5 Tips for Processing and Healing From Pain

man in yellow field

The more you ignore and avoid pain the deeper it is buried in the subconscious, escaping your awareness. The unfortunate thing about this is that even though the pain is hidden its effects are not. Additionally, pain becomes more difficult to process the deeper it goes. Healing from pain requires self-awareness and a willingness to do something about it once you’ve discovered it.

Below are some tips that have helped me to discover, work through, and heal from my own pain, which I hope will help you as well:

Examine your feelings: You might be totally aware of pain that you have never dealt with, as this is sometimes the case. Often, however, many people have ignored and avoided pain for so long that they aren’t aware of it or how it impacts their lives. For example, If you’ve never processed the pain of your parents divorce this can greatly effect your marriage. Maybe every time you and your spouse have a simple argument common to most marriages you have a total breakdown, turning it into a much bigger issue. This might be due to the emergence of your feelings and fears of rejection and abandonment from the pain of the divorce. These feelings are automatic, and while they seem rational to you, they typically seem irrational to others and can cause serious problems. You have to examine these feelings in order to discover where they are coming from so that you can process it and heal. Ask yourself these questions, “Why do I feel the way that I feel?” and why do I do what I do?” Through asking this question you might discover that a simple argument with your spouse really should not cause you intense fear of abandonment and rejection. This can open the door of understanding that something deeper is going on. Understanding your feelings and actions, especially ones that are negatively impacting your life, is critical.

Talk about it with someone you trust: Once you have discovered and acknowledged your pain that needs to be healed its important to talk about it with someone you trust. Talking about it not only reveals your feelings tied to the pain but it also uncovers beliefs you have developed about yourself and the world based on your pain. Talking about it can be a difficult thing to do but it is necessary for healing and truly moving forward without the effects lingering and causing you more issues. If you feel like you don’t have someone you trust to talk to consider seeing a professional counselor. The idea of talking about your pain to someone you don’t know intimately might be scary, but remember, the right counselor wont judge you and will listen to you with sincere care.

Allow yourself to feel your feelings: when you work hard to avoid pain you end up transferring your feelings associated with it onto unrelated people and situations. You might feel rejected by a parent but because you haven’t faced the pain you transfer this feeling onto your spouse or a friend. Allow yourself to feel rejected by the right person, experience the feeling and work through it. One good way to feel and experience your feelings are by writing them down and reading them aloud. This can be a huge breakthrough for you. Feelings are meant to be expressed, not ignored.  One common saying about depression is that it is anger turned inward. Anger that is suppressed and ignored doesn’t just disappear, it eventually becomes a part of who you are, seeping into all areas of your life. Additionally, encourage the people in your life to express their feelings as well rather than avoid them. The more comfortable you are with your own feelings the more comfortable you will become with the feelings of others.

Dispute and replace your irrational beliefs tied to the pain: Another important thing to do when processing pain is to dispute and replace your irrational beliefs tied to the pain. This is a more detailed process and one that I will discuss in my next blog post.

Surrender to God and allow Him to comfort you: Considering the importance of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, this step is the most important for me when dealing with pain. God wants nothing more than to offer you His love, peace, and comfort during times of pain. For a lot of people this might seem confusing given the common belief that God allows painful things to happen, but this is for a different discussion and blog post.. In my own life, I have experienced true healing when I go before God and ask Him to comfort me in my pain and provide me with His hope. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ I strongly urge you to consider giving Him a chance at being your savior, it will forever change your life.

Work towards forgiveness: This can be really hard and can take a long time. Forgiveness is so important for processing pain, whether you need to forgive yourself or someone else, this step is crucial to the process. Just remember, forgiving someone does not depend on that person being sorry, but on you making a choice to do it so that you can move on. Think about what happens to you when you don’t forgive? When I don’t forgive someone else I start to develop bitterness towards that person and become irritable and angry. This can even lead to fatigue, anxiety, and a loss in energy. Think about the impact this can have. I know that when I make the choice to forgive someone I am able to fully move beyond the pain. Now an important thing to remember is that you cannot skip all of the other steps and move right to forgiveness, as this will likely be a superficial thing that wont last. Forgiveness should follow acknowledging pain, talking about it with someone you trust, expressing your feelings, and experiencing God’s comfort.

Hopefully these tips are helpful for you and encourage you to take some steps toward processing rather than avoiding your pain. I promise you that, although it might be painful initially, it will be well worth it.

What are some things that have helped you process your own pain?

