As you guys know, or in case some of you are just finding out, I’m currently going through a 4-year break up.
Although it was my longest (and definitely the deepest) relationship I’ve ever been in, I think everyone can attest that ALL breakups hurt.
When we first broke up, I knew two things:
- I did not want to handle this breakup unhealthily like I did all my other breakups
- I needed to find healthy ways to deal with the pain that I knew was coming
On my search for answers, I found an absolute gem. So I wanted to share it with you guys in hopes that you’d find it as helpful as I did.
Because to be honest- I really don’t think I would be handling this breakup as graceful without it.
Important note: This tool can be used for any type of pain. Pain from a breakup, pain from the death of a loved one, any type of grieving, really.
But why do I even have to deal with the pain? (You may ask)
I would first like to start off with saying you have to go through the pain– not around it, not avoiding it, not sweeping it under the rug— THROUGH it sista.
“As humans, we do everything we can do to reduce our suffering and to avoid pain — emotional or physical. So it is difficult to accept the pain [of our emotions],” Sheri Van Dijk, M.S.W., a psychotherapist [PsychCentral] says.
“But while we think we’re minimizing the pain with our behavior, we’re really amplifying it. When we fight the pain: judge it, try to push it away, avoid it, ignore it, it actually triggers other painful emotions, resulting in more emotional pain.”
I can definitely cosign these statements with every painful period of my life.
In the past, I’ve tried to minimize my pain and distract myself by doing things such as excessively working, exercising & spending; engaging in pointless conversations with men (with no intention of taking them seriously), and even resorted to alcohol at one point- trying to numb myself from feeling anything.
This is why it’s so important to face your pain- to sit with it.
Sitting with our emotions simply means allowing them, resisting the urge to get rid of the pain and not judging ourselves for having these emotions.
“If you can sit with your pain, listen to your pain, and respect your pain- in time you will move through your pain.” -Bryant McGill
The Tip I Learned
You can handle pain in a healthy way by doing two things: Grieving and Disbelieving.
Grieving: How you handle (what psychologists refer to as) “Clean Pain”
Now there’s two kinds of suffering that occupy different sections of the brain:
“Clean Pain” & “Dirty Pain”
Clean pain: which arises from events taking place.
For example: if I slapped you, and it hurts → Clean.
Dirty pain: arises from a continuous stream of thoughts about those events.
(Referring back to the slapping example)
Dirty pain (thoughts):
- “She slapped me because I’m a bad person”
- “I’m gonna get slapped again”
- “All women slap people”
- “I didn’t deserve to be slapped”
Any thoughts that cause further suffering.
I’ll give you a specific example of clean vs dirty pain in a breakup:
- “I’m mourning the loss of the relationship and my best friend.”
- “I’m sad that I don’t get to spend time with them anymore”
- *Revisiting any memories you shared together which in turn, makes you sad*
- “If I was a better woman, we would have worked out”
- “I don’t deserve a beautiful relationship”
- “I’m gonna be single for the rest of my life”
- “I’m unloveable”
- “Love isn’t real”
- “All men suck”
See the difference?
The vast majority of our unhappiness comes from this secondary response–not from painful reality, but from painful thoughts about reality.
One of the most interesting things I learned about sitting with pain:
According to neuroscientist Jill Bolte-Taylor’s memoir, My Stroke of Insight, the physiological lifespan of an intense emotion in the body and brain is only 90 seconds.
Contrastingly, if you resist grieving- not expressing and repressing it- it can last for many, many years.
If you allow it to flow– it peaks and recedes in about 90 seconds.
And honey- trust and BELIEVE within those 90 seconds, my cry gives Kim K a RUN for her money.
I am not ashamed.
I will literally set a timer and go to freakin TOWN with my tears like California’s water shortage depended on em.
And then when the 90 seconds is up? I get up, dust myself off like a Bow Wow Harlem Shake, and carry on with my day like not a damn thing happened. #BOSS
Side note: I think it’s important that we try to control when we have these little 90 second episodes.
I try to get my 90 seconds out at the end of the day when I get home from work- whether it be sitting on the side of my bathtub, or even in the driver’s seat of my car.
When I’m having the urge to cry, I save it for that “time slot”. This way, I’m practicing fighting off emotions throughout the day, so that they don’t interrupt what I’m doing.
I’ve found that the more I fight them off, the stronger I feel.
My favorite author and entrepreneur Rachel Hollis (who’s brother committed suicide), said in her book Girl Wash Your Face, that she chooses to feel her pain and cry it out in the mornings instead, and then goes about her day– everyone has their preference!
Okay, that’s what you do with clean pain. What do you do with the dirty pain?
Dirty pain HAS to be disbelieved.
Go ahead and grieve the loss (of a person or a relationship), but it’s absolutely necessary to disbelieve the negative thoughts causing dirty pain.
(Scenario: A parent that just found out their child has down-syndrome)
Dirty pain (thoughts):
- “My child’s life is gonna be unhappy because he has down-syndrome.”
- “No woman will ever love him because he has down-syndrome.”
These beliefs cause great suffering because none of them are true. We must do our absolute best to dissolve these thoughts when they enter our minds.
“The most powerful way to get rid of these thoughts are to replace them, rather than just let it go. If you let it go, it’s like there’s a hole there that needs to be filled and if it’s not filled positively, the negative thought loop will take hold once again.”
Healthy way to cope with pain:
Grieving + Disbelieving.
Grieve the clean pain, disbelieve the dirty pain.
Now that you know the two different types of pain and what to do with them, I’m hoping you can navigate through grieving and loss in a healthier way.
I’m here for you sis.
Be brave enough to heal yourself even when it hurts. You got this. You are stronger than you know.
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If you loved this post, you’d love my [8 Daily Habits that Unknowingly Increase Your Stress and Anxiety Levels] post!
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Disclaimer: The purpose of my blog is to assist people in making changes in their lives through supportive guidance. The information I offer on this blog is based on my life experience and sources credited in each post. By reading my blog you acknowledge that I am not a licensed psychologist, medical doctor, or health care professional and my services do not replace the care of psychologists, doctors or other healthcare professionals.