Feeling bad about feeling bad usually leads to more feeling bad. These are two separate issues that are often jumbled into one. Feeling bad in response to a physical or emotional wound is a normal response and appropriate for a period of time. Part of having all of our emotions includes permission to feel bad. We need to acknowledge suffering and we need to allow it to be finite, to be able to differentiate feeling and wallowing. It is not an easy task to determine that fine line, especially for those of us who tend towards "all or nothing" thinking. Pain can easily become all consuming. It can become our identity: I am a person who suffers. And if that is how I see myself, suffering is then something I do well and frequently.
Sometimes people live a huge part of their lives in bad feelings about their pain, and the regret, bitterness, or self pity can become bigger than the original injury. They may identify with the role of victim or martyr or sick person and the self judgement perpetuates the pattern of the experience. When you are in it, it can get confusing and sometimes it is necessary to find someone to help you separate the two. Confusion, by the way, is usually a good thing. It means you are thinking rather than just repeating in your mind what you already think you know. And be aware that "bucking up" or "sucking it in" does not work very well. Trying to just turn off the pain often means that it will go underground and show up in other ways, some of which may be totally unconscious. New body pains, cranky attitudes, accidents, punishment to self or others may result.
One of my teachers used to say that pain is like ringing telephone, something to get our attention. It is part of our inner guidance system and learning to use our GPS helps us make choices that lead to different outcomes. Often to avoid uncomfortable feelings we blame others, self medicate, or insist that reality should be different from what it is. Sometimes pain indicates that there are things we need to change about what we do in order to change a situation. Diet and exercise in order to improve a health condition is an example of this. Other times we are powerless to directly change a situation other than changing our thoughts about it. "The one thing you can't take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one's freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given circumstance," wrote Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor.
Whether it is physical pain or emotional pain, you can choose to put your attention on something that you feel better about in order to differentiate 'who you are' from 'the pain that happens to be with you right now'. This does not mean that we deny or minimize the pain, but rather acknowledge that we are more than just the pain and recognize when it is time to move our thoughts in a different direction. If we look at the parts that function well we can put the pain into perspective that allows us to see that there is 'other than pain', that pain is not all of who you are. Being grateful for the parts that work, the parts that don't hurt, creates a good vibration and this better emotional state allows us to move forward. There may be a time when it feels like the pain is all there is and it is challenging to open to an opportunity to be more than our pain. One of my clients in California was a women whose young daughter had been killed. She told me that for the first few weeks there was no part of her that did not hurt, that did not resist and struggle, and that she eventually came to a place where she realized that she needed to surrender to the reality of her loss. That she need to let go of her resistance and simply accept what was. Then the next step became clear to her, and she began to rebuild her life.
Pain serves a purpose: it invites news ways to look at things and new behaviors, and it confronts our fear of change, our fear of letting go. It can motivate us to be creative or it can invite resignation and despair, and we make that choice whether we do it consciously or unconsciously. The Japanese symbol for crisis is the same as the symbol for opportunity, and painful situations are usually rife with opportunities to learn and grow. Make it paramount to raise your emotional vibration, to seek new perspectives. Practice gratitude for what you can and choose where to shine the light of your attention to minimize the degree of your suffering. You shape your life by your thoughts and your choices; make it more beautiful.
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