Sometimes people come to me who are so balled up, they are emotionally paralyzed.
The thought of getting in touch with what is really bothering them is overwhelming. This resistance to feeling is due to some tragic loss or trauma, yet they have been made to think it’s wrong to feel hurt, sad, or angry. For example, someone suffering from the loss of a child might be sharing genuine sorrow and grief, and then someone in a 12-Step program, or spiritual advisor tells the person they “can’t afford resentment,” or the “pain is not real, it’s an illusion.” This type of advice is using the tools of recovery and spirituality to an extreme detriment, but also, a complete reenactment of the dysfunctional family rules; “Don’t think, don’t trust, don’t feel, and don’t talk about it.”
There’s one thing for sure, if you’re stuffing your feelings, pain will not magically evaporate, it will intensify. At that point, either you will make the changes to relieve yourself of the discomfort, or you self-destruct by self-medicating it.
Pain is the result of unresolved emotions. I have never read any spiritual materials that say that feelings are bad. But, when a person is made to feel bad about feelings, they remain trapped and rumbling in the unconscious. This pattern usually starts in childhood when a child is not encouraged to express feelings in a healthy way. If a child is shamed for crying, the child learns to stuff feelings. If a child is punished for feeling angry, this too gets shoved down and bottled up. Bottled-up emotions morph into pain. From this perspective, we can understand that pain is an illusion because it has little to do with the present situation and is the accumulation of unresolved grief.
Feelings are not pain, they are simply states of being that arise and when expressed, move right on through us. Feelings are uncomfortable but they are not pain until we hold them in and block the natural expression. Crying, like rain, is cleansing.
Man did not create tears. They are given to either remove foreign objects from the eyes or non-joyous feelings from a heavy heart. When we release our sorrow, it cannot turn into pain.
If you perceive yourself as being in pain, try giving yourself permission to feel your grief and let it go. Are you willing to go through the short-term discomfort for the long-term peace? Are you willing to have an appendix operation before it bursts or are you going to tell yourself it’s an illusion? Surgery is scary and unpleasant but it also saves our lives and after you go through the temporary discomfort, you feel better. While it’s true that physical illness is a symptom of what needs healing in the mind, by allowing oneself the natural process of letting go of emotions, it does not have to turn into a physical illness.
Getting rid of pain might feel uncomfortable, but therein lies the illusion that A Course in Miracles talks about. The illusion that you are in pain is really the result of ignoring your discomfort until it’s too late, and it takes over every aspect of your being. And, that illusion is the pain you’ve been carrying around your whole life has robbed you of your true nature of happiness and joy. Getting rid of the source of the pain by releasing your grief and sorrow, prevents the illusion from ever setting in.
About the Author — Dr. Donna Marks believes that the current models for diagnosis, treatment, and addiction have failed. Her mission is to help save at least 10 million lives by 2030, through education and prevention. She has been an author, consultant, educator, public speaker, licensed psychotherapist, and addictions counselor in private practice in Palm Beach, Florida, for more than thirty years. www.drdonnamarks.com