How To Be Honest With Your Pain – In An Empowering Way
Yes, this is how we’re meant to be
This is a guest post by the author Andy Bowker from Andy’s Corner
How many of us have been hiding emotional pain for a long time? Have you? Well, you’re certainly not alone. It seems to be one of the hidden values of our culture. It’s almost an unwritten rule that when someone asks you the question ‘How are you?’, the answer is meant to be ‘I’m fine’, or, at the very worst ‘not too bad’.
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t always told the truth when answering that question. People don’t like to hear about other people’s struggles. After all, saying that you are not feeling too good is negative, and it’s not good to be negative, right? No, actually, this is not necessarily the case. I believe that one of the biggest illnesses in our society is hidden emotional pain. If only we knew how to deal with pain properly, our society would be a better place, I’m sure.
I won’t go into the different types of emotional pain or trauma or how it is caused. We all have our own stories, whatever they may be. But needless to say, a lot of people are in pain. For men, it can be really tough. We really need to start questioning stereotypes. The notion that ‘men shouldn’t cry’ should not be taken any more seriously than Santa Claus. And yet, macho, tough men are seen as ‘real men’. Susan Jeffers puts it perfectly – ‘We have been taught that real men don’t cry. In fact, real men do cry. Fake men don’t cry. Real men are real! They’re not actors pretending to be the strong silent type when deep feelings of pain are yearning to come forward’. Similarly, women are not ‘supposed’ to express anger. ‘It’s not feminine’, apparently. This stereotype can mean that women sometimes cry too much when anger is wanting to be expressed.
Many men (and also women) use alcohol as a way of hiding from emotions, and hence, hiding from life itself. I ask you, how and why is this considered ‘normal’? Maybe it’s because they just can’t see another way. Male egos can be fairly strong, and for many men, to admit to others that they are weak or depressed can be seen as humiliating – and is rooted in the fear of the loss of identity, which is turn is rooted in the fear of death. Of course, the hidden emotions can come out in the form of anger, and we all know that alcohol and violence can sadly go hand in hand. Alcohol does not necessarily make someone a different person, it just reveals the hidden side of people.
Perhaps if we were more open and honest about how we REALLY felt, there would be less violence in the world. Just a thought. But how? Because so many of us have so much unresolved pain, that is true. And it is also easy to express our pain with a victim mentality.
– Why did this happen to me?
– This person has ruined my life for ever.
– I’m a complete loser.
Just some examples of the many victim-thinking patterns that can play in our minds.
But, as many of us know, it is practically impossible to just ‘get over it’. How many people (including me) have either read lots of books, tried self-healing, tried to ‘live in the NOW’, but still haven’t really got anywhere? In my case, a big issue for me is being single for so long and not be able to overcome thought patterns such as fear of rejection, that have dogged me for years. I have read so many books (and reading too many books is not always helpful). I’ve done the odd affirmation, visualization etc. I’ve read countless texts on being happy in yourself, which are perfectly valid. But the heartache was still there and I was just feeling stuck.
More recently, in fact very recently, I have started to be more open about all this. In my case, writing about it on my blog was what felt right for me. I have not had therapy yet, partly due to money issues, but I may do if I feel it is the way forward. However, I feel that being honest is a step forward for me. Yes, there have been some uncomfortable emotions and anger to face, and there will probably be more. And yes, I can slip into victim mode at times. Old habits die hard, as they say. But back to my original intention – to help show people how they can be honest about their pain in an empowering way.
Alnwick Castle – a castle symbolises power
I don’t think it would be wise of me to advise on the exact way to ‘let it all out’. But if you have an issue that is still causing you much pain after a long period of trying to ‘sort it out’, I strongly advise you not to keep it all to yourself. There are some things that are impossible to overcome on your own. There are many options such as the 12 step groups, therapy/counselling, writing about it, or telling a trusted friend or family member. It all depends on what YOU feel is right. Part of the reason I felt it was good to blog about my particular struggle is that I feel it could help others in the same boat. But many people may not be comfortable with this.