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The Importance of Processing Pain

1I wont lie to you, facing and dealing with pain isn’t a fun process. It can be pretty painful. This is why a lot of people choose to ignore and “stuff” their pain and feelings in order to avoid it and move on. The problem is, avoiding pain doesn’t remove it, in fact it does just the opposite. The pain that you stuff and burry deep inside wont stay hidden for long. It will resurface as soon as you are faced with a “trigger.” A trigger is an activating event, often random, that causes a person to relive a painful experience. This can be confusing for people because they typically are not even aware of where the pain and emotions are coming from. Don’t believe the lie “time heals all wounds.” This is a fallacy. Time heals nothing, processing pain heals pain.

Why is processing pain so important? Living a healthy life and having stable and healthy relationships is one of the benefits of processing pain, rather than avoiding it. remember how I mentioned before that pain is often triggered by random events? This can leave a person who has not processed his pain feeling just as hurt and broken as he did when the actual event occurred. Imagine how this can negatively impact a person’s life and relationships? Below I will talk about what can happen when you don’t process pain and what can happen when you do.

What happens when you don’t process pain? When you avoid your pain you often end up avoiding people and situations as well, potentially leading to isolation and loneliness. When something starts to trigger your pain you might make efforts to flee. For example, say a woman who was cheated on and abandoned by her husband chose to avoid her pain rather than face it and heal from it. She might discover that the pain is triggered when being pursued by another man, or when around a married friend. Her hidden pain might cause her to miss out on friendships and a future relationship, keeping her from living life to the fullest and enjoying God’s blessings of marriage and friendship.

Additionally, as I mentioned before, triggered pain can be intense and debilitating. When pain is triggered all of the feelings hiding behind your buried pain will be exposed, poured out on those closest to you. Think of pain as a cap on a bottle that is holding multiple feelings inside of it. Feelings like rejection, abandonment, betrayal, neglect, and loneliness. All of these feelings spill out and effect every area of life until you can manage to stuff them back into the bottle, only to have them emerge again when triggered.

What happens when you do process pain? Triggers become reminders for individuals who have successfully processed pain. Rather than debilitating you, they remind you of pain that you have successfully worked through and healed from. It will likely still hurt, but rather than feeling as though you are re-experiencing it all over again, you might feel a sadness for what you had to go through. The pain is no longer a part of you, sneaking up on you when you least expect it. You are no longer controlled by fear and forced to avoid people and situations. I know this because I have processed some painful things in my life. I have experienced the freedom that comes from working through pain and then allowing God to comfort and heal.

Once you have successfully dealt with your pain you are capable of helping others do the same. Think of the woman I mentioned before. If she were to continue to ignore the pain associated with her husband’s unfaithfulness she would likely avoid other women going through the same thing for fear of her own pain being triggered. It is the woman who goes through something like this and chooses to face it rather than ignore it, healing from it, who is able to walk alongside another hurting woman and offer hope. The joy that comes from using your painful experience to help and support someone else is incredible. This is only possible once you have processed it and have healed from it.

Thankfully it is never too late to process pain and experience healing. In my next blog I will talk about some steps you can take to do this, gaining freedom and the ability to live the life God intends for you.

6 Negative Outcomes of Self-Absorption

%22Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, its thinking of yourself less.%22-2Being thoughtful of others can require some serious effort. This is especially true in the midst of a culture that promotes self-absorption through multiple platforms. Everybody wants to talk about what they did today, all that they have accomplished, the new toys they bought, how adorable their children are, etc. We have all been guilty of this and are all capable of being roped into believing the lie “its all about me.” So how do we overcome this tragic misfortune?

First of all, we need to realize that it is in fact not “all about me.” The people around us matter and thinking more of them than ourselves will lead to a depth of satisfaction selfishness can never achieve.

Here are some negative outcomes of self-absorption that will hopefully inspire change:

Increased Stress: often when you are self-absorbed you focus a lot of your attention on what other people think of you. This can sometimes include imaginations and negative assumptions, leading to increased defensive or avoidant behaviors. This includes worrying about whether or not people like you, if they think what you say sounds stupid, or if you offer value at all. Gosh that’s a lot to worry about! Additionally, people who are totally consumed with self and the way they appear to others will put an excessive amount of effort into attempting perfection. Think of how much less stressful life would be if you didn’t care about what other people were thinking of you and focused instead on how you can positively impact others. Stress levels could be reduced dramatically.

Here is a personal story. I used to have this weird concern about my clothes fitting just right. If something didn’t tuck in properly or seemed a little too baggy or a little too loose on me I refused to wear it. I was so worried people would think I looked stupid because I was focused entirely too much on myself. This caused a lot of unneeded stress. Once I recognized this and made some changes the stress over what to wear totally disappeared, leaving me more capable of thinking about more important things.

