We spend much of our time trying to avoid emotional pain. People will go so far as to resort to alcoholism just to try to escape from painful thoughts and experiences. It is one of the greatest challenges that we experience as a result of issues like:
Science has shown it triggers many of the same reactions as physical pain in the brain and body, and yet unlike physical pain, there is rarely a pill you can take to get rid of it. Emotional pain can be hard.
But emotional pain is also something else – it’s a chance to learn.
Why We Feel Pain
Before getting into why pain can be valuable, it’s important to understand why we experience pain at all. Ask yourself: what is the evolutionary benefit of pain?
The answer is that pain:
- Tells you there is something you need to change.
- Helps you learn.
What happens when a young child accidentally touches a hot stove? Their hand hurts, so they move it quickly before it burns too severely. Then they learn never to touch the stove again, which keeps them safe from future problems.
That’s why we experience pain. Pain tells us there is something to need to change, and then it helps us learn something so that we don’t experience it in the future.
Emotional pain works the same way. Emotional pain may be challenging, but it is also an opportunity for growth. It tells you that something is wrong and that something needs to change.
Indeed, emotional pain is often what makes people finally come to therapy to make real changes with how they feel. Emotional pain is what makes this possible. It is why those that take substances to avoid pain are less likely to come to therapy for anxiety, depression, or stress. The substances dull the pain, so they are less motivated to make a change related to their emotional pain.
((Note: That does not mean those that take substances avoid all help. Rather, the substance itself delays the motivation to get the help that they need until something happens in their life that motivates them forward)).
Pain is Hard – But it Can Teach You
Emotional pain is difficult. But it is also a learning experience. If you are struggling with some type of emotional pain, please call me today. Let’s talk about what you’re struggling with, and then come up with an effective plan to help you learn from it.