Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Putting pain behind you
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
From my therapist’s chair:
Today … make a choice! If you are carrying a backpack of hurt, ask yourself, “Have my loss and pain become part of my IDENTITY … or am I working to make it a part of my PAST?”
I may have worked with you in therapy. You are the one who is burdened with sadness, heartbreak and pain. You have difficulty finding joy even though you know that there are blessings all around you.
If you have tried to share your pain with others, they list all the reasons why you should not feel the way you do. If only it were that easy! You may have asked me, “How do I move forward?”
Let’s dive in …
- In order to heal, you must first COMPLETELY FEEL what you have already become aware of. I often have told patients, “Awareness is the first key to change.” Give yourself some uninterrupted time to become completely saturated with the pain; this may mean giving yourself permission to cry once you have picked off the scab of the hurt – it likely will bleed all over again.
- As Believers, it is a significant comfort to know that you can submit to God in the midst of the peak of pain. He is there; He has promised He will never leave you.
- As you work through the emotions, write them down. I call this a “mind dump” – you are unloading a perhaps voluminous amount of pain on a piece of paper or a journal. This is significant tool because once the pain has been “captured” in a journal, you can remind yourself that you are one step closer to making it your PAST.
- Weed out bitterness and resentment as they surface. Surely, these emotions will emerge as you “clean out and dump” the painful emotions. That is OK; your bitterness and resentment probably armed you with a body-language warning to others: “Do not approach.” Quite frequently, angry emotions are a cover for the more tender ones of sadness, hurt, fear and disappointment. BUT, to hold onto those harsher emotions for too long will only backfire because you may become hardened and calloused.
- Begin to look toward something NEW rather than choosing to stay in the past. A departure from pain is much easier if you’ve already identified what you want to move TOWARD. Visualize this new “place” – a ready smile on your face, an intense interest in others, a joyful energy that abounds within you!
- Relinquish your desire that “Someone should pay” for what you’ve been going through. Rather, when you completely “dump” the pain, also dump the deep-down desire to “get even.” You will feel so much lighter!
- Refuse to allow self-pity. Rather, be willing to talk to yourself like this: “I have felt these draining emotions and carried them in my backpack long enough … complete freedom disallows me to look back with angst. And THAT is a ‘Hallelujah!’ ”
- Forge an identity of strength and forward motion. Simply put, the best place to “go” is straight ahead!
The benefits of letting go of past pain are numerous. But, in my opinion, one of the biggest is that letting go will allow you to revisit, cherish, and experience your memories – but now with the freedom from pain.
Moving on does not mean forgetting; it means choosing to live in the now, with only occasional glimpses of the past. And those glimpses NO LONGER bring pain, just fond memories!