Ep #177: Healing Your Pain: Understanding and Processing Emotions

By: Dr. Sherry Price

Health, Habits, and Epic Living with Dr. Sherry Price | Healing Your Pain: Understanding and Processing Emotions

This podcast was really raw for me to record.

Something unexpected happened in our lives that took us by complete surprise.

We didn’t and couldn’t even predict our reaction to it.

You see, pain is something that we all experience at some point in our lives.

We don’t ask for it but it happens.

And processing it is not always our natural response.

This week, I’m walking in my real and raw pain.

And taking you on the journey of processing pain.

When you process pain, it’s critical to  have a safe space to talk through it with someone who can help you not only process the pain, but who also gives you the tools to help you reframe the pain. This is part of post traumatic growth.

 

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • The different phases and types of pain.
  • How to experience pain so you can heal from it and not keep carrying it for a long time.
  • Why it’s important to heal the pain rather than trying to numb it.

 

Featured on the Show:

 

Welcome to the Health, Habits, and Epic Living podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Sherry Price. The goal of this podcast is to educate and enable empowered women to take the next steps towards achieving their health, wellness, and lifestyle goals. Let’s get started.

Hello, my beautiful friend. Well, today I’m feeling a bit raw and I want to talk about healing your pain. So I’ve been putting off recording this podcast because I wanted to do a different topic. But every time I thought about what do I want to share with my community, it really came from the heart to say it’s time to talk about healing pain. And so I want to start off by saying I’m in the throes of it myself. And I think it’s valuable to talk about when you’re in the throes of it, and it’s sometimes easier to talk about it when you’re out of the throes of pain.

But the pain we have experienced is that my husband got a call last week that his father had passed and it was kind of unexpected. He did get to spend the last day with him and then when he left the hospital we got the call. And so it turned our world upside down and a lot of emotions came with this grief and this loss. And I’ve talked with my husband and got his permission to share some things about this journey that we have been on so far because I definitely want to respect him and what he’s comfortable in sharing or having me share.

And so I know people go through grieving for various reasons, whether it’s loss, whether it’s overcoming something that’s been challenging or hard or an addiction or a disappointment. Because we know life throws curveballs at us and we get circumstances or situations that we didn’t ask for and that are thrusted upon us and it’s leaving us in a raw emotional place. And one of the things that’s really important to me as a coach is not just to talk about all the things and then not walk through it when I’m going through it.

So my clients are aware of what’s happening and if they’re interested, we talk about how I’m processing and all of this. But I think it’s paramount that we embrace the human experience and sometimes we’re going to have times where we feel amazing in life and sometimes where we just don’t. And what I really want to talk about as we get into this podcast is you can be a victim to the pain and you might want to be there for a little bit. You might feel like you don’t have any other options.

And then sometimes you really want to look at how do I stop being a victim to the pain and what can I be doing to process it as I go along. And I think there’s different things you do in different phases of pain and the different types of pain. There’s the acute phase where it feels like all of a sudden or it came upon you or you found yourself really in a bad place. And so you have this acute phase that you go through for days or weeks in the beginning. And then you go into more of the chronic phase of healing.

And any time when you experience a trauma, a loss of a loved one, something happens to you, life takes a turn in a very precarious way that you didn’t anticipate, you didn’t expect. It could be a diagnosis. It could be a car accident. It could be all kinds of things, lots begins to surface. It could be pain that surfaces from the actual shock of something happening that you didn’t expect. Pain can also arise from the past. Maybe we’ve been doing okay and the pain has been in a subconscious level.

It’s really, we know we’ve had trauma in our childhood or we know things didn’t go well in the past or we know we’ve had some issues, but we’ve been able to put that aside. And we’ve been able to go about life without really addressing it because it just didn’t feel like it was bubbling to the surface much, that we didn’t need to address it.

But then something happens and you’re like, whoa, here comes the childhood memories. Here comes the trauma of the past. Here comes things that I thought I had healed from or didn’t need to deal with, are now coming to the surface and I need to deal with them. And there’s also the pain when you are in something to think, oh, my gosh, this has happened to me. How am I going to carry on in the future?