Lowered self-esteem: The more you think about yourself the greater the risk of developing a negative opinion of yourself, decreasing self-esteem. Think about it, if you find out a friend got a promotion and you immediately think “wow why haven’t I gotten a promotion?” what happens? You immediately think less of yourself and are also in danger of thinking less of your friend. The healthy response when confronted with joys and successes of others is to rejoice with them. Being consumed with self makes this much more difficult. Additionally, comparison is bred by self-focus, often leading to depression and bitterness. Stop comparing yourself to that beautiful friend of yours and instead give her a nice compliment. You will quickly realize the difference this can make and the joy it can produce.

Damaged relationships: Who wants a relationship with someone who thinks only of him or herself? In a blog titled The Pursuit of Selflessness, Joshua Becker writes “Nobody is intimately drawn to selfishness. Nobody seeks the wise counsel of a selfish person. Nobody is willing to give themselves up for one who desires his own kingdom above all things.” How right he is! Selflessness is the glue that holds marriages and friendships together. Everybody wants a selfless friend or spouse. The problem is, a selfless person wont be drawn to a selfish person, unless its out of compassion and a desire to help, lets face it that’s what selflessness does, but this likely wont last.. Jealousy, conceitedness, and bitterness, direct causes of self-absorption, are easily detected and often avoided.  Start focusing on others more than yourself and you will notice some serious positive changes in your relationships. You might even develop some new and exciting ones too.

Distraction from the needs of others: When you are busy thinking about yourself you are less capable of thinking of the needs of others. I’m not referring to neglecting self-care, as this is really important. I’m talking about self-absorption: preoccupation with ones own emotions, interests, or situations. A person preoccupied with their own “stuff” won’t notice when the people in his or her life are in need and will likely ignore those needs. Unmet needs can lead to serious conflict in relationships, especially in marriage.

Missed opportunities: The joy that comes from encouraging, supporting, and cheering others on is irreplaceable. If you are self-absorbed you might not realize this. But I promise, its true! I won’t lie, I can occasionally revert to my selfish side, thinking only of myself, and I know the lack of joy I experience in that place. When a friend shares a heartache and all you can think to do is make it about you you miss out on the chance to offer support and love. Risk focusing on yourself less so you can recognize the opportunities to serve and love others around you and experience a new kind of happiness.

Increased pride: The more you think of yourself the more you are in danger of becoming prideful. As you focus on self you focus on impressing and appearing worthy to others. This is a dangerous road to travel and one that becomes murky quickly. The deeper you go the less able you are to realize how far you have gone, and the less capable you are of turning back.

Don’t fool yourself: we have all been guilty of self-promotion. We tell the world about the great things we’ve done in order to “encourage” others. It’s really important that we, me included, really examine our motives. Are we really trying to help others or are we simply trying to promote ourselves and gain recognition? Instead of talking about yourself and what you did try talking about what you saw or heard someone else do. You want to encourage others, that’s great! Just don’t do it to commend self. share of a recent good deed you noticed someone else doing or an accomplishment someone else achieved. This will not only encourage others, but will protect you from promoting yourself and missing out on God’s blessings in favor of public praise.

For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.             2 Corinthians 10:18 (NKJV)

“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, And a man is valued by what others say of him.” Proverbs 27:21

What other negative outcomes of self-absorption can you think of? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!

Don’t Just Believe God Exists: Make it Personal

9558177c5aab1e8fed3bf45a580a95d6I have recently been studying the book of Daniel and am truly amazed by his love for and faith in God. The scriptures refer to him as beloved and faithful on multiple occasions, traits anybody would strive for. Daniel aside, I was intrigued by the story of king Nebuchadnezzar. How could someone witness such incredible miracles done by the hand of God and not surrender to Him on the spot? I just cannot wrap my head around that. Yet this very thing continues to happen time and time again, both in scripture and in modern times.

For the first time I recognized what happened when king Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged God for what He had done and who He was to others, compared to when he personally connected with God and surrendered to Him. You see, being amazed by God’s mighty works is not the same as being truly captivated by His grace and mercy, surrendering all to serve Him.

After God revealed king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation to Daniel he brought it before the king, giving God all the credit and taking none for himself. The king responded by falling on his face before Daniel acknowledging that Daniel’s God was the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and revealer of secrets (Daniel 2:46). It might appear at first that the king had a bit of a heart change, but the following chapters reveal that this wasn’t so. Despite recognizing what God had done and who He was Nebuchadnezzar did not change at all.

In the very next story, one of the most well known in the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar sets up a golden image and commands everyone to bow down to it. After Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refuse and God delivers them from the fiery furnace, it appears once more that the king has a change of heart. But once again, no real change has taken place, despite the incredible miracle God had performed right in front of him. Nebuchadnezzar blesses the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, ordering that all people should worship this God Daniel 3:28-29 , yet continues to refer to God, not as his own, but as the God of another.

