Take Action: How To Work Through the Pain 2

by Mike McKeown

Last time, we looked at the concept of moving towards pain and enduring it in order to get past it. I know this seems counterintuitive. Who wants to lean into the pain? But if you don’t, you will never get to the other side of it. Leaning into it, going through it, and enduring it is what helps us get past it.  Then we can move on with our lives.

Today, we will look at some tips to help make the process easier.

Let Go of Rejection
Rejection hurts, right? We all know that. But did you know that the reason rejection hurts is because it activates the same pathways in the brain that physical pain does? Yep. There’s that emotional/physical connection that we discussed last time.  Every single one of us carries a deep seated need to belong.  We all want to. It’s why stories of being the outcast resonate with audiences. But when we hold on to those feelings surrounding rejection that we’ve experienced, that need to belong gets shaken. In fact, it gets stirred up.  Think of it like shaking a snow globe.  It wakes up all of those insecurities and sets them all in motion. In fact,  it can cause so much anxiety that it can even create brain fog and interfere with our ability to think.  All of this to say that you absolutely have to let go of the feelings of rejection in order to improve your mental health.   So how do you let go of this?

Here’s the biggest fact about rejection thatyou need to remember:

When you hold on to that rejection, you have used someone else’s yardstick to measure your own value.   You give someone else the power to define how you are seen. 

So what do you do when you experience that rejection? Well, it helps to sit down with it and think about why it hurt so much. Was it because you feel not good enough? Did it remind you of a hurt from your childhood?  This isn’t about picking yourself apart, but about looking at yourself realistically and figuring out why it hurt. Once you do that, you can figure out what you need to do differently next time.   Now I’m not saying that writing things down, sorting through these feelings or figuring out where the hurt came from will stop the rejection from happening again. I don’t want you to change yourself to try and ensure you aren’t rejected anymore. Just as we all long to belong, we all experience rejection. (Job, spouse, friend, work, church…there are a lot of places where you can feel rejection.) The point here is to figure out WHY it hurts so much and then next time it comes along, you’ve got a better groundwork in place for experiencing it and then putting it behind you.

It also helps to get some feedback. Get with friends. Talk with them about what happened, how you felt, and what you figured out about yourself.  Sharing those feelings about that experience with someone you trust can help give you perspective. You  might be surprised to discover that you aren’t as rejected as you thought you were. Or you might discover that the thing you really really really wanted to happen was not the best thing for you after all.                                  

You are not a failure:
Don’t shake your head at me. It’s true. You aren’t a failure.  And truth be told, it is highly likely that you don’t even know any failures either. Being a failure requires years of dedicated ineptitude, and most people just don’t have that kind of time.  Failure happens all the time. In fact, with most of us, it happens in some way every single day. And when we focus on that failure, it distorts our view of ourselves. It’s like falling down and instead of getting up, we just lie on the ground and think about all of the times we fall. Then suddenly, all we can think about is falling. And if we do that, what’s the point in getting back up? So focusing on failure not only messes with our views of ourselves, it also completely disrupts the goals we have set.  If you let yourself wallow in feelings of helplessness after experiencing a failure, then without a doubt, it will begin to affect your self-esteem. 

When you experience a failure of any kind,  you need to make sure to give it the proper amount of time and respect that it deserves.  Similar to the rejection, sit down with it and take a good hard look. Where did you miss something? What can you do differently? What lessons do you  need to take away from it? And you need to keep in mind that sometimes the lessons aren’t necessarily going to be things that you have done wrong. Maybe the lesson in the failure is to trust that God has a bigger plan. Or a different direction.

Once you have figured out how it happened and what you can do differently, then file away in your mind the lessons that you had learned and let go of the hurt feelings. You’ll come out on the other side a better and stronger person.

Watch out for Guilt
First, we need to realize that guilt can be both a good thing and a bad thing.  In today’s current culture, guilt is often associated with bad things and we aren’t supposed to feel it. But listen, God gave us guilt for a reason. We need to have that still small voice in our heads that whispers “No, you know this isn’t a good thing.”  For some of  us it might be a spiritual 2×4 that smacks us upside the head. Either way, guilt about having hurt someone,  done something wrong, or In some instances, it can save you from doing something stupid that you will regret later. But it can also be bad if you hold on to it even after you have apologized, or if you allow feelings of guilt to grow and become intrusive and suck the joy out of your life. That’s when we move into the false guilt territory.

False guilt is either one of two things. One is a learned response where you get stuck in a  cycle of self-judgment. Even if you did something wrong and you’ve made restitution or apologized, if you are sitting in that guilt and thinking about it constantly, it traps you.  Then it becomes a vicious cycle and if you keep focusing on it, you will never move past it.  Do what you need to do to make things right, then forgive yourself and move on.

The other way guilt can be false is if it was something that had nothing to do with you in the first place, but it still makes you feel bad. This is a big old piece of baggage that someone else should be carrying, but they want you to pick it up and carry it for them.  This is where you have to recognize your responsibility in the situation. If you have treated someone graciously, kindly or are being their friend but someone else hasn’t, that isn’t your fault. You do not have to go out to dinner with them because someone else said no and they will be alone. Now you CAN choose to go if you want, but not out of guilt.  This kind of false guilt puts power over you into someone else’s hands. If you recognize this and make the choice of  your own volition and not from ‘feeling bad’ then you have removed that power.  Don’t pick someone else’s baggage up and carry it around.  You have enough in your own life to work out without adding someone else’s load.

Don’t Ruminate
If you haven’t yet picked it up, the common theme all the way throughout this article has been not to give all your focus and attention to the bad things that happen. Don’t sit there and mentally replay past hurts  on repeat. It is so easy to get caught up in that cycle but when you do this, it always pull you down, clouds your vision, and gets you off course. If you have trouble with this constant replay, try picturing water swirling down the drain as the bathtub empties. When it’s done, it’s gone.  Over. That water doesn’t come back again unless you make the choice to put in the plug and fill the tub again. Let it go. And if you find yourself back in that cycle, just do it again. Let it go.

I tell my clients all the time that our brains don’t know the difference between a bear attack and a suprise party.  We actually respond to both the same. Our conscious minds know the difference, but to our brains, the fight or flight chemical reactions are the same. That’s why vivid dreams seem so real to us because to our brains it was real. Ruminating on stressful events can cause us o relive these events and therefore, continually raise our stress level back to that of the situation. And if we go back to it again and again, our stress levels don’t have a chance to settle back down to normal, and in the long term can lead to blood pressure and cardiovascular issues.

Now, one more thing that I need to say before we go. Don’t ignore emotional hurts that you endure during your life. Boxing them up and putting them on a shelf doesn’t help you deal with them.  Don’t think that ignoring those hurts is somehow a sign of inner strength. All this does is bottle them up and it’s like shaking up a soda. At some point it’s going to open and explode. You need to deal with them.  All emotions have a message to send you, even the painful ones. So learn the lesson and move on. 


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