So there could be pain from the past, pain from the event as well as pain about what does the future look like. And so I want to address that because I think a lot of times when we tell outsiders what has happened to us, we just focus on the immediate pain of the situation. But I just want to say that there could be so many other types of pain hiding underneath the surface. And I think it’s really important to get at all the different types of pain. Maybe there’s just one, maybe there are two, maybe there are three, maybe there are more.

But really, understanding the types of pain that exist for the person. So when we are in pain, I will tell you nobody wants to be there. It does not feel good. We want to eradicate that pain quickly. We don’t want to feel it. We don’t want it to be in our lives. We want to get through it really quickly because nobody really wants to hang out in bed all day or on the couch just grieving, just sobbing or just dealing with the pain.

And so I talked about how pain can be past, present and future and all wrapped up into one and really teasing out those different types of pain. But also pain can be in our hearts and in our bodies. And that could look like the life we should be living or I wasn’t given that life or that life wasn’t available to me or things should have happened differently in my life, or the people should have responded differently in my life. Maybe I feel like I lost time because I didn’t know how to deal with pain. And I sat in the pain for a very long time before I got help processing it.

Maybe words were said about us that we discovered, that caused pain. Maybe words were said to us that we’ve carried from childhood or young adulthood into our later years and that’s causing us pain. And those words that were said to us then we picked up that belief about ourselves. Or maybe people categorized us or put labels on us and then we have adopted those labels to be true for our lives. And so that could feel so painful and so hurtful especially when they were not nice comments. So that could be pain that our body feels.

And then we can have pain that’s caused by our head and the way we think about things. These are the stories and the narratives that we keep reciting to ourselves. And I find that a lot of times, this type of pain comes from not feeling enough or worthy enough. So I’m not good enough. I’m not good with money. I’m not smart enough. I’m not confident enough. I’m not self-disciplined enough. I just can’t seem to get it together in this area. I lose focus or I’m not focused enough. I’m not thin enough.

And then there are other narratives that may not come from that enough-ness space, but might be about the enough-ness space, like I don’t have enough time. I don’t have time to work out. I don’t have time to do this. I don’t have time or I don’t have other resources or it’s going to be too hard, or I don’t know what to do, or I should be over this by now. That is a big one I hear a lot from my clients. I should be over this by now.

And just notice that these narratives and these stories that we tell to ourselves oftentimes, just the internal dialogue, we’re not saying them out loud, we’re just thinking them. And that’s causing additional pain. So what I wanted to share by expressing all of that is, pain looks very different for different people. There’s a body element to it. There’s a head component to it. There’s a time component to it. So pain carries multiple different flavors.

And as I mentioned, we don’t like to sit in pain. We don’t want to think about it. We don’t want to feel it. We don’t really want to express it. It’s even hard for me to do this podcast expressing pain. But if we don’t understand the pain, we won’t be able to process it, to heal from it. And that’s really what I want to focus on in this podcast is healing from pain. Because here’s what, as a human, we are all going to experience some form of pain.

Some of us, that will look like a diagnosis of some sort. Some of us, that might come through our children. Some of that might come through our parents. Some of that will have come through other parts of society. Some of that will have come through a bad or a narcissistic co-worker or a previous spouse. There are all forms of pain. And the human experience is not about avoiding all forms of pain, because we can’t do that. That’s perfection and that does not exist. I’m not saying that pain is a constant in life. It’s just that pain, we will experience it in life.

So why don’t we talk about how to experience it in a way where we heal from it and don’t keep carrying it forward decade after decade after decade. And so, as I mentioned, this loss for my husband has brought up a ton of emotion for him, surprisingly so. He knew there would be some, but he didn’t know to the extent that this would cause. And I know by sitting with him, being with him, that one narrative that he has going on that’s causing him even more pain is that he shouldn’t be this weak.

And ladies, if you know my husband, he is anything but weak. He is amazing on so many levels. But when he cries, it makes him feel weak. And I think that’s a message that we dole out to males, that it’s weak to cry. He also has very little motivation this week, of course. He’s experienced something that was a shock, a trauma, unexpected and that has been extremely emotional. He has pain, he has anger, he has grief, he has sadness, and then he’s adding in addition to the pain of his mind that he should be motivated and he shouldn’t be this weak.

