Benefits: Gain an understanding of your pain-body.
So That You Can: Recognize it and take charge of your emotional health.
Go From Inspiration to Action With the Worksheet Below!
Take Charge of Your Emotional Health:
A No Nonsense Approach
How much time do you spend focusing on your emotional health? Probably little to none, right?
Let’s face it, our society doesn’t promote emotional health very well. We receive countless messages every day encouraging us to focus on our fiscal health and our physical health, but where are the messages encouraging us to focus on our emotional health? Well, here’s one for ya! 😉
That’s exactly what we’re going to focus on today. Specifically, the one concept that may be the key to taking charge of your emotional health. A concept that you’ve likely never heard of. A concept that has the power to alter your reality in such a way that you’ll feel empowered to start living the fulfilling life you were meant to live.
Chances are, your reality is being controlled by habitual thoughts that are detrimental to your emotional health. For example, maybe you:
- Jump to conclusions about how events are going to unfold and about what people are thinking.
- Needlessly blame yourself for everything that goes wrong in your life and in the lives of the people in your circle.
- Catastrophize every perceived problem in your life and blow them out of proportion.
- Put unreasonable demands on yourself by thinking, “I should do this” or “I must do that.”
- Compare yourself to others and simultaneously magnify their positive attributes while minimizing your own.
Are any of these thoughts resonating with you? And, can you see how these habitual thoughts would prevent you from taking charge of your emotional health? Yes? Then let’s keep going.
A Reality-Altering Concept
You have a pain-body, and this pain-body changes your view of reality. It affects how you react to situations, how you treat people, and how you treat yourself.
Your pain-body causes you to act out of character. It pushes you to form opinions of people who you don’t even know. And, it keeps all the negative stories you’ve created about yourself alive — that you’re not strong enough, that you have nothing of value to add, or that you don’t deserve a life better than the one you’re living.
What’s your pain-body’s MO? Well, believe it or not, your pain-body is trying to protect you from feeling pain. But, in the process, it ends up stunting your emotional health, which is why we need to gain an understanding of this concept — of the pain-body — before we can take charge of our emotional health.
Today, we’ll gain this understanding by discussing:
- What your pain-body is,
- How to recognize it, and
- Finally, some actionable steps that will empower you to take charge of it (and, in turn, your emotional health).
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Your Emotional Baggage
You’ve probably heard this term before, right? It’s synonymous with pain-body — pain-body just sounds a bit more sophisticated. 😉
Pain-body is a term coined by the spiritual teacher, Eckart Tolle, who describes the pain-body as:
The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and then let go of [that] join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body. . . . The energy field of old but still very-much-alive emotion that lives in almost every human being is the pain-body.
Tolle goes on to describe your pain-body as a separate entity dwelling inside your body. You can observe it; so it’s not you. It’s something separate that weasels its way into your subconsciousness and does its best to become part of your identity.
Why would your pain-body want to become part of your identity? Because it wants to stay alive, just like every other living thing does. It wants you to identify with your pain so much that you choose to feed it rather than separate yourself from it. Which leads us to our next question . . .
How do you feed your pain-body? By allowing negative thoughts to take control of your mind; by provoking others in an attempt to create some kind of drama; or, even by witnessing someone else’s drama unfold (the premise of much of our “entertainment”), are a few options. And a well-fed pain-body can claim a piece of your identity handily.
Let’s consider an example from my own life. I’ve been told, for as long as I can remember, that I’m loud and weird. And, for many years, I considered those to be “bad” traits and allowed the sting of those words to feed my pain-body. “I am loud and weird” became part of my identity. And those words led me to shy away from voicing my opinions and standing up for myself. It’s taken me quite a while, but I’ve learned to accept and embrace those words. We’ll talk about how you can go about doing the same thing in your life.
But first, we need to make one more thing clear about your pain-body . . .
Your Pain-Body is a Misguided Threat
You see, I don’t think the pain-body is all bad. It’s part of our survival instincts, and, just like any other part of our survival mechanisms, it needs to be respected, and guarded, so that it doesn’t take control of our lives. As long as your pain-body’s in control, you cannot take charge of your emotional health. And that’s why it’s important for us to understand exactly how formidable our pain-bodies can be.
I’m sure you can pick out the obvious dangers your pain-body poses, but what about the inconspicuous threats? There are two chinks in your mind’s armor, so to speak, and your pain-body is well aware of them. They are the dangers you need to become aware of.
First, your unconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between something that’s actually happened and something that you’ve just focused on a lot. Your pain-body knows this and loves to feed on the negative emotions you’ve attached to things that haven’t even happened. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but many neuroscientific studies have found this to be true. So, let’s play this theory out.
You’re scheduled to speak in front of a group. You’re apprehensive about it, naturally, and you start imagining several catastrophic scenarios — you say the wrong thing, you completely forget what you are speaking about, the audience starts to point and laugh, and you run out of the room crying. A bit dramatic, I know, but that’s what we do, right? And all of the negative emotions this scenario stirs up become a part of your pain-body.
