Let’s Talk

Seeking Clarity in Pain

Q. How can I better deal with emotional pain during chronic physical pain?

A. Let’s Talk! We can experience emotional pain without physical pain, but physical pain nearly always brings a level of emotional pain. Of course, emotional pain varies, depending on the length of physical pain and its intensity. It’s totally within the normal range to have these emotions . . . but not healthy to hold
onto them.

So, while emotional angst is normal, what is a next step for helping our emotions while we are still suffering physically? Seeking clarity is always a great place to start. Untangling the dark tangles is a reasonable goal – to list and even separate out our struggles if possible. When the emotional tangle is still in one big wad, there is no clarity.

One of my favorite exercises is to be still before God and ask Him to illuminate and name all of the issues in my dark wad. Then I write down what gets identified. There’s encouraging victory in calling emotional issues by name! Examples are grief, depression, anger, or self-pity.

If this practice is new for you, keep persevering to listen to Him and to your own heart. God longs to unlock unhealthy strongholds in our lives. Really.

Next comes the opportunity to reframe and recalculate. You’re probably quite familiar with Siri or other GPS guides that correct your wrong turns with, “recalculating.” We want to do the same thing when we have gained some light on a dark emotion. After reframing, recalibrating, and recalculating, we can move forward better. We are wiser about what’s going on, and have warded off a heap of discouragement just knowing the issue(s) of our heart. Bite-size pieces are easier to chew on.

I always want to encourage you to not go at this journey alone. God longs to clarify, but has a lot of folks on this earth able to help us too. Do be careful, though, because sometimes well-meaning friends can make it worse. One example is for a friend to say, “Don’t feel that way!” Remember that when we finally can name what we are feeling, much truth is underneath—almost like panning for gold. Let’s seek the courage to dig.

For Deeper Reflection

Habakkuk 3:17-18Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be nofruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.