You may be one of those people tired of others telling you that you should just get over your emotional pain (fear, frustration, anger, despair, disappointment, feelings of betrayal, broken heart etc) and move on. May be even been told that your pain and suffering is a choice and that you have the “power” to stop it with just the right attitude or behavior.
Sounds really easy, right? But how come you’re still struggling with emotional pain despite all the therapy, 12-step- programs, coaching and tons of self-help books and tapes? Is there really a way to avoid (or escape from) emotional pain with just the right attitude or behavior or is emotional pain part of the human experience?
Pain is part of the human experinece and believe it or not, pain has a good message. Unfortunately only a few of us learn it right because we’re so busy trying to “pull apart the stories” behind the emotions, getting rid of the emotions or transforming the painful emotions and never really taking time to be fully “present” with the emotion with all of our attention and in the most honest possible way.
It’s no surprise that many “sit” with their painful emotions but never get any relief from the overwhelming painful emotions. In other words, while finding out where your painful emotions and thoughts come from can give you lots of insights, it’s no where as freeing as experiencing them with all of your attention.
I found an article by Eckhart Tolle that I thought is an interesting read on lingering emotional baggage that influences our thoughts and affects our relationships.
“There is such a thing as old emotional pain living inside you. It is an accumulation of painful life experience that was not fully faced and accepted in the moment it arose. It leaves behind an energy form of emotional pain. It comes together with other energy forms from other instances, and so after some years you have a “painbody,” an energy entity consisting of old emotion.
It lives in human beings, and it is the emotional aspect of egoic consciousness. When the ego is amplified by the emotion of the painbody, the ego has enormous strength still — particularly at those times. It requires very great presence so that you can be there as the space also for your painbody, when it arises.
That is everybody’s job here — to be there, to recognize the painbody when it shifts from dormant to active, when something triggers a very strong emotional reaction. At that moment, when it does take over your mind, the internal dialogue, which is dysfunctional at the best of times, now becomes the voice of the painbody talking to you internally. Everything it says is deeply colored by the old, painful emotion of the painbody. Every interpretation, everything it says, every judgment about your life, about other people, about a situation you are in, will be totally distorted by the old emotional pain.
If you are not there as the space for it, you are identified with the painbody and you believe every negative thought that it is telling you. If you are alone, the painbody will feed on every negative thought that arises, and get more energy. That’s why it’s become active — after it does that for a while, you can’t stop thinking, at night, or whenever it is. The painbody is feeding, and after a few hours, it’s had enough. You feel a little depleted. And then it happens again a few weeks later, or few days later.
The painbody would feel even better if it could feed on somebody else’s reaction. Your partner would be a favorite person. And it will, if there is somebody around, or family situations. Our pain bodies love families. And it will just provoke this person, your partner or whoever it is. The painbody knows exactly what the thing is that will trigger a negative response. Then it says the thing that is going to really hurt you. And of course, if you are not absolutely present in that moment, then immediately you will react. And the painbody loves it! Give me more drama, please!
Both painbodies are now awake, and feeding on each other. Then, a few hours later, or the next day, the painbodies no longer need it. They are full, they have replenished themselves. And you can look at each other and say, “What was that all about?” In some cases, you may not even remember how it all started. This huge drama started somewhere, and then one thing led to another. Wasn’t it the same two weeks ago?
Can we be present and see if next time we can catch it at its early stage, so that we don’t get drawn in totally?
Can we both endeavor to be present for each other, and for ourselves?
See if we can see the first signs of the painbody — either in ourselves, or in the other. Immediately realize it, be the space for it, and if possible — even voice it to your partner and say “My painbody got triggered when you said that.”
Often, little situations trigger enormous reactions. Be there, present for it. Your partner will find it easier to see it in you, and you will find it easier to see it in them. Whether or not you can tell your partner that his or her painbody has become activated depends on the degree to which your partner has already been taken over by it. If you catch it at a very early stage, then some remnant of Consciousness will still be there in your partner and that remnant will be hearing you when you say, “Could that be your painbody?” It has to be phrased very carefully. You may want to add,
“Do you remember our agreement?”
If there is still a remnant of Consciousness then that will be listening to you, and your partner will be able to be there as the space for his or her painbody. If there is no remnant of Consciousness in your partner, you will be talking to the painbody, and the painbody does not like to hear about the painbody. Of course, it will deny any such thing. “My painbody? Look at yours!”
So, what do you do? Can I be the space for that? While the partner is there, be the space for that. When you are the space for something, it does not necessarily mean that you have to stay there. You can be the space, and then remove yourself. Self observation – this is why being in the body is an important part of this. Feel the inner body as often as you can. When an old emotion arises, it will be easier to be present as it arises.
If you are present, the painbody cannot feed anymore on your thoughts, or on other people’s reactions. You can simply observe it, and be the witness, be the space for it. Then gradually, its energy will decrease.”
Eckhart Tolle Spiritual Teacher and Author was born in Germany. He is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Power of Now (translated into 33 languages) and the highly acclaimed follow-up A New Earth, which are widely regarded as two of the most influential spiritual books of our time.