Speaking of Feelings
waved and kept right on walking.
IThe stored response from the emotional and physical wounding would automatically surface to protect us. But it wouldn't be appropriate in this case. The danger was twenty years ago and this child walking by is not a threat. But we still have our emotional/physical responses
To deal with.We might easily say something angry or fearful.
Hopefully we would be mindful enough of our emotional response to see that it was out of place, and not say anything damaging.
If we don't learn this lesson and pick up the hot pan again bare handed, we will feel pain again. If we aren't mindful of the heat and pain it causes, we will blister our skin and endanger our hands. Throughout out lives pain waits as a teacher ready to say "No, not that way."
Physical and emotional pain
Not all pain is physical. We also experience emotional pain, which is similarly in place to keep us healthy and thriving. Emotions constantly run through our bodies, accompanying our experiences. Unpleasant emotions, painful emotions, are not really any different in purpose than painful physical feelings. Both are intended to keep us alert, growing, creative, enjoying our lives.
Do physical and emotional pain exist separately from each other?
Without the body we wouldn't experience anything physically, and this includes emotional hurt. It may seem that emotional feeling is somehow in our heads or thoughts or memories, but the real experience of them is through the body, right here right now.
Most wounds heal on their own. As physical and emotional pains happened to everyone, most of these experiences were not too serious and healed. Often our physical pains have not been so serious that we needed to go to the hospital. A bee sting, a scraped knee. These things heal quickly with a little attention and care.
Sometimes however we had more serious hurts that didn't heal easily or quickly. Broken bones, bad burns, serious illnesses may have stayed with us longer both on a physical and emotional level. Serious damage, both physical or emotional, requires special care. In the case of our body, we might typically go to a doctor or hospital. As we did, hopefully we were being cared for by someone who was caring for our emotions in this painful experience, someone who was showering us with loving kindness to help both our bodies and our emotions.
Physical and Emotional Bodies
All of us learn that our bodies are "who we are". But if we look a little more deeply, the physical body we refer to as "I" is just one of parts of "who we are". Besides the solid, visible human body, we also have an emotional experience that is invisible. Because our emotional experience is invisible, we might consider it just part of our body. Yet there is a difference between the feeling of our physical experiences and the feeling of our emotional experiences.
While they are connected, the physical and emotional experiences may be viewed as being their own distinct operating systems. Considering them separately may help us understand how to heal emotionally, much as we would if we had a cut on our hand. If we didn't focus on the cut and the hand where it existed, the healing of that part would be without the benefit of our conscious attention. But giving our hand (or our emotions) an intentional attention dedicated to healing, we are able to be more deeply aware of how to respond to the damage.
To understand how emotional wounds occur it may help to assume that we have an emotional body which operates in parallel with the physical body. To that end, please stop at the end of this paragraph, close your eyes, pay attention to your breath, take five breaths and turn your attention to the emotions you are feeling. Simply watch your breath and emotions and left everything else go for five in-out breaths.
Now that we see two bodies......
Our physical bodies require time and the right conditions to heal. We've learned how to take care of our physical bodies pretty well. But most of us didn't learn that our feelings require time and attention to heal, just like our bodies. Often we expect emotional hurts to disappear if we ignore them. And while this is true for small wounds, whether physical or emotional,deeper wounds require more attention, time and intention.
Let's consider the similarities between physical and emotional hurts.
When our physical body was hurt, cut, bruised, scraped, we paid a certain kind of attention to the wound. Imagine a cut you may have experienced. The attention you gave the wound was likely cleaning the wound, perhaps putting something to help kill any bacteria, and covering it to keep out dirt and things which would keep it from healing.You probably changed the band aid several times until the wound was healed enough to be left uncovered, and to become again a strong part of the physical system.
The same healing regimen applies to our emotional bodies. If the emotional body which you may not be used to thinking about but it's there and you are experiencing its invisible presence right now gets hurt, cut, bruised, scraped, that experience becomes an emotional wound.Like physical wounds, emotional wounds happen to everyone. Knowing this is important.There's nothing wrong with feeling emotional pain. The problem comes when we ignore or deny them and they get infected.
Emotional wounds almost always start in our relationships with other people. Often the wounds to our emotional bodies come as some form of insult or loss. A harsh word, being excluded, experiencing the death of a person or pet close to us might all be accompanied by emotional hurt, pain, wounding.
In childhood emotional wounds can happen when caretakers, insensitive to their own emotions, act insensitively to the emotional needs of children. When a parent acts harshly or coldly to a child, that parent has surely experienced the same type of treatment. This treatment in the parent's past, an emotional memory of uunhealed emotional wounding, then directs fearful responses towards the unsuspecting and confused child.
A harsh word can last a lifetime. Most of us have painful memories still moving about within us. The work of emotional healing through mindfulness includes understanding that all of us have experienced emotional wounding, AND we are all able to experience healing if we choose.Recently I met a 14 year old boy who had been dealing with his emotional wounding by isolating from his family (with other emotionally wounded boys) and distracting himself from his pain with drugs.
