Pain is the number one reason people begin to seek help. Humans tend to not like pain, especially severe pain. We’ll do anything to not be in pain.
However, pain is a perfectly normal experience. Moreover, pain is an important experience.
Pain tells us when something is wrong.
To discuss the importance of pain, let’s look at what happens when we don’t have pain.
To do this, we will draw from some medical experiences and look at Congenital Insensitivity to Pain (CIP).
This condition is classified as extremely dangerous since physical pain is essential to human survival. I remember hearing about this as a child and thinking it would be wonderful to not feel pain since pain can be such an unpleasant experience. However, I was quickly informed of how dangerous that would be. What if I couldn’t feel the heat from a burning stove or the cold of frostnip turning to frostbite in winter? What if I couldn’t feel a broken bone from a sports injury?
Needless to say, it becomes pretty obviously problematic when physical pain is taken away. In fact, people that experience this condition must have frequent doctor’s visits to ascertain if something is wrong since they can’t actually tell themselves.
It goes without saying that the same is true of emotional pain.
Many people try to draw a dividing line between the mind and the body. Yet, they are more related than we even have begun to understand. Therefore, it should be no surprise that rules that govern our physical well-being would also govern our mental well-being.
Just like how we need physical pain to tell us when our skin is burning or a bone is broken, we require emotional pain to tell us when something is wrong.
If you are in any kind of emotional or psychological pain, your brain is trying to tell you that something is wrong and is prompting you to appropriately correct the situation.
A study by Alison Ledgerwood that you can learn more about on her Ted Talk suggests some interesting data supporting this idea.
She points out that the brain more easily hangs onto negative experiences and then tends to stay in those states. However, our brain will come back to baseline after positive experiences.
The human body and brain is incredibly intuitive and logical, contrary to many people might think. Thus, it stands to reason that if the body comes equipped to do something, it must serve some kind of purpose. Therefore, if the brain has a tendency to stay in negative thought patterns, it must serve some kind of purpose. I am suggesting that it is because your brain is prompting you to create some healthy changes.
Addressing the situation that is causing you pain can look very different depending on what you’re going through.
Depending what you’re going through, some suggestions the try might be as follows.
- Validating your feelings in order to comfort yourself since emotions require validation if we don’t want them to escalate
- Talking to an objective outsider about your situation like a trained mental health professional
- Seeking support from the people in your life like friends and family
- Leaving a toxic situation such as ending an unhealthy relationship, looking for a new job situation (if possible), setting stronger boundaries, etc.
- Making certain healthy lifestyle changes such as eating less processed foods, drinking more water, keeping regular betimes, etc.
- Seeking psychiatric and counseling help for chronic or prolonged experiences of depression, anxiety, or other mental health struggles
The variety of approaches to help soothe psychological pain are as varied, and sometimes, as in depth as the many medical solutions that exist for physical pain.
Sometimes, we have the psychological equivalent of a cold that resolves with simply a good cry, conversation, and hug from a trusted friend. Other times, we have the psychological equivalent of a broken femur that takes a trained expert to help set things to rights again as diagnostic expertise and a specific skill set.
If you struggle with the stigma that admittedly still exists around mental health counseling, I encourage you to think of it in these terms. If someone had a broken bone and said they were going to just muscle through it instead of seeing the appropriately trained professional, you’d probably have a pretty serious conversation with them to try to change their mind. The same is true of our minds.
Simply because psychological struggles and pains are intangible, it doesn’t make them less serious or deserving of care.
Furthermore, science and the mental health community already know beyond the shadow of a doubt that untreated struggles with mental health can manifest as physical symptoms such as chronic pain, decreased immune function, chronic fatigue, and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
If you are in psychological pain, I encourage you to gather your courage and seek the help that you will benefit from.
If anyone gives you crap, just use my medical analogy. If your arm were broken, nobody would laugh at you for seeing a surgeon to set it correctly. If you’re feeling depressed, it’s the same logic and you can explain this to others.
Counseling is more than just venting about your problems. It is a very deeply involved process that requires a specific skill set as a professional to be effectively helpful. As someone who regularly seeks her own counseling with a fellow private pay therapist, I can guarantee on a personal as well as professional that you will find the benefits worth the investment of your time and money
Your pain does not make you strange or weird in any way. It means that you are actually very healthy and functioning exactly as your body is supposed to. Hang in there and take good care of yourself to stay healthy both physically and psychologically!