• Dr. Melanie O'Neill

Never Waste Your Pain

When we encounter something difficult in our lives, we naturally go into fix-it mode--whether the pain is physical or emotional, our first order of business is to make it go away. That can cause us to get into the habit of stuffing uncomfortable emotions simply because we don't know how else to manage them.

Few people welcome conflict, and most do their best to minimize and avoid it. This is true, even when the conflict is entirely internal.


It's so tempting to cope with pain by numbing ourselves to it. Most numbing strategies feel fantastic in the moment, so they give us the illusion that they're working. Unfortunately, avoiding our problems doesn't solve them.


Our minds and bodies don't alert us to pain without a purpose. It takes intention, and a fair amount of grit, to face those aches as they are.


The next time you find yourself registering something uncomfortable, see if you might catch yourself when the reflex to "get over it" pops up. The key to doing this successfully is to keep an open attitude of curiosity about what you're actually experiencing.


Our reactions to things rarely happen in neat packages. You may find that a flash of anger toward a loved one comes with guilt about losing your cool. Or some persistent sadness also carries anxiety about how to manage it. You may even find emotions you thought were polar opposites happen together with some frequency: joy and jealousy, loss and relief, a wish to be left alone competing with the desire for connection--just to name a few.


Truly listening to yourself is an act of courage. Becoming aware of the full range of your emotions, and how you experience them, empowers you to hear important messages. Over time, those messages come together to form a new understanding of yourself, one where your pain can find meaning, and transform into knowledge.

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Melanie R. O'Neill, PsyD, BCB

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© 2019 by Melanie R. O'Neill, PsyD, BCB