One of the most common blocks to chronic pain recovery is the culturally reinforced habit of invalidating our own emotional wounds.
Pain is a danger signal that’s created by the nervous system when it feels unsafe. Sometimes the danger is a physical wound, like a broken arm. But when pain is chronic, the danger is more often an emotional wound that has gone unacknowledged and therefore untreated.
All wounds — whether physical or emotional — need to be treated in order to heal. Unfortunately, culture has trained us to ignore emotional wounds, which leaves them festering and untreated for years on end. Our cultural conditioning is so ingrained that we may not even be aware of our emotional wounds.
How do we reverse this cultural habit of emotional invalidation, which keeps us chronically unwell?
First, we need to look at the cultural beliefs that keep us suppressing our emotions.
For example, common cultural beliefs tell us that:
- A person whose actions inflict harm is “evil.”
- A person who is “evil” must be punished.
- A person who is “good” couldn’t possibly inflict harm.
- A person who claims that a “good” person harmed them is causing that “good” person to be punished.
- A person who causes a “good” person to be punished is “evil.”
How are you feeling as you read these common, authoritarian cultural beliefs? Are you feeling safe, relaxed and expanded? When I read them, I feel worried, tense and contracted.
These fear-instilling cultural beliefs lead us into distorted webs of self-blame like this:
“My mom isn’t evil, and I don’t want her to be punished. And I don’t want to be evil by causing her to be punished. Therefore, I have to prove that she’s good by convincing myself that she’s never caused me any harm.”
This is the kind of distortion that cements our denial of our own emotional experience. And this is the kind of denial that prevents us from acknowledging our emotional wounds. So, we leave these wounds untreated and festering for years and years, making us chronically unwell, riddled with symptoms like anxiety, depression, physical pain and more.
Part of healing our bodies and minds is healing our beliefs and our language.
When someone you love hurts your feelings, instead of saying things like:
“They were just doing their best, so I shouldn’t feel hurt.”
You could try an alternative like this:
“Whether or not they meant to, their words and actions hurt me and now I need to tend to the wound.”
Likewise, when we hurt someone we love, we can acknowledge the impact without going into character assassination or denial.
“I hurt you, so I’m a terrible person.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt you, so you shouldn’t feel hurt.”
How about something like:
“It wasn’t my intention to hurt you and I’m sorry that my actions wound up doing just that.”
What do you think? Do you relate to this?
What are the cultural beliefs that keep you in the habit of emotional suppression? And when you write those beliefs out on paper, are they really beliefs that you want to live by? Or would you like to write out some new beliefs of your own choosing?
With love, compassion and sincere belief in YOU,