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Recognizing the Signs of Emotional Pain

Updated on January 28, 2020
denise.w.anderson profile image

An Education Specialist, Denise teaches the principles of Emotional Health for the establishment and maintenance of high quality families.

"I have a headache that just won't go away."

"I am totally exhausted."

"I cry over the littlest things!"

"There is a gnawing ache in the pit of my stomach."

"My legs hurt and I haven't even been doing any exercise!"

These physical symptoms sound like the beginnings of chronic illness, but they are also the symptoms of emotional pain. Recognizing and dealing with it may just be what is needed to save someone's life, perhaps even our own!

Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms?

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We cannot feel God's love for us when we are troubled by emotional pain.
We cannot feel God's love for us when we are troubled by emotional pain.

Why do we have emotional pain?

Emotional pain is the residual affect of unresolved emotions. It gets caught in the nooks and crannies of our lives in such a way that we cannot detect what is happening until it starts to show up in annoying physical symptoms.

At first, we think that we are ill. We take the time to get some extra rest, eat right, and take care of ourselves physically, but nothing seems to help. We may even go to the doctor for a checkup only to come home with a clean bill of health, and yet, not feel any better.

In her book, Feelings Buried Alive Never Die, Karol Truman addresses this issue comprehensively. She lists ailments that may result from unresolved feelings and gives step by step procedures in their resolution.

Once we realize that the symptoms we have are from emotional pain, it is up to us to figure out where it is coming from. This requires us to take inventory of what is happening in our lives and how we are responding to it. The paragraphs below give us a starting point.

Feelings Buried Alive Never Die
Feelings Buried Alive Never Die
Concrete steps are required when buried feelings come to the surface. Truman gives ways to recognize them and specific steps for resolution.

Intimate Relationships

Emotional pain may result from unresolved issues in our intimate relationships. Intimacy affects more than just our heart, it opens up an avenue into our very soul. When there is a rift between us and our intimate partner, it has a direct negative affect on our feelings of self-worth.

This type of emotional pain wreaks havoc in our lives, not just in our relationship with the person that we love, but all other people in our immediate surroundings. It explains why divorce is often fraught with bitterness and anger. Our intimate partner knows us in ways that no one else can. They have the ability to lift us up to euphoria, or drag us down into the most acute misery imaginable.

In order to check the temperature of our intimate relationships, we can ask ourselves the following questions:

  • What do I think when I see my spouse/partner/significant other?
  • Do I feel unconditional love for this person?
  • Are we able to communicate our innermost thoughts and feelings?
  • Do we enjoy being together?
  • Are we able to set goals together and reach them?
  • Have the issues in our relationship affected others?

It takes a great deal of humility, kindness, and love to resolve issues between us and our intimate partner. We may have to swallow our pride, look at ourselves differently, and be willing to listen with compassion. As we do so, we will find that things can get better for us, and that resolving our issues together lessens our burden of emotional pain.

Unresolved Grief

Unresolved grief can come from a variety of circumstances. Any time we experience a transition, we work through the stages of grief. Our ability to resolve these feelings determines, in large measure, our ability to experience ongoing happiness and joy in life.

Grief is the most intense emotional pain we will ever experience. It requires work on our part to complete the transition from "have" to "have not." This change means a shift in our core identity and world view, adjustments in our daily activities, and learning to live all over again.

We may find that there are bits and pieces of grief that are left over when we have worked through the process. We notice them at first, but because they take time to address, we set them aside, hoping that they will just go away. Unfortunately, they do not, and we find ourselves experiencing emotional pain because of them.

Like a toothache that gnaws at our ability to chew and digest food, the emotional pain of grief gnaws at our feelings of self-worth. We begin to question our ability to live a productive and meaningful life and find ourselves second-guessing everything we do.

Now is the time to address these issues. We have to identify and face them, and then deal with them. Doing so lessens the emotional pain we are experiencing, and enables us to feel joy and happiness once again.

And that is my counsel to you. If you have festering sores, a grudge, some bitterness, disappointment, or jealousy, get hold of yourself. You may not be able to control things out there with others, but you can control things here, inside of you.

— Boyd K. Packer

Lack of forgiveness

Emotional pain is also the direct result of us not forgiving others. The bitterness and anger we harbor when we hang on to the wrongs committed by others cankers our souls and leaves us bereft of the ability to feel and express love.

Lack of forgiveness leads to the distorted thought patterns of criticism, assumptions, faultfinding, exaggeration, doubt, and unrealistic expectations. Feeding ourselves with a steady diet of this negativity will surely lead to emotional and physical distress.

When we forgive, we release ourselves from this downward spiral and allow our souls to heal. We no longer punish ourselves by fretting over what another person said or did that hurt us. Rather, we let go of the need to see that they are justly recompensed, and leave such action in the hands of God.