His pain? Living in a house with parents who didn't talk to each other, show affection to each other, or treat each other kindly. His experience of his parents' ongoing conflict was painful emotionally. Even though he was not hit or even verbally assaulted, he became fearful and felt helpless. His father had periodically exploded in anger at the boy's mother and the boy was both angry and scared. His world, which was rooted in and growing from his parents' world, was in conflict and threatened. He didn't know what to do or how to do it, and because he was so afraid he didn't speak of his fear to them. His wounding had been going on for a long time.
Fortunately these parents were aware of their son's pain and efforts to numb his pain with drugs. They were not surprised to find out that his pain was like their own. And fortunately they loved him enough to start healing their own relationship.All emotional wounds include an experience of separation from love and nurturing.
Any experience can become an emotional wound.
Any imbalance in our mental or physical worlds can become an emotional wound. If we have an emotional wounding we have experienced a separation from what we consider good and necessary.
Emotional wounds that haven't healed mean our thinking has become stuck, focused on the experience as permanent and inescapable. The wound itself is a perception of some event which has already happened and is actually dead, except that we keep it alive in our thoughts.
Feeling emotionally wounded is an interruption of the balance and flow in our physical, emotional and mental process. Left to themselves our thoughts, feelings and bodies are in constant gentle movement. Because we are free, we may choose stop this movement by holding on to past hurts or ill intentions, returning repeatedly to a harsh word, criticism or physical action, rather than letting it go and moving on.
There are lots of ways we can damage our physical bodies. The sun for example, which is a source of energy and necessary for all growing life, can also burn to a crisp living things if they get too much sun.
From grass to leaves to human skin, proper amounts of exposure are necessary. Too little sun and there's no growth. Too much sun and there's no growth. This potential for hurting growth is visible to anyone who stops to look for it.
There are lots of ways we can damage our physical bodies. The sun for example, which is a source of energy and necessary for all growing life, can also burn to a crisp living things if they get too much sun. From grass to leaves to human skin, proper amounts of exposure are necessary. Too little sun and there's no growth. Too much sun and there's no growth. This potential for hurting growth is visible to anyone who stops to look for it. It's part of life and our place in time comes with knowledge about how much sun is enough. If we use this knowledge we are able to use the sun for our own purposes.
Emotional damage happens to everyone. No one has ever gone through life without having their body damaged by the environment. Every infant has bumps and scrapes. So too no one who has lived long enough to develop an identity has escaped emotional challenge or damage from the environment.
What is emotional pain?
Sad, depressed, isolated, angry, hopeless, resentful emotional pain arises when we perceive ourselves as separated from good, love, nurturing, from the goodness of life Itself.
Harsh words, looks, behaviors by others when we are young may result in feelings of separation and threat. This type of painful experience is common, and when impressions of separation are left to themselves and not cared for, they remain until they are touched with compassion and understanding.
As adults we are capable of feeding emotional pain with our thinking. When we imagine ourselves in the past or future as being unloved, disrespected, picked on, etc. we feel the experience again of those past hurts. Thinking about experiences of separation, being unloved, being uncared for will stimulate the entrire field of memories stored as "I am unloved, uncared for, not good enough." This "associative" aspect of our thinking is why we are so deeply moved by a moment of criticism or harshness. When we feel separated in the moment, all our past, unhealed separations wake up, crying for the love they miss.
Knowing that our suffering is attached to us by our thinking, we are able to make a choice to change our thoughts. Thought can replace thought. When we find ourselves thinking painful thoughts, we are free to choose another thought to replace it. It is also possible to replace thought with physical change or stimulation, which is why exercise in the face of depression is so powerful. When we place our perception on what the body is doing, we must let go of our thoughts of separation to pay attention to our current activity.
Positive thoughts replace negative thoughts
The practice of replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts brings healing. Our emotional patterns, what we feel in certain circumstances, are based on what we have thought about those circumstances in the past. Changing our thoughts about situations will immediately begin to change our feelings. These changes may be small, yet they are cumulative. Repeatedly replacing negative thoughts with positive is like clear water dripping into a bowl of colored water. Eventually the clear water will replace the colored water.
For example, if a companion finds fault with the way we have said or done something, we might feel a pulse of fear or anger. We may have an urge to strike out or to withdraw. If we have practiced meditation and observation of how our thoughts and feelings connect, we will have a solid practice to confidently call upon in the moment of upset. Knowing that our upset is inside us and responsive to our choices, we may choose to address the anger inside us rather than out in the world. Rather than attacking or shutting down or running away from the "outside", we may turn our awareness to the availability of other responses "inside". We may for example at any time choose to be grateful. Knowing how to be grateful in the face of hurt feelings, whether our own or others, requires spiritual courage and training.
At the moment of insult we might choose to pay attention to our breath arriving and departing, and notice that it is happening even though there was a hurtful comment. If we have practiced gratitude for our breath during quiet times, we will find our meditation muscles are right there waiting to replace hurt with gratitude.