One thing I feel I need to mention is that we all work at our own pace. We can only be honest about ourselves when we are ready. Believe me, it has taken me a good while to get to where I am now. Be open minded and open hearted, allow life to work its magic, don’t ‘try’ to resolve problems too quickly. Deep layers of pain that have been hidden for so long are not likely to be resolved overnight. You may feel like a victim for some while, I certainly have. The key, for me, is to resolve to do whatever it takes to be whole and healed, as much as is possible. That’s not to say that things will be perfect. It may take a while to work through something, you may feel that things are progressing at a snail’s pace at times. That is okay.
How do we face our pain?
So from what I’ve learned, here are some steps to what it has taken for me to be honest.
1) Don’t deny or minimize something. If something has caused you to feel angry, broken-hearted or pissed off with life, be honest about it. If other people think you’re being self-indulgent, whiney or negative, too bad. Sometimes we need to vent just to get things off our chest. The pain is what it is. Trying to resist it or thinking you shouldn’t feel so bad, isn’t going to make things better. I cannot stress enough the importance of this. For me, this is an absolute essential for getting to the point where your life story doesn’t affect you so much.
2) Allow yourself to feel the emotions at times. Without doubt, one of the reasons it has taken me so long to really face my demons is the fear of actually facing them. I thought my heart might break. It will generally take time before someone is ready for this. Truly allowing yourself to ‘feel’ means having the attitude of ‘this bloody hurts, but it is what it is and I am not going to fight this, I am ready to move forward, and truly facing my pain with an open heart will help me do so’. So often, when intense emotional pain comes up, we fight it and try to push it away, which is quite understandable, but it’s almost like fighting fire with fire. When you are ready, allow yourself to embrace the pain and hurt, and in time it will pass.
3) Bad days will come. That’s just a given. There will be times when you feel like losing hope that things will ever get better. This is all part of the fabric of life. The key is to persist, persevere and eventually you will see some results.
4) Inspirational material. This has probably helped me more than I realise. Facebook is fantastic for posts and articles with an inspirational message. Just because I may post some of this ‘positive’ stuff on my wall, does not mean I always feel positive, but it helps, particularly in difficult times. Reading a good book can really help you take a small step or even a large step forward.
5) Say things with as little emotional attachment as possible. For example, saying ‘At this moment, I am a fucked up human being’ as an honest phrase without being hard on yourself or wishing things were different, can be beneficial. Start from where you are, not from where you think you should be or where you wish to be.
6) Take time out. It is very important when you’re going through ‘stuff’ to be good to yourself. If you’re spending 24/7 consumed with your struggles, it is not healthy. It’s good to do something that will take your mind off things, like go for a walk, go to the beach, do some exercise, dance, chill out with a friend, listen to some good music or meditate.
7) Allow your story to help you be a winner rather than a victim. Having a tough life certainly does not mean that you are destined to be a loser. Sure, many people allow their story to define them and hold them back. But we’ve all heard of people who made good out of a seemingly bad situation. There are always people who are struggling, and maybe your ability to overcome a bad situation might inspire and help many others. Resolve to make something positive out of the hurt and the pain.
Here’s to your success. Don’t allow your story to keep you from all the good things life has to offer. I hope you enjoyed reading this, please feel free to also read my blog here.
BIO: Andy is an authentic, sensitive, down-to-earth, inspirational writer and all around creative person. After periods of unemployment and depression he is using his writing talents to express what many are feeling and experiencing at this time. He is setting the scene for honest male communication by sharing the challenges of being a man – working, unemployment, love and much more. He does this with a very open, frank, conversational style, and supports others in empowering themselves through embracing ‘what is’ and moving on from there. Check out his blog Andy’s Corner where he celebrates his journey of growth, change and miracles that take place.
Kelly Martin is the author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You – Saying Goodbye To ‘I’m Not Good Enough’ , a passionate writer and blogger questioning life’s illusions. After what seemed like a decade of intense anxiety, feelings of failure and grief from the loss of her father she chose to take a mindfulness path and has not looked back since. Kelly encourages people to find the treasures that lie within the pain and suffering and to learn to see themselves as ‘enough’ exactly as they are, right now through her writing and You Tube channel.