Did you know that there are many kinds of pain?
I’m sure you did because you are a human and you have experienced one or more types of pain.
Just as the types of pain vary, the causes of pain can widely vary as well.
“Pain is physical; suffering is mental. Beyond the mind there is no suffering. Pain is essential for the survival of the body, but none compels you to suffer. Suffering is entirely due to clinging or resisting; it is a sign of our unwillingness to move on; to flow with life.”
Today I want to specifically focus on 2 types of emotional or mental pain.
Let’s talk about “clean” pain and “dirty” pain. In simplest terms we can think of clean pain as natural pain and dirty pain as unnatural pain.
The reality of being a human and living with other humans, is that there are parts of life that are painful. There’s no way to avoid it, but what is avoidable is the additional suffering that we add on. Knowing the difference can cause a shift out of unnecessary worry and rumination; shame and blame. Understanding these two types of emotional pain can help you live a more peaceful life.
Clean pain is what you experience when something intrinsically hurts or something stressful happens to you.
While yes it is true that it is our thoughts that create our emotions, there will be times when those thoughts and emotions are ones that we choose to keep. When my son died I felt a grief that I didn’t know existed before. That clean pain is expected in difficult experiences, at least hopefully. If you didn’t experience clean pain you might just be a sociopath. 😛
Clean pain is a sadness, we feel when a relationship ends, or grief when we lose a loved one. Maybe it’s the pain we feel at the loss of a job, or an accident or health diagnosis.
Just as with all emotions, it can be physical, like the knot you feel in your stomach when you hear bad news.
Dirty pain on the other hand is the pain we perceive, or truly that we create.
Dirty pain is a loneliness you feel because you avoid getting close to people so they can’t hurt you.
It’s the anger and frustration that you feel, staying at a job that makes you miserable to avoid the potential rejection of applying for a new job and being turned down.
Maybe for you, dirty pain is thinking about making changes to habits or the effort required to achieve a specific goal, but then never taking action to avoid a potential failure.
It’s when you tried and didn’t meet your own expectations and the judgment you assign to that.
For me for a time, dirty pain was all the time spent asking God why this had to happen, blaming myself, and questioning my choices as a mother that led to this outcome.
Clean pain is unavoidable. It’s a part of life. It’s the pain of going through something difficult. It’s also a part of growth. As we learn and process the pain we develop in our capacity and empathy for others.
Dirty pain is going around it, thinking that we shouldn’t feel the pain, and it keeps us stuck. It includes the resistance to what is reality or the judgment for our response to it.
Perhaps something unpleasant happens or you worry that it might happen, but rather than deal with it and letting it pass, you start spinning all kinds of stories about it in your mind.
It’s the headache you had this week leading to: “What if there’s something seriously wrong with me? Didn’t my cousin have the same thing? He died of a brain aneurysm.”
“Why did he break up with me? I know he said it wasn’t anything to do with me but what if it was? What if there’s something inherently unlovable about me? What if I never find anyone? What if I’m destined to be alone forever?”
“How am I ever going to find a job now? The economy is terrible and there are no opportunities. What if I end up on the streets? What if I become a bag lady?”
Any of those sound familiar?
When you can’t let go of a negative story in your mind, almost always a story in which you cast yourself as either a victim or the judge, it causes a feedback loop. The story that you’re telling yourself creates an emotional response….. which then influences your behavior…. which in turn, reinforces the thoughts you’re thinking…… and on and on and on it goes.
Dirty pain will always lasts longer and cause more suffering in the end. And unlike clean pain, it prolongs the discomfort.
I’m Michelle. I am learning how to minimize my overwhelm, perfectionism, and people-pleasing and I am ready to help you do the same. I’m a certified Life Coach and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Come with me and learn how.
One way to know for sure which form of pain we’re experiencing would be to check in with our body. Clean pain will feel open and vulnerable, and maybe a little shaky. When you learn to allow it and process it you feel lighter, and maybe freer, like you sometimes feel after a good cry.
Dirty pain will feel tense or tight. It feels closed off and shut down. It often feels uncontrollable, like when you’re angry and it seems as though the words just fly out of your mouth before you’ve thought through things. Or when you’re avoiding engaging in a situation out of fear of what might happen.
So the question I leave with you today is, are you willing to accept and experience clean pain? And are you willing to stop creating dirty pain to avoid it?
I can help you learn how.
If you would like help and support along with tools that can guide you distinguishing your pain, along with allowing and processing your pain “Contact Me” and send me a quick email. If you prefer, you can “Schedule a Consult” for a free session to discuss what you want to work towards and how to get started.
And as always…..Remember…..It’s ALL good!!