Recognizing the Signs of Emotional Pain
"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?
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.
Concrete steps are required when buried feelings come to the surface. Truman gives ways to recognize them and specific steps for resolution.
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 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. The Emotional Survival Handbook teaches us how to recognize and deal with these thought patterns.
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.
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 (from The Emotional Survival Workbook):
- 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.
© 2015 Denise W Anderson