By Judy Thomas, LCSW
Pain is a sign that something is wrong. Emotional pain lets us know when our boundaries are being violated. The level of pain indicates the seriousness of the violation. Rather than running from the pain and ignoring it thinking it will go away, we must look closely at it and its causes. This informs us of the location of our boundaries and our limits, allowing us to choose whether the reward for continued association is worth the pain. The very act of choosing can reduce our pain and sometimes even eliminate it. Consider the pain involved in starting an exercise routine after years of perfecting our couch potato form. When this new routine is perceived as being imposed by outside forces, the physical discomfort can be extreme and lead to stopping very quickly. However, when the perception is one of personal choice, the pain can become a welcome indicator that we are doing it right.
A simple exercise for directed change is to look closely at the pain you feel and ask “What is the cause of this pain?” Once some of the causes have been identified, you can dig deeper and ask “What is the value of that which is causing the pain?”, “Why do I believe I need or want this in my life?” and “What can be done to change the circumstances to reduce the pain?”.