This is not about physical pain stemming from a medical condition—you can talk to your medical doctor about that. Emotional pain is the worst. And the number one go-to strategy to deal with it is often avoidance.
Something happens to trigger the onset of emotional pain like a failed relationship, a demanding boss, someone else’s thoughtless (or worse, mean-spirited) actions, and certainly the death of a loved one. It could also be the pain of regret stemming from one’s own bad choices. We’ve all had emotionally painful experiences in childhood. Watching the morning news can even trigger emotional pain.
Often we turn to trusted friends and family for advice and help, but sometimes feel they just want us to “get over it”. Without a more viable strategy for healing emotional pain, many attempt to avoid it. And many of us will go to great lengths in trying to avoid feeling emotional pain; like staying busy all the time, surrounding oneself with noise all the time, self-medicating (food, alcohol, or drug), habitual behaviors, or any activity/relationship that is powerful enough to distract our thoughts from straying to the unhealed emotional trigger. Avoidance strategies may work in the short-term. But as a long-term strategy, they are not good. Avoidance strategies tend to be voracious, growing more complex over time to drown out the accumulation of emotional hurts. It often snowballs to unmanageable levels.
Once an avoidance strategy is in place, there are now two issues that need to be resolved. One is healing the event that caused the emotional pain in the first place. And the pain doesn’t just go away over time, even if we try to bury it. The second is resolving the advancement of the habitual behaviors required to maintain avoidance strategies.
I can tell you from experience, both personal and professional, that an avoidance strategy to deal with fear-of-feeling is far more painful than working either alone or with a counselor to heal the emotional pain when it is acutely felt and before it becomes a chronic condition of the heart. Some folks have to work at learning to feel. And this is the first step in developing emotional wisdom. The heart longs to heal, and the journey to healing is faster and far less painful by facing it head-on and without avoidance.
Blog post by Marci Bell MA LPC.
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