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When Pain is too heavy to carry.... (Emotional Pain) Part 1


Before I carry on, a bit of geeky neuro stuff for you......

Emotional pain activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain, namely the anterior insula and anterior singulate cortex.

I know when I discovered this it made COMPLETE sense. Emotional pain is deeply, physically experienced and tangible. It's no wonder that carrying emotional pain is so hard to tolerate

It can be helpful to picture emotional pain, and in fact emotion in general, as ENERGY. We are designed to DO something with this energy. However, we aren't taught what to do with this pain 'energy' so we observe others in our environment how to do this. Therein can lie the problem.

So what ways do we learn to manage this pain/energy/emotion?

1) Swallow it! Push it down! Be Strong! Deny!

"It just disappears right?" Sadly not it sits inside us until triggered externally. When this is done repeatedly it becomes toxic (physically and emotionally) and depression can rear its ugly head.

2) Eat our Feelings

As I mentioned emotion is tangible and when we feel this in our stomachs we can look to smother the feeling with food. Hence the term! This can set up a dysfunctional relationship with food and the inherent problems that go with that.

3) Numb them out

We use something external to numb the feeling i.e Alcohol, Narcotics. We can also prompt the chemicals in our body namely the feel good hormones to minimise the pain. Whilst these feel good hormones in themselves are not damaging to our bodies, when prompted to extremes they can be damaging and the associated behaviours. i.e sex addiction, work-out addiction, gambling addiction, risk taking behaviour.

4) Dump on others - Project/Blame

Ever found yourself snapping at your partner, kids, friends when something else is bothering you? This is an example of emotional dumping, attaching our feelings about another situation to what's happening in the here and now. Whilst we get to shift our pain/energy it is very much felt by the person on the other end (projection), and is abusive.

Blame is a little more complicated, but tends to happen when our emotional pain comes from realising we have some responsibility in the situation that is painful. Rather than processing that healthily, we look to shift that responsibility onto another, and therefore shift the pain.

5) Blame ourselves

We take full responsibility for the pain, we stuff it down like 1) but we also activate our 'inner critic' who punishes us . This can then lead to other self punishing behaviour.


The first step to learning how to process emotional pain healthily is self-awareness. Recognising how we behaviour now. Do you recognise any of these?

There are elements in each of these ways that we can use to process emotional pain/energy healthily..... I will go into more depth in Part II. Please feel free to comment.

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