Center for Shared Insight, PC

Pain & Resistance: Overcoming the Root of Suffering

July 23, 2019
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Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D
resistance suffering

Painful events in life are inevitable. No matter your socioeconomic status, race, gender, or personal history, it’s certain you’ll experience loss, unwanted change, or death of a loved one throughout your life. You might even currently feel pain within your existing relationship, even if it’s relatively healthy. Or, as a parent, you might feel discomfort about your experience of parenting, despite its overarching tendency to add joy to your life. With any unwanted emotions you feel in your life, it’s your response to these events that is important. How you deal with pain and uncertainty will dictate whether you also experience suffering as a result of these circumstances. 

At Center for Shared Insight in Denver, Colorado, we help clients identify whether they are leaning into and fully experiencing the emotions surrounding a painful experience, rather than stuffing, avoiding, and resisting the emotional outcomes of an unwanted life event. In this post, we’ll share signs that you might be resisting what you are feeling, and how to move through high-emotion periods in your life without resistance and unnecessary suffering.

Recognizing Avoidance

Without giving voice to what you are feeling, whether that be heartache, regret, or anger, you are less likely to move beyond a painful situation. Perhaps you’ve recently experienced a hard breakup or even a divorce. Letting yourself move through the emotional phases of that life change, characterized by feelings of sadness, uncertainty, and blame, is an important precursor to healing. Oftentimes, newly divorced individuals might mask their pain by quickly jumping back into the dating scene, or even distract themselves with unhealthy behaviors such as drinking or staying out late soaking up the singles scene. These distractions are often a form of resistance to what is happening. Instead of sitting with what you are feeling, owning it, and working through it proactively, you may prolong the suffering. Pain itself is not the root of suffering, but resistance to that pain is the core reason for prolonged and long-term unhappiness.

Working Through Emotions

In our work at Center for Shared Insight, it’s often that clients don’t recognize resistance and/or don’t understand how to address their pain and work through it. Clients may also not allow themselves to be vulnerable enough or be able to recognize their own courage to face intense emotions. Here are some common suggestions we might make to help these clients identify and address their feelings instead of being resistant to inevitable feelings.

Journaling

Writing is a helpful way to name and actively work through any intense feelings. While it does require discipline to journal regularly, it’s a powerful tool for overcoming challenging times. You don’t need much structure to make this practice effective. Journaling can look like a list of feelings, a collection of words, pictures, or even more formal letters that will never be sent. Some days, words might flow off your pen and other times, you may feel the need to write just a word or a single sentence. This exploratory practice can be a way to record the progression of your emotions and recognize ongoing themes, which appear more easily through regular journaling. 

Yoga & Meditation

Often, your feelings manifest as sensations in your body. Having pain in your back could be related to your recent heartache. Choosing movement of any kind can help release some of the resistance you have to experience certain feelings. Especially poses like mild backbends and other heart-openers can facilitate the release of emotions. Various meditations or quiet breathing exercises also invite the experience of high-intensity emotions and promote letting go. The key to these self-care practices is choosing them regularly. Some sessions might result in a big release or even breakthrough, while others might even leave you feeling more pain. However, feeling and dealing with that pain is key to arriving on the other side of it in a better place.

Therapy

While your friends and family are great sounding boards after a life-altering event, they aren’t a neutral party and they likely have a limited capacity for helping you. Therapy is a powerful tool for talking through what you are feeling. Our team of therapists can help you explore your resistance to certain emotions and identify patterns in your life related to these emotional responses. Therapy provides a tailored and personalized approach to healing based on your unique history, default thinking patterns, and needs.  

At Center for Shared Insight, our team of experienced therapists help clients recognize when they are stuffing emotions versus working through them, and provide strategies to support healing. Because the suffering is in the resistance, not in the pain, oftentimes it’s helpful to have a trained professional help you identify the difference. We begin our engagements with a free consultation where we learn more about your unique needs and challenges. Schedule yours today.

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