With a few slow, deep breaths intended to generate kindness for our self and the selves of others, we will find that the overwhelming problem has disappeared. We are left with our commitment to the loving moment, which is capable of dissolving both the current sense of separation from good, and the past experiences as well.This type of healing emotional wounds is something anyone can accomplish with a little understanding and practice.
Speak your success
While we are in the process of practicing meditation and affirmations, we may benefit our selves and others by talking about the process. Most people do not understand or appreciate that 1) they have emotional wounds or 2) that there are ways of healing them. So we may practice kindness and generosity if we share what we're learning. This practice brings both healing and growth to all it touches.
If we practice daily and many times within the day, we become the faucet and water for clearing out the old and bringing in the new.
Because pain is part of how we learn to stay safe, alive, growing, we typically have experiences everyday when we experience pain. Some of the experiences we already knew about and just overlooked. Some are new. Either way we all face the challenge of learning from pain to be healthy and vibrant.
If we pick up a hot pan and burn ourselves, we soon learn to use a pot holder to protect our skin from the heat.
Physical pain may be accompanied by emotional pain:
If we had the experience of being intentionally and badly hurt by someone we would fear for our lives. We might run or fight to stop the attacker. We would become fearful and angry and use that energy to fill our bodies with the power to protect ourselves. Imagine that this person had hit us with a big stick and was wearing a blue baseball cap.
Everybody can feel hurt everyday
A bump, a scrape, a cramp, an insult, a headache, fear, resentment, a burn. These are veryday experiences for everybody. We all feel pain and we all try to avoid pain. But why is pain in our lives?
We experience pain because it is a necessary part of life as we know it. Pain comes with life and is part of Nature's wisdom, intended to help us protect ourselves from damage to our bodies. Pain is a survival tool. Pain teaches us what to avoid. The experience of feeling hurt is part of Nature's package for all humans and mammals. This experience exists so that all of us get information helping us understand what is good for us and what isn't.
If we could somehow stop feeling pain, we would soon be so damaged that our lives would come to an end. But because pain is part of all our lives, we all have learned and will continue to learn which experiences bring pain (and damage) and which don't.
When we are emotionally stuck like this we are more likely to get sick, have accidents and to produce more and more negative thought patterns.
Healing emotional wounds requires the courage to move on, releasing thoughts and feelings which deny our health. As we move on we have the choice of focusing on thoughts of peace. Impossible as it may seem at the time, thoughts of peace always neutralize thoughts of violation, so long as we are committed to holding peace within our hearts.
Holding peace around thoughts of upset, we automatically influence our bodies and minds in a healthy direction. Thoughts of peace, chosen with determination, dissolve negative thoughts and feelings and replace them with thoughts of joy and generosity.
What is emotional health?
Like physical health, emotional health refers to the current state of our emotions. Since emotions are changing moment to moment (because our thinking and bodies are in constant motion) it's not possible to lock in a certain emotion and have that become our emotional state. Being happy or sad, up or down for long periods of time requires the discipline to repeat patterns of feeling,thinking and behaving. Repeated negative thoughts bring depression and repeated positive thoughts bring health.
We keep our physical bodies healthy by eating nutritiously, resting and exercising well. We keep our thinking healthy by recognizing the Unity of all life and within that Unity, an everpresent good offering Itself for our use.
In adulthood emotional wounds are largely self inflicted. For children they are usually parent/adult or socially inflicted.
Harsh comments we use to imagine and experience separation
Neutral comments we use to imagine and experience separation
Emotions are living, reacting intelligence which tells us when we are straying from compassionate thinking.
What we observe about our bodies is also very often true about our emotions. Just as we can have healthy or unhealthy, strong or weak, rested or tired bodies, so our emotions can display these same aspects of life. Our emotional bodies can be healthy, strong and rested. They may also, like our bodies, have a localized sore spot, an infection, or even a systemic infection.
Because emotional bodies are alive (like our physical bodies) they are constantly changing. They require constant input and output, just like our bodies. By design this flow brings in the fresh and takes away the used up and unneeded.
This process in both the physical and emotional bodies is a process depending on the universal life we all share. Part of this sharing is the potential for pain and damage in our physical and emotional bodies.
After we had the experience of being hurt by someone in a blue baseball cap with stick, we would store a fear of people with blue hats and bats in our memory. A fear of people in blue cap with bats might exist for a long time, and become a sense of real discomfort when we experienced anything like the blue cap and bat incident. It could be a baseball team, photo, a movie, a painting. Any reminder of the incident might bring out the emotional pain in the form of anger and fear.
All our lives we experience many different forms of physical and emotional pain. Often the emotional pain goes along with physical pain. Part of how we live this life is storing information to keep us safe and healthy.
Some memories are outdated. Imagine that it's been twenty years since the blue cap and bat incident and one day we walk outside to find a neighborhood child walking by in a blue baseball cap with a bat. Let's say this is a little eight year old. Our bodies' response would likely be an immediate fear and anger, even though this child said "Good morning,"