And I point that out not to pick on him. I point that out because I think we all have felt that way. We all experience this. We experience periods of not feeling motivated. We’ve experience periods where our brain will tell us we’re weak. Now, I can clearly see it in him, But when it’s yourself going through it, you oftentimes can’t see it as clearly. You could probably see that as a mom in your kids, or in your friend’s life. But oftentimes when you’re in it, you may even be able to see it, but you’re oblivious to how do I help myself. And then we want to just stop the pain.

And so there are ways to stop the pain. So I’m going to talk about healing mostly but I do want to touch upon how that is different than numbing because I think a lot of times we go to numb the pain. And I really want to be very clear, numbing is not the same as healing. Numbing only takes it away in the short term, but it doesn’t do anything to the trajectory of that pain long term. You will still carry that pain year after year after year after year if you don’t heal it.

You can numb with alcohol. You can numb with food. You can numb by filling up your calendar and not making any time to feel the pain and you just keep going from day to night until you’re exhausted and hit the pillow because you’re like, I’m not feeling this pain. I’m not giving myself any downtime. I’m filling my calendar up so I can keep running away from the pain. So numbing looks like eating too much processed foods because they have a high bliss point and they turn on the reward center of the brain and they’re like, that felt good, let me do more.

The same thing with alcohol, that one drink felt good, let me keep going and keep going and keep going. You can also numb with too much sleep. We know the body needs sleep. And yes, getting great sleep is important, but there’s a point where there could be too much sleep. And that’s all you’re doing all day long is sleeping. 

And then as I mentioned, you can get into that overscheduled mode. I like to say over-control because you’re trying to control everything and run the kids there and do this and be excellent at work and be great in the kitchen and all of the things. However you measure your success, you’re wanting to control it to a greater degree so you don’t have to feel any emotional pain. So I call that over-controlling mode and it’s great at ignoring the pain, but it sucks at healing the pain, so does over-drinking, so does overeating, so does overscheduling.

All of that is just numbing the pain and not healing it. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise because when you go back to not drinking or not overeating, what happens? The pain feels even bigger. Here we go again. I thought I dealt with this. I thought time would heal, which time does not always heal. You have to do the right processes to heal. Time helps, but it’s not a guarantee that you’re going to heal just with the passage of time. That has not been my experience in my practice at all or in my own life. 

And look, I used to think that numbing was effective. I used to hit that Chardonnay bottle going, “This is going to help me parent in the night or make it through the night and through the chores and through the hateful comments and through the tantrums that would happen.” But the tantrums didn’t stop. The anger didn’t stop. The comments didn’t stop. They just kept coming. I just kept perpetuating it over and over and over, thinking I was doing a good thing, but I was doing nothing but numbing.

Here’s the difference. When you heal, heal requires that you don’t avoid the pain and that you don’t numb from the pain, instead you process it. And when you process pain, you have to process it in your body and you have to process it in your mind so that your body can feel free and your mind can feel free and heal. So you’re not avoiding the pain. So if you’re not doing something, what are you doing? You are looking at the pain. You are being with the pain. You want to talk about the pain. You want to express the pain and you want to take more steps to heal the pain.

This is a process and I want to emphasize that, it is a process. And so many times I will hear when I’m working with clients, “I just want to be healed. I just want the pain to stop. I just want my kids to behave. I just want to fast forward to when this pain doesn’t haunt me or rattle in my head anymore or bother me.” And yes, that is the destination we are going, 100%. But don’t focus so much on the destination that you don’t focus enough on the correct process.

Look, I get it, I wanted to be done with being an over-drinker. I’m like, “I just want to stop this over-drinking nonsense I keep doing.” And so whether you want to get over an addiction to food or addiction to alcohol or an over-obsession with it or an over-obsession with work or an over-obsession with needing to get validated by others and having others need you. We need to look at the pain that’s causing this to happen. And then you put time into the process so you get to the destination of being healed. So what does that process look like?

Well, that process of processing pain looks different for everyone. And if anyone tells you that there’s one process to heal all forms of pain, I will tell you that they are not telling you the truth. Different forms of pain require different forms of processing. But I will tell you that the most effective ways is to get support. And what does support look like? There are caveats to the correct support, to the right support. Support is someone you can turn to who can help you put into words what you are feeling.

