Do you know someone who seems to live in constant emotional pain and turmoil? Why would a person choose to remain in it? Of course emotional pain impacts all of us, but there may be things we do inadvertently or even purposefully to perpetuate our pain. For example, when we lose a pet it is totally normal to feel sad, and maybe guilty, angry, or anxious, but fixating on the reason this happened or why you couldn't prevent it and blaming yourself can cause the negative feelings to intensify and linger. While we all experience a range of emotions, we also can choose how we deal with our feelings. Often, we choose to either deny/avoid them or to magnify them through constant rehashing. Depressive thoughts cause us to dwell on the past while anxious thoughts contribute to our perceived threat of the future. While depression and anxiety can be tied to physiological changes in our brain chemistry, we can contribute to that process with our negative thinking. Ultimately our thoughts and actions can either reduce our emotional reaction or intensify it.
What are other reasons for remaining stuck in pain? Sometimes emotional pain and negative emotions are more familiar to us and we prefer to stay in a known place than risk change. We may be frozen by the fear of the unknown. For example, improving a dysfunctional relationship or an unhealthy job situation may require drastic change which is scary while staying stuck feels safer. In some cases, people feel they deserve to be miserable and feel unworthy of a life of happiness. They may feel that they're being punished for past behaviors and choices. Sometimes people feel completely powerless and helpless to change their situation and lack confidence in their skill set. Deciding whether your misery is temporary or long-term can determine your response and action plan. Even relationship misery can be resolved when a game plan is employed and options are available.
Develop an action plan by first deciding whether your pain is job-related, from a bad relationship, and/or self-inflicted. Next, generate a game plan to either fix the conflict or create an exit strategy. Recognize that our thoughts play an important role in our feelings and work on reframing them so they are more constructive and positive. We also need to accept that suffering and healing often occur simultaneously so allow yourself to experience the pain and identify healthy coping mechanisms. People and circumstances are going to create and trigger emotional pain, but our response will determine the magnitude and impact. We don't want to remain in the drama triangle and live life as a victim. Instead take action, confront conflict, and speak up. Live with healthy boundaries and assert yourself when others violate your space. Lastly, forgive yourself and others so you can let go of the pain that you've been carrying around. Freedom comes through grace.