by Shane Fookes, MA LPC Intern
It’s not all in your head
Pain. Just seeing the word may cause you to shudder. Maybe you’re in pain right now and that’s why you’re reading this blog post. The kind of pain you’re feeling has a physical dimension but it hasn’t resulted from a physical injury. No, the pain you’re feeling is emotional and/or relational pain. Though it’s no less tragic and debilitating than physical illness or injury, it can be harder to understand and resolve. This kind of pain involves heartache, disappointment, and disillusionment caused by relational and emotional wounds.
Give it a purpose
Regardless of how you’ve been emotionally or relationally hurt, you face the question of what to do with your pain? Ignore it? Grin and bear it? Just get over it? Soothe it? Complain about it? Find a lesson to learn from it? Blithely hope it will work out for good?
As unpleasant as it is, pain serves an important purpose: it draws attention. When you touch a hot stove, intense pain very quickly draws your attention to the situation and causes you to pull your hand away to avoid permanent damage. In that way, pain is good, not pleasant but good. Emotional and relational pain serves a similar purpose. They let you know that something important to you has been violated and is in need of your attention.
Unfortunately, too often we waste our emotional and relational pain. We fail to respond in a healthy way to the wounds that life inflicts on our souls. Pain doesn’t have to damage us and rob us of happiness. Instead, when we know how to address our pain, it can lead us toward a better life.
So, how do you do that?
Using pain well
Well, it may sound too simple but it starts by making room for the pain! Allow pain to be an important part of your life. You don’t have to like pain for it to be important and even good. Making room for pain means allowing your body to respond as God made it to respond – with tears, sadness, regret, fear, anger, etc. Making room for these means saying to yourself, “This is an important part of being human. I can feel this.”
Secondly, responding well to pain involves diffusing or disempowering any unhelpful automatic thoughts that come to mind with the pain. This involves the skill of mindfulness or non-judgmental awareness. Many thoughts that course through our brains when we’re in pain are unhelpful interpretations or instructions we’ve picked up along the way in life, like…
“Buck up, you wimp.”
“Only weak people give in to pain.”
“You don’t deserve this.”
“You’re going to die!”
The practice of mindfulness brings a gentle, compassionate curiosity to your pain and explores its origins by asking Who, What, Where, When, and How questions (Why questions tend not to be as helpful):
“What was happening in my life when I felt the pain?”
“Who contributed to the painful situation?”
“When did it happen? When has it happened before?”
“Where in my body did I feel the pain?”
“How did the pain begin?”
More to the story
Sometimes distressing emotional and relational pain reaches deep into your backstory. Your body may be reminding you of the previous trauma you experienced. Or, perhaps relational survival habits you learned early in life are no longer adequate for your current life situation. When the pain you experience or the intensity of your response to the pain seems to go beyond the actual situation, your backstory may need exploration and resolution. You don’t have to be captive to past hurts.
Lastly, getting the most out of your pain involves clarifying your personal values. What’s your life on earth all about? What or who is most important to you? What’s worth living – or even dying – for? Pain has a way of clarifying your priorities! If you let it, pain can help you orient your life toward what matters most to you.
If you’re reading this because you are in pain, please know there is a way forward. Hope is available.
CONSIDER ONLINE THERAPY IN OREGON FOR CHRISTIAN COUNSELING
Our Clackamas and Hillsboro-based counselors are excited to work with you, wherever you are in Oregon. Your relationships can thrive again. Your life can feel less heavy. We can help you get back on track in a way that aligns with your faith and values. When you are ready to start online Christian counseling in Oregon, follow these simple steps:
- Learn about our therapy team in Hillsboro and our caring counselors in Clackamas
- Schedule an appointment with your preferred therapist, or contact us with questions
- Feel more connected to the important people in your life
OTHER MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES AT LIFE DISCOVERY COUNSELING IN OREGON
If you are in Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus, or Hillsboro, we can help you in person at one of our comfortable therapy clinics. Christian counseling is the cornerstone of our approach to therapy. Not only do we see adults, but children in counseling too. We also work with depression treatment, anxiety therapy, trauma therapy and PTSD treatment, relationship issues, marriage problems, and postpartum counseling. No matter where you are in the state, we can provide the support you need with online therapy in Oregon. Once you’re ready to start, we’re ready to meet you. Let’s connect!