As well as physical pain, emotional pain is something unavoidable that we are bound to experience at some point in our life. Even the happiest of all people at some point in his or her life will go through an emotionally painful period. I think it is good to learn how to deal with it. How?
When we start dealing with emotional pain, it comes very handy to remember the acronym AA, Awareness and Acceptance. These two elements are the keys which will allow us to enter into a new world or to set a new way to deal with emotionally stressful issues. When we start becoming willing to be aware of emotional pain and we accept it, things will start shifting and healing. Of course, it is a new way to look at things and as everything which is new it takes a certain amount of courage and some commitment to get things going. Also, in addition to courage and commitment it is very important to have a different attitude towards ourselves. We want to be treating ourselves as we would treat our best friends or the things we care the most for. No more judging, blaming, regretting, beating ourselves up but rather lots of gentleness, compassion and patience. At least let’s try to have a start and being curious of the possible outcome from this new way of treating ourselves. Let’s see what we can do and how we can carry on from here.
There is one short quote from Zen Master Obaku which can help us to tune into this new way of dealing with emotional pain, “that which sees suffering is not itself suffering.” What is Master Obaku saying? He is trying to make people realise that suffering is one thing and the one who is experiencing it is not the same thing, it is not suffering, it is just witnessing suffering. The gap there is between the experience and the one who is experiencing it is the key which will start making us see things differently. Over time, as we become more and more aware of this separation, we will change our perception on many things. Patience, commitment, curiosity and a bit of foolishness can speed up the process of this shift in perception. So, next time you are suffering from emotional stress take a little time to dedicate to this new way of dealing with it. Stay with the actual feelings, do your best to remain with all the sensations that arise in that very moment. Remember to be patient with yourself and committed to check how things are in your body and in your mind. Just check without comments or judgements. Awareness and Acceptance, remember? When you remain in the space of awareness you will see how things will change, will move and eventually will heal. When you stay with the emotional pain without avoidance or suppression, pain itself starts transforming. And of course Acceptance. Accepting the feelings which are there, becoming willing to attend them rather than running away from them. The more we are aware and accept them, the more we gain confidence, we become friends with them, we start understanding them, we realise why they are there and what message they are carrying for us. Also, staying with them and accepting them for what they are will take us away from any involvement with the mental story lines which normally nourish emotional pain rather than healing it.
Finally, let’s see in more details how we can practically use mindfulness when dealing with emotional stress. The Buddha taught four foundations of mindfulness – mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of sensations, mindfulness of the mind and mindfulness of mind objects. Any of these type of mindfulness practise will help us to go through any emotionally painful times. How? When we notice some emotional pain arising we want to become aware and mindfulness of the body for example, what happens in the body when we feel emotional pain? Or what sensations can we notice? Or what goes on in our mind? What thoughts, ideas, story lines? Just observe without getting involved, without judging, without excluding, without liking or disliking. Like you were watching a movie, just watching. Little by little this awareness helps to deal with things as they are in the moment they are happening. That awareness starts shifting things and perception of things too. And when we become skilful enough in our approach to suffering with this compassionate awareness, we will see that not only the pain will start to transform, but we will also start developing a very deep understanding and insight into who we really are. That is the ultimate realisation which will definitely help to heal our emotional pains.
In conclusion, in order to deal with emotional pain we need to remember AA, Awareness and Acceptance. Of course, it is also very important to remember to deal with ourselves differently to how we habitually do. Lots of patience, lots of gentleness and lot of compassion. We want to help ourselves and that might take time but it is definitely worthy as it will guarantee us a totally different experience of life. It is at least worth trying, is it not?