Inevitably, you play this scenario out so many times in your head that when the day comes your pain-body overpowers you. It reminds you of your imagined scenario, and you start retrieving all the negative emotions you attached to it. So, no matter how many times you tell yourself, “You’ve got this! You know this material backwards and forwards. Everyone is here to support you, not condemn you,” the feelings your pain-body is retrieving will sabotage you.
And that leads us to the second chink in your mind’s armor — your pain-body knows how to bypass your mind’s circuitry. Normally, you have a thought, that thought leads to a feeling, and that feeling leads to an action that creates your reality. In effect, your thoughts are in control of your actions, but your pain-body sees this as a threat to its survival. So, it’s figured out a way to make sure that your feelings control your thoughts.
In our example, the feelings retrieved by the pain-body triggered thoughts that aligned with the imagined scenario — that you were going to freeze up and feel like a fool — and that’s probably exactly what happened. Those thoughts and feelings definitely aren’t going to help you take charge of your emotional health. So what can you do about it?
Recognize Your Pain-Body
Now that you’re aware of your pain-body, you’ll probably start to naturally recognize it. Still, it’s always helpful to have some examples to fall back on.
Here are a few signs that your pain-body has been triggered:
- Your emotional reaction to a situation is out of proportion to the event that triggered it.
- You act in a way that is out of character for you.
- You have a strong opinion about something that you really know nothing about.
- You have a strong opinion about someone who you don’t even know based on their ethnicity, social class, title, etc.
- You can’t let go of the past for whatever reason.
- You find yourself provoking someone.
- You find yourself drawn to entertainment that features gratuitous violence or malicious plot lines.
Do any of these signs sound familiar? Of course they do because we’ve all found ourselves in these situations. And that leads us to another important point about recognizing the pain-body.
You’ve just acknowledged that you have a pain-body, and this pain-body leads you to act in undesirable ways, right? So, can you also acknowledge that everyone else has a pain-body too, and their pain-bodies also cause them to act in undesirable ways? Then maybe you can be a bit more understanding when someone’s pain-body is showing and not take the interaction you’re having with them personally. Think of what a powerful skill that would be to master!
You can take charge of your emotional health by taking charge of your pain-body. You’ve already taken the first steps — awareness and recognition. So what do you do next?
You start feeling your emotions. Yes, it’s that simple, but take a moment to really think about what that means. Take a moment to think about how often you hide, suppress, or avoid your emotions and all the reasons you do. It’s not going to be an easy step to take, is it?
But here’s the deal. Resisting your emotions will only cause them to increase in intensity, and they’re going to find a way to come out. Your unprocessed emotions will feed your pain-body and cause you to act in undesirable ways. And, in this mental state, you definitely won’t be in charge of your emotional health.
So here’s what you do instead. When you recognize that your pain-body has been triggered:
- Acknowledge the feeling you are having. Give it a name, and realize that it is there to serve a purpose.
- Recognize the feeling as part of your pain-body, which is not “you”. Do not identify with the emotion. For example, instead of saying to yourself, “I am anxious,” you could say, “I am experiencing anxiety.” You’ll be surprised to see what a difference this simple shift in your language can make. You won’t be identifying with the emotion, and your pain-body won’t be able to take control of your thoughts.
Now that you are in control of your thoughts, let your body process the feeling — it will pass.
Go back to those habitual thoughts we discussed at the beginning of this post, and see if you can identify how your own habitual thoughts are feeding your pain-body.
Then, dig deeper and try to identify the negative stories you’ve created about yourself and the world, and see if you can identify how these stories are feeding your pain-body and affecting your perception of reality.
With this awareness, you can begin to separate yourself from your pain-body. But, be patient and persistent. This is a process that is going to take a lot of time and self-discipline, and it’s not easy for anyone to do.
If you’d like to learn more about self-discipline, check out this post: Gain the Awareness You Need to Develop Self-Discipline
Which is why I created a worksheet that you can use as a tool to sort through the ideas introduced in this essay and go from inspiration to action.
Click here for more posts with a “mental health” theme.
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And until next time . . . STAY CURIOUS!
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Sources & Inspiration
A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle, Penguin Books
Witnessing the pain-body & What It Can Teach Us, posted to YouTube by Eckhart Tolle on 3.04.20
How to Identify & and Stop Your Pain-Body | A New Earth | Oprah Winfrey Network, posted to YouTube by OWN on 4.27.14
The pain-body, posted to YouTube by Authentic Self Growth on 8.26.19
Shadow Work & The Emotional pain-body, posted to YouTube by Candace van Dell on 1.20.20
Dealing with the Emotional pain-body (Part 1), posted to YouTube by Candace van Dell on 9.14.17
Eckhart Tolle Concept of the pain-body Explained, posted to YouTube by Dr. David Maloney Psychotherapy on 5.23.19
The pain-body: The Hidden Secret Behind Self Realization, posted to YouTube by Kim Eng on 8.21.19
10 Unhelpful Thinking Styles Sabotaging Your Success, Adam Sicinski, IQ Matrix