Underneath the façade, Nebuchadnezzar praises and worships himself, believing that he is in total control of his own life and destiny. God has to bring him low, removing him from the pedestal of pride he created for himself. It is only after years of suffering and humility that Nebuchadnezzar personally recognizes God as his own. He states, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.” (Daniel 4:37). He finally had a personal experience with God and surrendered.

In order for real life change to take place God has to become real to you, as evidenced by what you say and how you live your life. You don’t have to wait for God to bring you low before you fall on your face to worship Him. You can make the choice today to experience God for yourself and surrender your life to Him.

Pray that God will open your eyes to His truth and love and then take a look around. In this new light you will see His beauty surrounding you and will be amazed by the love and forgiveness He offers you through His son Jesus Christ.

7 Tips For Increasing Self-Awareness

%22Until you make the unconscious councils, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.%22Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. Being self-aware enables you to truly know yourself as a separate individual: your feelings, beliefs, desires, weaknesses, strengths, and motives, and to also know how you impact the lives of those around you. In contrast, being unaware cannot only wreak havoc on your own life, but on the lives of others as well. Increasing your self-awareness is only the beginning, paving the way for growth and effective change.

Here are some tips for increasing your self-awareness:

Determine who you want to be: If you don’t know who you want to be, it will be easier to ignore who you are. For example, I have determined that I want to be a compassionate person. Because of this I am more aware of my lack of compassion with certain people and in certain situations. My ability to see this deficiency only became possible when I determined my desire to be compassionate. Before, I was somewhat oblivious to it. Now when I am lacking compassion I try to be more aware of it and am able to change it. Begin by thinking about the person you want to be. Write down a few words that come to your mind that describe that aspired personality. Then analyze if those words currently define you or not. In doing this you become more aware of who you are today, and more capable of becoming who you want to be.

Take a personality test: I have learned so much about myself through personality tests. By simply answering some questions, honestly of course, you can gain valuable insights about yourself. An awesome and free test can be taken here. As you read about your personality type things start to make sense that never made sense before. Taking the test helped me recognize that I often take on the burdens of others, becoming overly involved emotionally. My empathy and concern for others is a strength, but it can quickly become a weakness. I have learned how to be responsible TO people rather than FOR people, and how to encourage and guide towards change, rather than “fix”.

Seek trusted feedback: this is a tough one. I for one don’t always like hearing what other people have to say regarding my behavior, especially if its negative. When feedback comes from a trusted individual, who cares for you deeply, it’s important to pay attention to it. There is almost always some valuable truth in it. Having a trusted mentor or accountability partner is a great way to do it. Find someone who will not only call you out on your weaknesses and blind spots, but will also point out your strengths and abilities, offering encouragement along the way. On your own you will fail, but with help and support from others you can overcome and succeed in ways that you never thought possible.

Examine your motives: Examining behavior is not enough; you need to look at the motive behind the behavior. For example, a good deed might make somebody appear selfless, but if buried beneath the good deed is a desire for praise from others it might actually be selfish. It can be the opposite as well. Someone who works excessive hours and makes a lot of money might appear to some as a workaholic or materialistic, but you might look beneath the service and find that he works so hard in order to fund several orphanages in third world countries. Looking at our own behavior or the behavior of others without understanding motives is futile.

Pray, Pray, and Pray: For me personally, prayer is number one when it comes to self-awareness. Who better to spend time with than the one who created me? The devil has done nothing but seek to destroy me and to keep me from the beautiful plans that God has for me. He doesn’t want us to become who God intended us to be; he wants us to be lost and broken, unaware of all we are capable of becoming and accomplishing through Jesus Christ and His perfect love. Additionally, we all have secret sins that we are totally oblivious too. Through prayer God can reveal those hidden places of darkness in our hearts, enabling us to become aware and overcome. In the Psalms King David said, “who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.” (Psalm 19:12) Through continual prayer God can help me become aware of the secret sins in my life and enable me to overcome.

Examine the way others respond to you: We all know that person who acts in such a way that drives everybody crazy! Its obvious based on body language, awkward comments, facial expressions, and avoidance. You wish somebody would just say something to stop it. Being around people like this causes me to think about my behaviors and how they affect others. How do people react to me when I’m around them? Do they seem uncomfortable, desperate to get away, down, annoyed? This can tell you a lot.  Our goal should be to positively impact the people around us, building them up rather than bringing them down. Examine the way the people around you respond to you and this will give you valuable insights into your behavior.

Get Professional Help: Sometimes deep-rooted pain and issues can block our ability to be self-aware. If you are working hard to ignore painful parts of your life you will likely block out important aspects of the self as well. In this case, working with a professional counselor can help to uncover and heal hidden trauma and pain. Maybe you are carrying around pain that desperately needs to be healed. Don’t allow fear or judgment to keep you from getting the help that you need so that you can become who God created you to be.