Do you know that when you tell somebody a problem and they get it from your perspective, they understand you and they’re not just saying how they went through a loss with their parent or this happened with their life. Yes, that might be somewhat valuable, but if it doesn’t match the experience you are experiencing yourself, oftentimes that isn’t helpful and that could set a person back. So someone who can help you process your pain, what it feels like for you, what you’ve experienced in your life.

And they’re getting at the root of the types of pain because there may be more than just one type as I described in the beginning of this podcast. But really, understanding what your pain looks like. Now, sometimes we can get that support internally. We can get that support from our friends. We can get that type of support from a spouse. We can get that type of support from maybe a parent. But I will tell you, more often than not that is not the appropriate place to get that type of support. Why? Many reasons.

First, the person that you turn to for support may not have all the skills and tools to provide you the best type of support. So they will go on their experience, they will go on how they’ve lived life or what has happened for them and try to be useful, try to use that information to be useful to you. But sometimes it’s not. Another reason why, particularly we can’t turn to a spouse or a parent is because we don’t want to feel judged. In our pain, we feel so vulnerable. We feel so flawed and raw.

We feel sometimes that something isn’t right within us. And to show up and expose that to our loved one, we might feel judged. We might feel we’re going to be thought less than or like my husband, he’s going to be thought that he’s weak. And so we may feel judged in a way that we don’t show our true colors of all the types of pain. We minimize the pain. We say, “Well, yeah, it’s just a loss of a parent, I’ll get over it.” That’s minimizing the pain.

And so if we feel judged in these relationships in any which way, I should be getting through it faster or I disappointed a parent because I’ve been in therapy and it hasn’t worked. Or I’ve tried this modality and it hasn’t worked so am I going to be seen as a failure, to somebody whose love matters to me. And that could just add to our pain if we think now I’ve let down others around me.

So if there was one sentence I wanted you to hear in this whole podcast is that it’s very important, critical, crucial, essential, whatever word you want to use. to have a safe space to talk through your pain with somebody who can help you not only process the pain but also give you tools and help you reframe the pain. And this, my friends, is known as post traumatic growth. It’s meaning you didn’t want the pain, you didn’t want to welcome it, it just happened upon you. But you are going to grow from this. You are going to heal from this.

And you may even turn around and find that your pain became your purpose. I was so embarrassed of my over-drinking habit, and that I couldn’t stop doing it myself. That’s toxic independence, where we rely on ourselves so much and we don’t want others to see our weaknesses, our flaws or things that bring us shame or embarrassment. And I kept trying on my own for so long to overcome my drinking habit. And I thought it was the alcohol until I found somebody who could show me the deepness of the pain I experienced.

And the rawness that I was able to express in a safe environment with somebody who wanted to understand me and yet gave me tools to reframe it. And now if you think about it, I’m out there helping women who are in pain because of drinking. So my pain actually became my purpose in the second half of my life. And that’s post traumatic growth. I didn’t want the over-drinking to occur, but since it occurred, how can I heal from it? And maybe you don’t want to help others once you heal from your pain, you don’t have to go from pain to purpose.

But you can just, I’ve healed from it. I’ve let go of that past so that I could go on and enjoy a brighter, healthier future. And if you don’t do this, guess what I see? I see so many people staying stuck, stuck in their pain. And they just keep rehearsing it over and over and over again. And that’s when they keep doing the same actions. They keep going back to alcohol. They keep drinking the alcohol.

They keep going back to food and eating food that they know is not good for their body and is putting on weight and setting them up for heart disease and cancer and dementia because they just want to numb and find comfort. But numbing and finding comfort, my friends, through the wrong process won’t bring you healing. Because the underlying pain wasn’t dealt with and wasn’t healed therefore, the pain keeps going. So what do you want to keep doing? Keep numbing.

But what if you can heal the pain? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Because we know keeping on numbing, that won’t heal the pain. And that’s where people get in these addiction cycles and keep going back and keep going back and keep going back because they’re like, “I don’t know how else to heal this pain.”

