The Emotional Pain Body, Part 2: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
1in6 extends our thanks to guest blogger, Dr. Sam Alibrando. Although this post does not speak directly to the experiences of men who had unwanted or abusive sexual interactions in childhood, we felt the information he describes about the concept of “pain body” may be useful for many. For information and resources more specific to the needs of men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse and those who care about them, please visit the 1in6.org website.
The Emotional Pain Body Part 2
In a previous article, I talked about the emotional pain body. Now let’s talk about how to deal with the painbody in our lives. But first…
There are many ways we typically react to the painbody that erupts in our lives and relationships. Here are a few:
- Most importantly and most often, we identify with the painbody. Like I mentioned in Part 1, the painbody often takes over our mind and we think, as it dictates us to think. We cannot tell the proverbial “forest from the trees.”
- Act it out. (This is similar to identifying with it.) For example we might start a fight with our partner just to prove s/he is a hurtful person.
- We numb it. There are many ways to numb pain. Here are just a few:
- Drink alcohol or get stoned (most addictions co-relate with the painbody)
- Work, work and work some more
- Complain until you run out of friends
- Eat a high caloric snack (when no one is looking) and then go back for seconds.
- We try to fight the painbody. This is the most interesting because it seems like the “right” thing to do. We desperately try to dispute it and fight emotion with facts. Sometimes this works for a short time but like Dorothy’s witch in the Wizard of Oz, she keeps coming back. Very often when we fight the painbody, it only gets bigger. It’s like some sci-fi monster that eats up your energy and turns it on you. So good luck fighting your painbody!
- Or we can do it the healthy way…
Eckhart Tolle has a very simple yet powerful approach to the painbody. It is consistent with many psychological and spiritual approaches that we all know (and practice?). Here are a few of them:
- AAA: Acknowledge, accept, allow the painbody. Don’t fight it, it will win and take parts of you with it. Instead acknowledge its eruption. Accept that it is there and mindfully allow it to be there without resistance.
- Watch it with compassionate presence. Tolle frequently uses the term presence. He endorses being present with the painbody without reacting to it, without identifying with it, without fighting it. In this way we take away its food source, our mental engagement with it. This practice is very similar to what I write about regarding Witches in my book, Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Taking Dorothy’s lead, we should face the Witch and douse it with the water of Awareness and Compassion. When we do this, the witch melts.
- Befriend it? No, I don’t recommend to see it as a “friend”—at least not a healthy friend. But when we greet it for what it is—unintegrated, impacted emotional pain that we carry around in our psyche—and we know that when it is metabolized (melts) it will release positive energy, we don’t have to be afraid of it. In fact, we might even welcome it as an opportunity to grow and heal.
- Surrender. There is another discipline that uses the idea of surrender. Do you know who it is? Yes, Alcohol Anonymous prescribes the concept of “surrender” in its First Step on road to recovery. Tolle identifies two types of surrender:
- Level #1: Surrender to the reality…as it is. The other day I spilled a cup of chunky soup inside our refrigerator. Becoming upset, I cursed at the horrendous crime that had just fallen upon me. And then the Awareness in me spoke. “It is soup spilled, nothing more nothing less. Be present with the reality of spilt milk soup . . . and oh yeah, and clean it up.”
- Level #2: Surrender to the pain…feel it. We are generally afraid of our painful feelings. But if we can separate them from the old negative “emotional narratives” in our head (Tolle calls this our “Unhappy Me”), we are left with simply emotions, which will pass with time (and the sooner we surrender, the sooner they leave). Sadness, loneliness and anger without their “mental containers’ (e.g. “I am defective” or “No one loves me”) are just feelings and feelings come and go.
I challenge us to try this practice in every aspect of our lives and relationships, but most certainly with issues related to early trauma. Next time our painbody erupts, wait for the Awareness within. Acknowledge and accept the painbody’s appearance. Bring compassion and grace as you watch it. Don’t give in to the temptation to identify with it, numb it, act it out or even fight it. Simply be present. Then enjoy the inevitable melting of the painbody Witch and the release of positive energy that will follow.
Read more on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
By Sam Alibrando Ph.D
Sam Alibrando Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Pasadena, CA. He has worked for over 30 years with individuals and families using a “collaborative healing” process, where the client and the professional team-up to achieve a therapeutic and growing process—together. Specializations include adults abused as children and sex addiction. Dr. Alibrando is nationally respected as an organizational consultant, speaker and author of Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst. He served as President of the San Gabriel Valley Psychological Association and liaison to the California Psychological Association (CPA); Director of Fuller Psychological & Family Services; and as an Adjunct Professor at Fuller’s Graduate School of Psychology.