Anyone in the mental health field will tell you that if you repress your pain long enough, it will show up in other ways and areas of your life. Repressing your pain will also hamper your ability to function the way you’d like, and people who know you will notice. It may also temporarily turn you into a jerk or a hot mess.
None of this is that complicated. We all understand what it’s like to get overwhelmed, especially after the past two years of living through a pandemic. It’s been a difficult time, making every loss and hurt that much harder to process, so sometimes we just hold it all in, and not always on a conscious level.
Like I said, repressing your pain manifests in other ways and places, like in your dreams or your behaviors or even your ability to just focus on a television show. Pain takes over, so your normal routines and even your tried-and-true defense mechanisms no longer work. Maybe you can sleep for a few hours, but the pain comes back as soon as you wake up.
So what can you do?
The pain won’t go away on its own—ignoring it won’t help—so the only choice you really have is to deal with it. And you have a lot of choices as to how to deal with it. I suggest trying a little bit of everything to see what works best. Here are some options. Pick the methods that work for you and interchange them when necessary.
Let yourself cry. Therapists will tell you that this normal human action is one of the most healing things you can do to release your inner pain. So when you feel the tears come up, just let them out, as long as you are in an appropriate setting. It may be helpful to have a friend with you or on the other end of the phone. That being said, some people prefer and get more out of crying alone.
Share your pain. Even if you are a private person, sharing your pain is something that will make your journey to healing easier. When someone is there to validate and comfort you—when that awful feeling comes over your entire body—a hand on your shoulder or a warm embrace can be a godsend. If you don’t have anyone, seek out the help of a licensed counselor.
Find ways to release on your own. You have to do some work on your own to release the pain and make what you’re going through as easy as possible. Journaling helps me, as does visualization. You may prefer prayer or long walks. It doesn’t matter what methods you pick as long as they relieve some of the pressure.
Remember that the world is still turning. Yes, life will go on and nothing is permanent. It’s helpful to remember that this pain is a passing phase and that you will get to the next level in your life. This is how growth works. We are always better in numerous ways after we have healed our emotional pain.
One thing we humans have in common is that we each feel emotional pain at times for various reasons. Under certain circumstances, our emotional pain can be bonding, and perhaps showing mutual understanding is really the most healing thing we can do for each other. Putting yourself in another person’s shoes is a type of therapy, and it will connect you with that person and yourself in ways that you never imagined.Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is an award-winning therapist and humanitarian. He is also a columnist, the author of seven books, and a blogger for PsychologyToday.com with nearly 27 million readers. He practices in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles and is available for video sessions.Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Sundays and Tuesdays in the News-Press.