into your life, because it means that you are doing something challenging / difficult and moving closer towards something you want. Be willing to feel your uncomfortable feelings and take action anyway. It is best way to move closer towards the things that you want in your life.