Most people would agree that heartbreak is the worst kind pain to experience. There is no easy medical intervention that will help. That dull, chronic pain feels like it is with you everywhere you go, and it can hit you like a kick in the guts at seemingly random moments when you are least expecting it. It is often at the core of your thoughts, and typically haunts you right before you go to sleep and the moment you wake up.
The problem is that most people don’t process their emotional pain.
We are often taught that ‘feeling’ isn’t a valuable activity to spend time on, instead we place a much higher value on the ability to move forward and move fast, consequently we don’t take the time and effort it takes to process pain, in order to heal it.
Instead that pain sits in the body, frequently developing deeper and deeper roots – affecting our way of seeing and dealing with life. We try to get out of the state of suffering as quickly as we can, mostly because we associate that “bad feeling” with weakness, vulnerability, dysfunction and inefficiency. Often, we try to tranquilize our pain, with substances, distractions, work, food, whatever we can find simply to avoid feeling it.
In our relationships we often do try to process our pain with our partner, however, without the skills to do this our attempts are often the catalyst for more conflict, more hurt feelings, more misunderstanding and frequently more distance between us. Learning how to process hurts between you is one of the major skills couples who have happy, long lasting relationships tend to be masters of.
John Gottman says that unprocessed hurts act like stones in your shoes, you can limp along with them, but they will hurt like hell from time to time, and if you get enough stones in your shoes and enough painful bruises you eventually can’t continue to walk.
So how do you process pain in your relationships? If it was a normal everyday misunderstanding your perpetual conflict that got out of hand, then:
1. Reflect on what you did during the fight that wasn’t helpful – e.g. ‘Hmm I was pretty short with him when he asked for my opinion”; “I raised my voice in my frustration: etc.
2. Prepare a way to share this with your partner - e.g. “You know when we argued about the dinner bill last night, I realise I was a bit stressed about money and I reacted too strongly.”
3. Apologise and mean it – e.g. “I am sorry that I was so terse with you.”
Hopefully your partner will then return the favour and be able to apologise for their part in the conflict.
If you have major betrayals, losses or hurts in your relationship then seeking support from a professional will help immensely in getting you through the pain to a better place on the other side, and teaching you some new skills to be able to manage things better into your future. You can find a therapists with Gottman training on our website ‘Find a Therapist’ page.
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