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What To Do When You’re Hurting Inside? (Part 2)

What do you do when you're hurting

“And a woman spoke, saying, “Tell us of Pain.”
And he said: Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”

– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet (Knopf, 1923)

The hurt of emotional pain can become unhealthy, and unbearable, if not worked within an effective way that enables us to understand it, process it, and release it.

This is Part 2 of a 2-part series on What To Do When You’re Hurting Inside? Part 1 builds our understanding of hurt and shares short-term strategies on how to stop emotional pain for immediate relief.

The 2nd part here shares the long-term work that is important to consider for uprooting the hurt & pain within.

How To Stop Hurting – Long-Term Strategies

Long-term strategies to stop emotional hurt and pain are practices that need continual work. Even though, at times, they may seem hard, they are important as they will lead to the eventual release and change of whatever is unresolved within you. These strategies include, but are not limited to, developing a deeper understanding of emotions, your attachment blueprint, the current belief system you operate with, your connection to your body, etc. It’s helpful to use them in tandem with short-term, in-the-moment, strategies, like re-channeling your energy, naming the feeling, and the age-old, venting!

6 Long-Term Engagements For Overall Wellbeing

The strategies mentioned below are for continual learning about oneself to grow and evolve. I believe our journey into ourselves is a lifelong process – it can’t be done all at once, and it’s always happening whether you’re aware of it or not.

Since it’s happening as it is, we may as well give it some attention and allow for the growth and healing in store for us as we engage with awareness!

Strategies-To-Use-When-Hurting-Within
For an explanation of the short-term strategies, read Part 1.

1. Learn About Emotions

Ever tried holding an inflatable floating swimming tube under the water? What happens? It takes constant effort to keep it under, and eventually, it comes right back up!

Same story with emotions – you can try to suppress it, It’s going to take a lot of effort, and eventually – one way or another – it will gush through.

So then what do we do? Let’s try something different, shall we? Instead of pushing them away, invite them in and begin to understand them with curiosity.

Every emotion is a messenger that brings us some information. Some, like jealousy, might be telling us we could lose something/ someone dear to us.

Anger might be telling us that there’s a boundary violation. Fear might be telling us there’s some form of danger.

Our usual go-to is meta-emotions – we feel emotions about our emotions. This, usually, contributes the most to our lack of clarity.

If instead, we were to start learning the language our emotions speak, we might be able to use their messages instead of getting overwhelmed or going numb.

Are our emotions seeing the current reality as is? Not necessarily. They are just messengers with information – it’s for us to see the reality clearly. This is a skill, and one of the prerequisites of this skill is emotions.

As we begin to understand our emotions, we’ll be better equipped to unpack our hurt. Whatever we can unpack, gets processed, is released, and thus, is resolved.

You can start, and even deepen, your exploration of emotions with Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart – New York Times #1 Best Seller – where she maps the necessary skills and an actionable framework for meaningful connection.

Or, you can start by checking out this list of eighty-seven emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human, taken from the same book!

2. Attachment Blueprint

The way our primary caregivers relate to us during our formative years (roughly 0 – 7 years) becomes the blueprint for how we relate – form attachments – with others in our lives moving forward.

Our attachment blueprint or style dictates, to a large extent, how we experience hurt.

While going in-depth into attachment styles is out of this article’s scope, in brief, there are broadly two attachment styles – secure & insecure. Insecure attachment can be further divided into Anxious, Avoidant, and Ambivalent.

In the book, Feeling Hurt In Close Relationships(1), a preliminary study conducted by Vangelisti and her colleagues noted that:

When a person is already secure… he or she can raise the threshold for hurt feelings and deal more effectively with them when they do occur.

In contrast to someone with secure attachment:

When a person has experienced a history of unreliable, unpredictable attachment figures and has become dispositionally anxious as a result, he or she is likely to react especially negatively to being hurt.

On the other hand:

When a person has dealt with cool, abusive, or consistently unsupportive attachment figures and thereby developed a defensively avoidant pattern of relating to others, he or she is somewhat protected from being hurt but at the expense of rigid, distorting defenses and interpersonal distance.

The attachment styles formed when growing up don’t seal our fate! We can all move towards being securely attached. To do that we’ll need to understand our attachment style and then learn how to move to secure attachment.

In the video above, The School Of Life explains different Attachment Styles and how they impact our relationship dynamics.

3. Belief Work

“Every human being has a belief system that they utilize, and it is through this mechanism that we individually, “make sense” of the world around us.”

– An Article by J. L. Usó-Doménech & J. Nescolarde-Selva in the Foundations of Science Journal(2)

We all have, within us, deeply ingrained belief systems – they’re important because they help us navigate the world – However, some of these become invalid, and may even become unhealthy, when our circumstances change.

For instance, if as a child I was primed by my primary caregiver to not ask questions by stubbing all my questions and calling me stupid or foolish, I may have developed a belief that says, “I don’t need to ask questions.”

This belief was beneficial for me then because at that time I had no agency and if I continued asking questions I’d continue to get shouted at and be called names. The belief, “I don’t need to ask questions” protected me from feeling hurt that I, as a child, couldn’t have made sense of.

However, if I continued holding this belief as an adult at work, I may come across as snobbish/ know-it-all, I may constantly feel confused because I didn’t clarify my doubts & possibly lose out on major opportunities, I may carry misconceptions and misunderstandings that may affect my relationships, etc.

Many of us carry beliefs from our past that don’t serve us any longer. In fact, in many ways, these past beliefs hold us from being our best selves!

Thus, belief work is crucial to understanding the roots of our emotional pain and hurt. Continuing with the example above, another belief such a child could have formed is, “I’m not smart enough”.

