The Messiness of Emotional Pain
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Dr. Sidrah Muntaha, Chartered Clinical Psychologist, DClinPych, CPsychol, AFBPsS
18th November, 2013
Emotional pain can be messy, and can stick to all of us, particularly when it's not properly addressed. Some people carry more than their share whilst others may be lucky enough to live their entire life without too much pain weighing them down. But the truth is that as we get older, our experiences of disappointments, regrets, losses and pain often increases. We often develop coping mechanisms to manage these disappointments. However, if these experiences are not adequately processed, it can affect different areas of our lives and can even lead to mental health difficulties.
Your goals & expectations
As people get older, they often feel a sense of ‘stuckness’ between where they are NOW and where they had hoped they would be. With age, the possibilities can also feel limited, and we can become more aware of goals that we may never reach.
The emotional pain and sometimes anger that comes hand in hand with a growing recognition of our own limitations can lead to depression, insomnia, panic attacks and other mental health issues. It can also impact on your relationship with your family or your partner. In this situation, it would be important to not only address your current dissatisfaction, but also connect it with previous experiences in your life that may have shaped the way you now see yourself.
Link between current feelings and previous experiences
Whether it is feeling stuck in a job where you feel under-valued, in a relationship where you feel criticised or in a body in which you feel is unattractive, dealing with your previous experiences of these feelings would be an important process.
If you have had experiences in the past of not being valued, being criticised and made to feel unlovable or unattractive, you are more likely to bring those experiences to your current job, your current relationship and more generally your current beliefs about yourself and others.
However, ‘strong’ you may be as a person, emotional pain is not something that can be easily shaken off or ignored for long. It has a way of remaining in your life in ways that you may not even be aware of. It can even impact on your physical health through unexplained body aches, recurrent headaches, frequent colds/flu and other physical health problems.
The following are indications that you may have emotional distress that have not been adequately processed, thereby affecting various areas of your life.
Signs that you may benefit from psychological support
- You quickly feel upset or angry for no apparent reason.
- You find yourself unable to feel anything.
- You can’t switch off from work even during holidays.
- You easily feel criticised or not ‘good enough’.
- You feel tired all the time for no good reason.
- You need to constantly be in control.
- You avoid certain places or people that remind you of unpleasant experiences.
- You find it hard to trust anyone.
- You find yourself pretending to be happier than you actually are.
- You have pain in areas of your body for which there is no medical explanation.
There are many ways in which the messiness of emotional pain can affect our lives. If you think any of the above applies to you, it may be time for you to consider trying psychological therapy and counselling. After all, it is through taking such steps that you will be able to process your experiences, come to terms with your disappointments and truly find ways of re-shaping your future.
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