Sunday, May 31, 2015

What I'm Learning about Emotional Pain

So, my counselor assigned me some reading in the form of Chris Thurman's The Lies We Believe. Chapter after chapter, I found myself highly annoyed by it...not because I didn't agree with Thurman's points, but because I did; I agreed with everything he wrote and didn't find his words very insightful.

I thought: if this guy (my counselor) thinks I'm going to pay him a million dollars to have book club over this stupid book, he's got another thing coming. I kept reading, though, because I'm a rule follower from way back.

Also and just for the record, I would never actually say that to my counselor because 1) I have a really hard time saying mean things to anyone who doesn't live in my house and therefore must almost always write my mean words down, and 2) pretty much every time my counselor looks at me, I cry.

But anyway. It took about forever, but I ran up on a statement in Thurman's book with which I strongly disagreed. (Finally! And, in the end, how much can a person learn from someone who thinks just like him or her?)  The statement with which I disagreed is this: "Emotional pain is good."

Now, let me tell you something: I'm an expert on emotional pain. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I was devoid of it. And it hurts. I hurt. So I was very curious to know from where this doctor (with whom I'd agreed so completely up to this point) was coming.

This is the analogy he drew (only not in this format, which I love because hello! I used to teach English):

emotional pain : internal problem :: smoke alarm : fire

So according to Thurman, emotional pain (like anger, depression, or anxiety) is good because it alerts us to the presence of an internal problem in the same way a smoke alarm alerts us to fire.

I like this concept a lot, and it has me asking questions like: 1) If I believed (prior to reading The Lies We Believe) that emotional pain was bad, why was I holding onto it? 2) Have I been so fixated on my emotional pain that I haven't been putting in the hard work of identifying my internal problem(s)? 3) Is it really possible to live a life free of emotional pain?

What do you think?


  1. I don't think a life free of emotional pain is any more possible than a life free of physical pain. In both instances it's good to find out the cause, find out the cure if there is one, and if there isn't decide if this pain is going to make you bitter or better, victim or victorious. I know that is used to the point of sounding cliche, but it's so true. We've seen people horribly disfigured or lame become some some of the most famous motivational speakers. Likewise, some who've been through horrible emotionally crippling circumstances. You are obviously not a lay down and give in to it and give up person. I'm thinking what you've gone through and what you're learning on your journey to wholeness will be a blessing as you share it with others.

    1. You are so wise. I think...hmmm...I don't mind the idea of experiencing emotional pain as I experience physical pain: occasionally, when something is wrong. But I am tired of the near-constant state of emotional pain. Thank you for saying that I am not a lay down and give in to it and give up person. I'll hold on to that for awhile.

  2. It is! It is! Thank you for posting this Brandee--I guess I never sought out a counselor because I simply burst out in tears when the music starts at Church. (This Sunday it was Tom Kimmel "One Heart".) I cry like I am inconsolable. I guess I never thought to find a counselor instead of being the sobbing freak at Church. I would probably just look that him/her dumbly; I don't know what I am devastated about. I have lived such a blessed life. It feels like it must be the full presence of God missing--not that He has abandoned me--but rather that I have blocked the love as some weird form of self punishment. And I do believe that living in a constant state of joy is possible when we have fully aligned ourselves with God. I suspect this from knowing my Reverend. She exudes a constant state of joy. If ever there was a "kingdom within," she walks around engulfed in a state of it. And truly, there would be no sorrows if we clearly saw the good in everyone, and the eternal-ity of God's creations. Unfortunately, it appears to take a while to kindle the light of God that we are called to be. I think I am at a solid tea-candle glow. I recently read Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping, and it has made such an impact on me. He gives an example of how we keep attracting the same kind of pain to ourselves, over and over, until we learn to fix the thought pattern/old belief that created it. So emotional pain is good--it exposes a wound that we can heal. We can't heal from wounds we hide from ourselves.

    1. It's killing me to not know who you are. I added the Tipping book to my goodreads. I think it might be okay to sob at church if 1) you're not experiencing pain, and 2) if you're okay with sobbing at church. If you truly feel like a freak, you might not be okay with sobbing at church. Sometimes it feels good to cry. Sometimes it doesn't. I think my interest, personally, is two-fold: to not cry because I have unaddressed, internal problems, and to not cry when that's not what I want to do. I am working through helps with both. Perhaps I will write those out, next.

    2. I do not like sobbing at church either and wish I could find "the switch" on my emotional pain. I've been seeing a psychologist for a couple of years now and she's been helping me better understand the internal stuff going on (that often I'm not even aware of until I'm sobbing!) Incidentally, I think I've read "The Lies we Believe" too (title rings a bell) I'm sure I got angry with it too..and didn't finish reading it either lol! We'll get there, eventually....{{big hugs}} from Julia