Once we let go of these feelings, we leave room in our hearts for love, especially God's love. It is always present, but the storm clouds of emotional pain keep us from seeing and feeling it. We think that perhaps he doesn't care or love us because he has left us alone and hurting. In reality, he is simply waiting for us to reach out to him.

God is no respecter of persons. The rain falls on all and yet, the sunshine is always there, even when we cannot see it. No matter who we are or what we have done, God is there for us. When we reach out for his love, our emotional pain dissipates and we are bathed in the soft glow of his warmth and acceptance.

We can help others when they are in emotional pain by sharing our unconditional love.
We can help others when they are in emotional pain by sharing our unconditional love.

Resolving emotional pain

There is a process we can go through to identify and resolve residual emotional pain. It starts with being introspective, and looking at our lives from an objective point of view. The following questions are helpful:

  • What is happening?
  • What am I feeling?
  • What am I thinking of doing?
  • What will happen if I do it?
  • Is that really what I want?
  • Is there something better I could do instead?
  • What would be best for me and others in the long run?

Understanding our own circumstances and how they feed into our emotions and the decisions that we make in our lives puts us in a better position to identify and eradicate the emotional pain that we are experiencing.

This process takes time and determination. It may be necessary to work through things that we thought were long since resolved. Our emotional health depends upon our ability to recognize, manage, and change our emotions. The more practice we have in this important area, the better our skills will be, and the less likely we are to have residual emotional pain. Decide now to do what it takes to resolve your emotional pain.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Denise W Anderson


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    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right, ChitrangadaSharan. Each person has a different way of dealing with their emotions. Some are much more open than others. I have found that people who are more verbal with how they feel have less residual physical effects from emotional issues. I appreciate your comments.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are welcome, Dora. Many of us have emotional pain that we do not even realize exists. When we look at what is happening in our lives, and how we are responding to it, we can learn much about ourselves. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for your timely comment, Marsha. I was reading an article just the other day where a doctor said that more than half of the patients he treats have physical symptoms that are the result of emotional pain. It was a real eye opener!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      5 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great hub and you summed it up very nicely.

      Emotional pain can have different symptoms for different people. Some vent it out through tears while others can remain quiet. Stomach pain or headache is also very common among adults.

      Thanks for sharing this!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Denise, thanks for helping us discover the cause, and find ways to deal with our emotional pain. It is the reason for much of our physical pain. You are a big help, and when we learn to help ourselves, we can help others.

    • MGWriter profile image

      Marsha Caldwell 

      5 years ago from Western Washington State

      This article is so true. And the comment above regarding that it does not matter who we are everyone is venerable to this. So many medical professionals seem to have the belief that they are immune to this kind of stress and the illnesses caused by it. While the truth is the medical professionals are possibly even more set-up for this real illness. We all must practice good self-care in our fast paced lives today. Great job of explaining the effects of working through the unseen pain.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      That is so true, florypaula! Dealing with our emotions is not an easy task, no matter who we are! The learning curve is steep, and the task requires determination and commitment to our own better sense of well-being. We may not realize all that needs to be done until we actually dig in and get our hands dirty. We may get overwhelmed and need support from others, and that takes going out of our comfort zones. I appreciate your insights!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I think that we could all do with a little bit of emotional closet cleaning, Eric! Laziness really has nothing to do with it, it is just plain hard work, and it will probably not be a pleasant experience! Our emotions can play tricks on us, too. We think that what happened was not necessarily our doing, therefore, why should we be the one to clean up the mess! Thankfully, the Lord is mindful of us, and those annoying physical symptoms remind us that we need to do something differently. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are funny, Bill! We are getting some work done on our house, too, and those sore muscles can really bite! It is interesting that we don't often think about emotional pain until we can't figure out why we are physically hurting! As always, thanks for your feedback!

    • florypaula profile image


      5 years ago

      This is such a great hub but you know how it is "easier said than done". People don't usually think their headaches, irritability and actual pain comes out of emotional pain, but to try to treat it. They usually get even more problems in their relationships because they tend to fight more and therefore be even more unhappy.

      Forgiving others is something we should all do because we will feel like we were set free when we let go of the negative feeling we have towards them, but usually is not that easy to do, especially when the "wound" is fresh.

      Great hub. We should all take notice.

      Have a nice day Denise.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      A wonderful article. Doggonit I know I need to do some long overdo personal inventory and kick some unnecessary garbage out of my heart and onto the curb but I am just so lazy. Seems this stubborn old guy waits until the pain manifests before I will do something about it. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, perhaps it will even motivate me.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, I have muscle pain, but that's because I'm 66 and just tore apart our deck. :) Nothing emotional about that until I stuck my finger with a nail and then a whole lot of emotion came out. :) Silliness aside, as always, you speak the truth.


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