And here’s another downside of numbing pain. It may feel good in the moment, but do you know when you numb your pain, you can’t access it? You can’t access the pain. So when somebody tells you what’s bothering you, and I often get clients like, “I don’t know why I’m drinking. My life is good.” I’m like, “Well, there’s something there that’s keeping you drinking. So we have to discover that.” And so sometimes you need to take a break from the alcohol to allow the pain to come up so we can look at it, so we can talk about it, so we can heal from it.

Because alcohol keeps you disconnected from yourself and it keeps you disconnected from the pain. And I’m picking on alcohol a lot, but this could be a lot of other things. This could be overworking. This could be avoiding difficult conversations that need to be happening, otherwise you’re not going to get through this or over this or come out of the other side happier and healthier. And so if we want to just keep numbing and overworking and avoiding things, then we’re actually never going to heal. We’re never going to know how beautiful it could be on the other side.

So in healing pain, you have to deal with the pain, not avoid it, not numb it, not distract yourself from it. You need to actually process it and deal with it. So what does this look like in our life right now? Since this has happened, this happened last week, we have a date night on the couch every night my husband and I, just the two of us. And we sit on the couch and I help him process his pain. In the beginning, the first couple of days, there was a lot of emotion and it just kept coming.

And there were hardly words because it was so emotional. It was so painful. And so the tears and the crying and hardly any talking, the shock of it all, the flood of emotions, just let them come out, just let them be. And I could tell it wasn’t a time he wanted to talk. He just wanted to be within and be silent. So it was more of an internal release that he needed and I just wanted to support him to let it all out. So sometimes I held his hand. Sometimes I fetched more tissues. Sometimes I refilled his water.

And oftentimes I kissed his forehead because in that stage he’s not ready for more. But I let him know that I’m there for when he is. And over the next couple of days, more words started coming, more processing started happening, putting feelings and emotions to what was going on internally. And so each night there’s a little bit more. There’s a little more processing that happens on our nightly date nights on the couch. Sometimes there’s a fire. Sometimes there’s herbal tea. Sometimes there’s more fetching of tissues.

But each day we are processing it together. I made it very clear when this happened, I told him there is nothing he will say or nothing he will do that will make me love him any less. I told him this is a safe zone to process. What happens in this zone stays in this zone and it doesn’t resurface, it doesn’t need to. And so processing in this safe zone allows him to make sense of the pain, to understand the types of pain, where they’re coming from, past, present, future, in the head, in the heart. Where is it? What does it look like? What’s so painful about the pain?

Because the brain can move on once it makes sense of what is going on. And then the brain will move on to, well, how am I going to heal from this? And it will want to take steps eventually to do the healing, but right now we’re processing, which is part of the healing. But there will be more tools that will be needed to process the pain. And this is the safe space that I recommend for anybody who has any type of pain to find out and discover for you.

Find someone who can do this with you and help you, because nobody really wants to look at their pain on their own. It feels like you go into this deep hole and you just are afraid you’re not going to come out. And so by having somebody there with you. to support you, to make sure that you will come out the other side stronger is invaluable.

And here’s another thing that has come out of just a week of being in this, is that this pain has already brought us so much closer together. We have bonded on that couch. We have cried together. We have held one another. And I know our relationship is blossoming even in the midst of pain. And I know together we will come out the other side stronger and more bonded. And I’m welcoming this process of processing the pain.

And we have turned to others for support and help in processing this pain because at the end of the day, we want to process the pain so it can leave our mind and our body. And we come out the other side stronger, stronger without the pain. And this, my friend, is about rocking your mind and rocking your body. It’s healing it where it needs to be healed and going through the process to do that.

My friends, if you care to pray for us, I’d love your prayers. I believe there is healing power in prayer. So I would appreciate any prayers if you are wanting to lift up my husband in prayer. And in sharing this journey with you, I hope this lifts you up for when the next time you find yourself in a painful place and to embrace the process of healing from the pain rather than numbing or avoiding. Have a beautiful week, my friend. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to the Health, Habits, and Epic Living podcast. If you are ready to take the next step to improve your health, wellness, and lifestyle goals, head over to www.epicyou.com to check out my programs and to sign up for my free newsletter. Again that’s E-P-I-C-Y-O-U.com. 

Please note that the information in this podcast is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.

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