Center for Shared Insight, PC

Sitting in the Pain vs. Sitting in the Story

June 26, 2019
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Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.
Sitting-in-the-Pain-vs-Sitting-in-the-Story

When something painful happens in your life, such as a breakup, loss of a job, or unexpected illness, it’s certain that many emotions will arise. Those might include fear, anger, sadness, regret, betrayal and many others. These feelings, and others that bubble up as you go through a stressful life event, are important to embrace, own, and experience fully.

However, in our Denver, Colorado therapy practice, we often see clients turning emotions into stories rather than experiencing the raw emotions. Clients aren’t usually aware of this tendency and the negative outcomes of this common response to pain and discomfort. At Center for Shared Insight, we work with clients to overcome this tendency for a variety of important reasons that we’ll discuss in this post.

Recognize Emotions vs. Stories

Instead of sitting in the pain of intense emotions, such as sadness or regret, you might have a tendency to spin that emotion into a story. For instance, if you are struggling with the pain of a breakup, you might start telling yourself a story that you are unworthy, unloveable, or unattractive. You might tell yourself that you’ll be alone forever and that is your destiny. Or, you might start blaming the breakup on your former partner and his or her behaviors. In our therapy sessions, we encourage clients to sit in the raw state of how they are feeling without internalizing and personalizing it into a narrative that is often unrelated. Said another way, being with the emotions is more important than trying to come to conclusions about them in order to create a sense of understanding or control over the situation.

Chose Coping Strategies

The human mind is predisposed to looking for answers, certainty, and clarity. Therefore, being with emotions without drawing conclusions is a very challenging practice. To facilitate this, often writing a list of all that you are feeling, such as hurt, betrayal, uncertainty, and fear can be a helpful first step. Then, allow yourself to feel everything on that list without the story that you “should” be moving on or dating again, and without creating a narrative about what those emotions mean. Hold space for all that you are feeling and choose practices of self-care as you allow these emotions to rise within you. Put on your favorite love song Spotify list, get into your most comfortable clothes, and allow yourself to feel without drawing conclusions about those feelings and without assuming that something is wrong with you because of what has happened in your life.

Stay Neutral

When you are processing intense emotions, instead of choosing self-blame or stories, work to maintain a neutral approach to the situation. Be the witness of your life as you examine the scenario that has caused you pain. In practice, this might look like recognizing that a “relationship wasn’t a good mutual fit” instead of believing that “you were too pushy and needy” and telling yourself a story that you caused the breakup. Work to examine the situation from a third-party perspective and understand the reality of what has unfolded more objectively as you work through your emotions, feelings, and next steps.

At Center for Shared Insight, we can help you recognize the tendency to spin stories out of emotions and help you stay grounded in what you are feeling in order to move through those emotions and onto next steps in your life. We can help you see the situation from a more neutral and productive perspective to ensure that your self-esteem is preserved as you work through any intense emotional experience. We begin with a free consultation with our intake coordinator and encourage you to schedule yours today.

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