Hiding from Inner Pain

I like to feel happy. When pain or depression or unhappy feelings creep in, I don’t like it one bit. Intellectually, I know it’s important to feel all the feelings on the spectrum from sadness to happiness and everything in between but it doesn't come naturally to me.

For me, moving from denial to acceptance of painful feelings takes some inner work with a heavy dose of self-compassion, awareness and an open mind toward learning. I know I’m in denial when I feel a frantic need to make myself feel better through numbing activities like over-consumption of food, alcohol, shopping, or a fixation on unnecessary household projects.

Here is what I’ve learned (so far) about moving from denial to acceptance of painful feelings.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in “Peace of Mind,” says that if we don’t recognize the painful feeling, it will persist. “We can learn how to handle a painful feeling, a painful emotion whenever it begins to manifest.” Try this. Deeply breathe into your belly while doing this exercise.

“Breathing in, I know you are there my pain.

Breathing out, I will take good care of you.

Breathing in, I embrace my painful feeling.

Breathing out, I calm my painful feeling.”

I found this helpful in grounding myself so I could begin to recognize the pain. Here are some other ways I’ve discovered to move through a dark time like this.

  • Give yourself what you need. I usually need time alone to retreat into my cave aka escape pod.
  • Write. Let out all the feelings that are swirling around inside you. Recently, I wrote specifically about where my life is incongruent. In other words, where was I saying one thing yet doing something different?
  • Make art. It doesn’t matter whether it’s beautiful or ugly. The creative process can be healing and revealing.
  • Go to a special place for you. I like to take a slow, non-exercise oriented, walk with absolutely no purpose but to be outside.

Be brave and experience your painful feelings rather than hiding them from yourself with fake happiness. Know that moving through the process from denial to acceptance will lead to a more full spectrum, wholehearted life. Remember, this too shall pass and fun will most assuredly come again.

Love from your partner in courage,