Emotional pain: 7 ways to rewire your brain to let it go

Bumps, ordeals, storms, obstacles—whatever you want to call them, we’ve all experienced them at one point or another.

A life without pain is a life unlived, and pain is just the unfortunate byproduct of living a full life.

But as much as we must accept that emotional pain is an inevitability, we must also accept that the way we handle this pain can be improved and even perfected.

You don’t have to let yourself collapse and crumble every time you feel that wave of negativity come over you again.

The healthiest way to live life is to learn how to deal with this emotional pain and injury, or figuring out the best way to remain ourselves when all the world seems to be pounding against us.

Here are 7 common sources of emotional pain, and what you can do to help get over them according to psychologist Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid:

1) Haunting Memories

There are certain memories that haunt us all, and unlike other memories, these memories come back from time to time to open that wound and hurt us anew.

In many cases, these memories are embarrassing or shameful, and they involve the judgment of other people.

We are haunted by how people saw us, and wonder whether or not they still see it the same way.

To get over these ruminations, you have to accept that your world is not the same world as everyone else’s.

While you might be the center of your attention, the simple truth is that other people don’t care or think about you as much as you do.

It all comes down to realizing one thing: it’s not a big deal.

2) Distress and Trauma

Loss, trauma, and distress can shatter our lives and make us retreat into smaller versions of ourselves for a prolonged period of time.

When you lose someone close to you through death or other means, or experience something traumatic of your own, your connection to the world becomes shifted; you no longer see reality the way you did before. It’s no longer safe, no longer open.

To counter this, you must ease the pain immediately after the trauma has occurred.

Find your way of grieving and coping, and embrace it.

You need to give yourself time to adjust to this new worldview, and you must become comfortable with this transition.

If you pull out too quickly, you will never give yourself the chance to grow.

According to “Business Buddha” Srikumar Rao, the key to dealing with adversity is to face it and accept it. Once you’ve done that, you’ll more easily able to let go of any emotional pain. He explains it brilliantly in this free masterclass. It got goes for 90 minutes and anyone can access it.

3) Social Rejection

Breaking up with your partner, losing a friend, realizing that those close to you aren’t as close as you thought they were—even the smallest examples of social rejection can sting like fire.

According to Winch, we must employ a four-tiered strategy:

Don’t criticize yourself
Rebuild your self-image
Find new connections
Accept the pain

4) Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is an issue that can last your entire life if never properly dealt with.

This process is a cycle that feeds off itself, worsening on every round. The more you question your worth, the more reason you give yourself to doubt, and the harder and more painful those questions become.

Innocent comments from strangers can seem like stinging criticism, and dealing with any kind of rejection will feel impossible.

To treat this, Winch suggests that you must learn to be kinder to yourself. Learn compassion for yourself and you will see that you have gone through too much, simply due to your own anxiety. You must be mindful and build your willpower, to fight off the negativity in your head.

5) Guilt

With many negative emotions, the root causes come from the actions of others on us, but with guilt, it comes from our own understanding of situations that we experience.

Guilt can be described in three types: unresolved (no closure), survivor (others dying before you), or separation (disloyalty).

To overcome all types of guilt, you must look into the act of apologizing.

Apologize to others and to yourself—accept that what has happened has happened, and convince yourself that the only way to move forward is to forgive yourself.

6) Loneliness

Loneliness can creep up on you little by little, until you find yourself transformed one day from a social butterfly to a lonely hermit, unable to fix the situation without climbing out of your comfort zone.

You lose connections one by one until you feel completely isolated and alone, and the only solution—rebuilding those connections—feels impossible.

The key here is empathy. You must learn to reach out to people emotionally; feel the pain of others, and realize that the pain that you are feeling is not as unique as you might think it is.

We all feel lonely, because we all need connections; you reaching out to those around you isn’t just about helping yourself, but also about helping everyone else.

7) Failure

Failure. Perhaps the worst source of emotional pain of them all. We experience failure when we put our whole heart into something, only to have reality hit us with the truth: we’re not good enough.

It questions your entire self-worth, your passions, and your ideas, and it makes you wonder—am I ever going to make it?

Winch believes that the road to overcoming the feelings of failure is a combination of many of the techniques discussed above. Compassion for the self, and reaching out for others, and being mindful and practicing willpower.

It requires a full rebuilding of the mind and your self-worth, and only afterwards can you accept that you might not and perhaps never will be the person you dream of becoming. And that’s okay.

NEW EBOOK: The western world is starting to wake up to what Buddhists have always known: that mindfulness and living in the moment are key components to living your best life. Hack Spirit’s new eBook, How to Use Buddhist Teachings for a Mindful, Peaceful and Happy Life, is a terrific introduction to these iconic Buddhist teachings. We draw on Buddhist insights to make practical suggestions for your everyday life. Check it out here.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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