Yakov Saacks

The dynamics of emotional pain

In previous thoughts I posited the negative consequences of prolonged emotional pain inhabiting one’s body as being completely unhealthy and toxic to one’s very physical existence. I would like to follow through with some additional thoughts to elucidate the dynamics that are at play within every human psyche.

While emotional pain has its purpose and place, long suffering emotional pain does not. If allowed to linger, the pain will get stronger and stronger, and eventually will overcome the body, its host. Not unlike a parasite that attacks the body left unchecked, it will overtake the body and possibly cause its demise.

Just like an infection needs to be treated with antibiotics, emotional pain needs to be treated as well with a strong course of action.

One of the first steps of dealing with emotional pain that has overstayed its welcome is by possessing the following awareness. Once the dust has settled and the crisis is no longer in your face, then you must understand that the emotional pain you are experiencing is not your identity, core, nor essence, and most likely it is not coming from a good place. In general, most emotional pain, even deep disturbances, are to be viewed as articles of clothing, not unlike gloves that can be donned or taken off at will. (In my experience, there are some crises that have no end date. Losing a child is one example and this whole discussion does not apply).

Don’t get me wrong, pain can be an effective survival tool, but it is most definitely not your being and essence as will be discussed.

After you understand this crucial point with regards to the source of your pain and your awareness has firmly crystallized, you now need to stand up to this retrograde guest that will not leave your body and demand that it evacuate your consciousness immediately as it is no longer welcome, and there is simply no more tolerance for squatting inside of you anymore. This type of emotional scourge needs to be dismissed and sent packing. It has outlived its usefulness. Basically, you need to shut it down.

To be able to do this, you also must recognize that your essence and core are supremely stronger than this parasitic pain. Elongated pain, which is artificially fabricated by one’s mind, is nowhere near as powerful as a human being who possesses a myriad of intellectual and emotional faculties. Pain does not stand a chance.

The dynamics look something like this. The mind does not like change, and once it gets hooked on a thought or an emotion, especially one that helped it get through a tough loss, breakup, disappointment, or other form of disturbance, the mind unfortunately remains latched on and does not want to let go. The mind coldly rationalizes that it is foolhardy to let go of something that has been so helpful to it. Why should it let go of this bit of comfort as well? This is why many people hold on to past grief (some grief is not let go-able), as these dark grieving thoughts were comforting at some point, and to lose this comfort as well as the other loss is too much to bear. So many of us ironically find misery to be our go to place, our happy place, and this is because it is the place the mind knows and feels comfortable with.

However, as we articulated, holding on to emotional pain longer than necessary is deleterious to one’s health. It is not only not good for the mind and body, but also not good for your deepest being either. One’s soul/life energy does not want to live in negativity for long periods of time as it is stifling and retards the purpose of its very existence of living. Look at it this way, brooding, negativity, despondency, depression, and ominous feelings are the antithesis to a soul. A soul is a bright energy that needs to be productive and creative, and negativity strips it of its potency. A soul thrives on happiness, elation, and movement while sadness sucks these qualities right out from within the soul.

So, while it is hard for the mind to let go of its comforting negative thoughts and feelings, you as the host must put an end to them and send a strongly worded cease and desist memo primarily to the mind to stop its illicit love affair with pessimism, gloom, negativity and cynicism.

Now, pain most definitely has its purpose. Think of physical pain as a teaching moment. You don’t have to tell a child a second time not to touch a hot pot that just came off of the range. Once they experience pain by touching the pot, they know with certainty that the same mistake will yield the same results which will be painful. Likewise, if your fiancé is causing you immense pain, then, like a hot pot, you need to proceed with caution lest you get burned, and no one wants to get scalded.

Important note: Feelings of discomfort such as nausea after drinking cacao will alert you that maybe the next time you should decline that third cup. However, discomfort is never to be confused with pain, as discomfort is designed to make you change your current situation. Pain on the other hand can be debilitating while discomfort makes you aware that something is not right.

In short, our pain receptors help us get through life by alerting us that this or that situation can be painful and/or destructive. So, it is insanity to allow runaway pain to destroy our existence with vengeance and vitriol instead of its original purpose of protection.

I can tell you that by showing some backbone to the elongated emotional pain by telling it to get lost is what is sorely needed. The reason as to why this is so effective is because you are the host and the master of your destiny, and you are the producer and director of your body’s energy. You and only you have the choice to allow someone to share, use or even abuse you and your body. Now, just as you would hit, scratch, kick, yell, and punch at a stranger abusing you, the same treatment should be afforded to the fabricated and artificial emotional pain. Yell and shout at it to leave you alone as you are no longer interested in pursuing this abusive relationship.

End it once and for all. The ball is in your court.

About the Author
Rabbi Yakov Saacks is the founder and director of The Chai Center, Dix Hills, NY. The Chai Center has been nicknamed by some as New York's most Unorthodox Orthodox Center.