Now, as an adult, anytime anyone gives them any kind of feedback – no matter how well thought of and true – it’s likely to trigger the “not smart enough” belief and cause them pain.

4. Body Work

“The body remembers what the mind forgets.
Forgets, you say?
Oh, no, no, never. No way. Locked away.
Maybe to resurface someday, when the moment
Seems safe enough to allow what was held at bay to return.”

The Body Remembers, WVPoetryGirl

While we are not our body, we do reside in it. Everything we experience we experience in it. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s best-selling book on how trauma reshapes both body and brain has been aptly titled, “The Body Keeps The Score”, for it does!

Let’s examine this. When something untoward happens, let’s say something explicit like, suddenly a snake appears (and you’re not a snake lover, you’re like most other people – wary to scared, of snakes!)

What will happen to you? You might find your heart racing, maybe you’ll find you’re sweating or somewhere in your body there’s some heat being generated. Something will happen in your body.

You may sense the emotion of fear, worry, anger, or frustration. And you’ll have some thoughts on what you should do in this scenario.

People argue about what comes first – the body-based sensation, the emotion, or the thought. I say that doesn’t matter much for our purposes because ideally, you want to be working with all three!

We’ve covered the work with emotions and thoughts (the beliefs), now it’s time to look at the body!

So what does bodywork mean? Not everything you do (running/ dancing/ gym) is bodywork. But, everything you do can become bodywork if you bring in awareness to what’s happening in your body!

You can try with slowing down day-to-day movements for 5 minutes a day, and notice the sensations in your body. Notice pleasant and unpleasant sensations in your body. Engage in practices that allow the body to warm up, expand, endure, and release. Hatha yoga is a great example of one such practice.

You can also choose to start with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps The Score. He’s a pioneering researcher on trauma and offers us a bold new paradigm for healing, sharing multiple therapeutic modalities.

This book had a significant impact on the way I worked with my clients. I love books that explain science through stories without dumbing it down. I think that real-life case studies add much more to science than dry data ever could!

5. Basic Care

I like doing a bit of research before I share things here in my articles. However, this is one thing I will not look at data for because this is the very basic!

Food. Water. Exercise. Rest. Relationships.

How are you doing with these basics in your life?

Nutritious food, staying hydrated, allowing the body to move, getting enough sleep and rest, and maintaining healthy, loving relationships – get this in order, and half the path is cleared out!

6. Mindset

“Hurt feelings are uniquely human, because no other animal can harbor such complex expectations about relationships, construct, and maintain a symbolic self-concept, and generate such complex rules about relationships, and no other animal can talk about assualts on its symbolic self using the metaphor of physical pain.”

– Feeling Hurt In Close Relationships(4), edited by Anita L. Vangelisti

Alas, homo sapiens!

I’m not implying it’s a bane to be human! On the contrary, I believe it’s a boon! However, like with anything else, there are conditions. This is a part of human conditioning.

If this be our conditioning – that we tend to have expectations, we tend to be easily distracted, we tend to latch on to negatives faster than we do to positives – if this is true, then beating ourselves about it won’t do anything for us!

Instead, we can choose to hone a different mindset. One that sees the reality of the moment as is without judging itself. Analyzes what needs to change. Figure out how to do so. Then begins to work on it with a patient and kind mind, which is open and curious, with a sense of humor!

This is deep inner work, my dear seeker. It is serious work. But if you do serious work with a serious demeanor, you’re likely to drown. This work is serious, so do it lightheartedly!

P.S. If you’re ready to deep dive into yourself to resolve emotional stuckness, heal relational wounds, and cultivate a deeper relationship with yourself, I’d love to see if I can be of support.

Book your Inner-Work Strategy Call with me to explore your current emotional-relational struggles and put together a bit of a roadmap for your situation.

Conclusion

  • Emotional pain, if not worked in an effective way, can become unhealthy and seem unbearable.
  • This is the 2nd part of a 2-part series that shares long-term strategies for continual growth, healing, & evolution for overall well-being.
  • These strategies, while can be used on their own, will work best with short-term strategies shared in What To Do When You’re Hurting Inside (Part 1)?
  • Long-term engagement to resolve emotional pain includes: learning about emotions, understanding attachment blueprints, re-adjusting belief systems, body-based practices, the basics of food, water, rest, movement, and relationships, and the right mindset.

How do these long-term engagement pieces land with you? Do you engage with any of them?

What’s been working for you in this space? What are some things you’re trying to figure out?

How can I help? Let me know in the comments below!

References

(1) Pg. 115, Ch. 6. Understanding and Altering Hurt Feelings: An Attachment-Theoretical Perspective on the Generation and Regulation of Emotions. Feeling Hurt In Close Relationships, Edited by Anita L. Vangelisti. University of Texas at Austin. https://www.google.co.in/books/edition/Feeling_Hurt_in_Close_Relationships/xZ8gAwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0
(2) Usó-Doménech, J.L., Nescolarde-Selva, J. What are Belief Systems?. Found Sci 21, 147–152 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10699-015-9409-z

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2 Comments

  1. I must admit your article covered this topic in great depth. But in my summary, I would say the most important takeaway I bring home from reading this is the importance of “mindset”. You mentioned, ” we can choose to hone a different mindset.” The ability to see the realities of the moment and not let emotion or past beliefs or fears intervene by ensuring your present mindset is open to engage and influence positively present-day scenarios cannot be understated. Thank you for your article.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, John.
      Yes, I’d have to agree with you – mindset can be the make or break point in this, or any other, work!
      Since this work is continual and long-term, it’s easy to lose track &/ feel demotivated. So, yeah, unless you’re working on cultivating an effective mindset, other pieces of the puzzle can be hard to find!

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