Why some emotions are so painful

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Most of our decisions in life are made based on what path seems less painful. The level of pain each one experiences is very subjective and personal. Some may feel a lot of pain from rejection, some from being criticised. If we could each rate on a scale from 1 to 10 how painful a certain event or experience really is, it would look quite different for everybody. This different rate of scaling is also the cause for a lot of misunderstandings or lack of empathy in our interactions. What may be very painful for you, is not so painful for the other. What is a very big deal for you, is not such a big deal for the other.

We also have the perception that some emotions are more painful than others. For example, laughter should feel good, freeing and fulfilling , but grief and sadness should feel bad and heavy.

In reality, the level of pain each emotion triggers is not caused by the emotion itself. An emotion is simply an electrical charge of certain intensity, passing through our bodies. What actually is painful, is the thoughts we associate with that emotion.

For example, when feeling guilt, instead of just feeling the emotion and letting it pass, we start overthinking and connecting it to all sorts of thoughts : ” Why did I do this?” , “Why I am so stupid?”, “How can I do such thing?”, “Nobody will want to be with me anymore”, “Everyone will judge me” etc.

Some may experience pain while laughing, if they have the inappropriate thoughts : ” You’re making a fool of yourself”, ” You look bad when you laugh”,.”After laughter something bad may happen” and so on.

The most concerning one is anger, since anger may be caused by some sort of injustice and your thoughts may push you to action, that you will later regret : ” they can’t talk to me like that”, “punish them”,”do something!”, “you got to stop this from happening” etc

The problem with this occurrence is that, our minds were never meant to cause us pain. Our overthinking should only help us with reflection, inspiration and creation. The mind should be only a tool, and not a dictator or controller for our suffering.

Whenever feeling a certain emotion, if we could just stop the flow of thoughts, and just let the emotion be, it will be the equivalent of holding your hand over a candle and feeling some heat for a few moments. Or walking in the shower and feeling some warm water over your body for several minutes. It’s just a sensation and with patience it just passes.

So why are those thoughts associated with emotions so painful and where do they come from?

All of the thoughts you hear yourself thinking towards yourself are words you heard from others. The reason you associate them with certain emotions is because the people had those emotions too when they “attacked” you verbally or physically.

It is just a pattern we learned and passed on from generation to generation. A parent may yell with anger at a child “Don’t you dare talk to me like that”. That child becomes an adult, and when feeling anger automatically thinks ” Don’t they dare talk to me like that” and so on.

The pain comes from the flight and fight response. Wenever someone attacks you or dissaproves of you, you subconciously feel in danger, being at risk to be left out by the pack and exposed to who knows what.

As a child is pretty normal to feel like this. If your parents leave you out as a child, you could probably die. But as an adult, that is less lickely from happening. The more self-sufficient you are, the less fearful you are.

Stopping the flow of thoughts while feelings emotions is not so easy for everyone. For this you have to be accustomed to meditation. Some people have found ways of blocking all emotions completely, becoming numb, by using certain drugs or harmful activities that can cause addiction. This is a real pity, since feeling emotions can be a very rewarding experience and without them we can miss out on so much of the wonder of being human.

A cool tool that I use is to imagine my mind as a gauge, that measures thoughts, and then dropping the pointer of the gauge to zero. This automatically stops any thought. I can’t hold it for very long time, but enough until the emotion I feel can pass.

Then I can use my mind in a more practical way, to find out the cause of the emotion, if it is helpful in any way for me, and how to transform it or make it less intense on the future.

I hope you find this article helpful. Peace!

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