Dealing with emotional pain

Coping with feelings like hurt or anger can be quite challenging sometimes. In this series of four articles we will take a closer look at painful emotions and how to work with them in meditation.

emotional pain

Hopefully it will offer you some guidelines that will encourage you to look into these “unwanted” feelings and find peace and freedom where you least expect it. This is part of my series “Dealing with emotional pain”.

Part one: The wisdom of hurt

Hurt. We all experience it and we all wish we wouldn’t.
It’s that painful contraction of the heart when we feel unloved. When we sense that we are pushed aside or feel we are not good enough as we are.
It’s an intimate pain, without many words.
However, our thoughts will climb over each other in search of a way out, anything to turn our hurt into justified anger or resentment. Anything to ease that unbearable, vulnerable sensation that took hold of us. But by following the escape route in our mind, away from the hurt, we leave something precious behind.

But by following the escape route in our mind, away from the hurt, we leave something precious behind.

When we are able to stay right where we are and open to what we feel, even for a moment, the painful sensation can become a doorway to a deeper part of our selves. Somehow our reflex is always to move away from the pain, away from the physical sensation, to a place in our mind where we can be in control again. Not that we are of course, and we only will end up thinking a lot about what happened, turning our pain into a solid story. So, for now, let’s see if we can be interested in our own hurt as we experience it. Let’s not move away from it, but be with it for a while, meet it as it is.
When we dare to descend to the core of our hurt, It will reveal our sensitivity, our personal form and colour, our own truth.

How do we “descend to the core of our hurt”?

The following example may be of help. Emma, a young woman who had been attending a meditation class with me for some months, shared a painful feeling that came up during meditation. I asked her to close her eyes again and focus on the painful sensation.

“Can you tell me what you feel?”

“I feel a thick painful cloud in my heart, that even becomes heavier now that I focus on it. It’s really heavy…It spreads out now through my whole chest, becoming like a fog, a grey fog. It makes me feel so sad… like I will never be able to enjoy lightness again, it’s like I don’t deserve it, I am meant to stay here forever…”

“OK, just feel this, give room to the emotion, the grayness, feeling stuck…”

“Yes…It becomes a bit lighter now….(long silence)… and there’s a warmth in my belly… and still a fog, but it’s ok, it’s not grey but a light orange….”

“How does it make you feel, being in that light-orange fog?”

“It actually feels good. I feel at ease, like I do not have to perform or be in a certain way. I feel safe here in this soft fog, I don’t need to rush…yes, I feel relaxed now, OK.”

In this example, Emma focuses on the hurt, experienced as a painful sensation in her heart area. By focusing directly on this physical sensation, it starts to change, in her case from a cloud into a grey fog spreading through her chest. Emotions appear; sadness, despair… When she simply stays with these emotions, they finally resolve into lightness, warmth and relaxation.

By keeping the focus on these sensations and emotions, giving them “room” to be, an amazing thing happens. It is like they free themselves. This is always experienced as sensations in the body, like the warmth in Emma’s belly, the physical relaxation in that soft, orange “fog”.

In the end, Emma feels she “doesn’t have to perform, or be in a certain way”.
By looking into the initial hurt, she connected to a deeper part in her that longs to be itself. A part that believed she was never “good enough” to be loved and accepted, but needed to perform, do her best.
Afterwards Emma felt relaxed and open and I encouraged her to focus regularly in daily life on this “safe space”, connecting to her own tempo, her own expression.

For EkhartYoga members: Explore the wisdom of hurt in a meditation with Esther Teule 

The story about our hurt versus the sensation

Of course, there is always a story attached to hurt. We feel hurt by someone, or by a belief we have about ourselves. There is obviously a reason why we feel hurt; because of a remark, or something that did or didn’t happen.

Sometimes we can solve this by talking about it. Sometimes we just experience hurt for a moment and then it leaves us again. But when hurt lingers, and we can’t stop thinking about it, the route I suggested can be a powerful way to heal our wound.

I think we all recognise how we back up our pain with a story. When we ask each other how we feel we probably won’t give a description about a grey fog in our chest. Instead, we explain why we feel hurt. We explain the situation, words that were spoken and so on. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, by focusing solely on the story we build a solid frame around what we feel, keeping it imprisoned in “facts”.
But the pain itself is just a sensation.
It’s just a contraction, connected to deeper layers in who we believe we are.

Focusing on the story will solidify the hurt. Becoming aware of the sensation and opening to it will free it.

Focusing on the story will solidify the hurt. Becoming aware of the sensation and opening to it will free it.Just observing and staying present with whatever comes up is what you practice in meditation. Taking the route to the core of a painful sensation is maybe a bit more dynamic, but the emphasis on just opening to what appears, without interfering remains the same. Just let the process unfold!

If you would like to work with this, I recommend the video “The wisdom of hurt” to become familiar with the process. Wishing you well!

Love, Esther

More in the series

If you would like to keep reading more on dealing with emotional pain why not read:
Part 2 – Dancing with anger
Part 3 – The root of insecurity
Part 4 – Into the heart of sadness

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Esther TeuleEsther Teule is a meditation teacher and personal coach. Over years of practise Esther has developed her own style of meditation, based on inquiry and the practise of self love.