“There are two levels to your pain: the pain that you create now, and the pain from the past that still lives on in your mind and body.” ~Eckhart Tolle
When I read this quote, it stopped me in my tracks. So much of our pain and suffering in the present is caused by us repeating cycles and dwelling on pain from the past. We want so badly to resolve our suffering. But our search for resolution often involves repeating the painful cycles we have already been through, in the hope that someone or something will change.
How many of us have gone through a divorce and realized in the process that the whole relationship was a repeat of a painful relationship from our childhood? How many of us are realizing that we continue to attract the same kinds of people into our lives? People who take advantage of us, want to use us, or have some form of agenda that creates more pain and suffering.
We live in our minds trying to think of all the ways we can protect ourselves and avoid more pain and suffering. The irony is that this inevitably creates more of what we are trying to avoid. This is because what we focus on, we create. The law of attraction is always at play.
For years, I lived highly dependent on my mind. I thought that if I got all the psychology degrees, considered all possible future outcomes, and created a well-thought-out plan of action, I would be able to fix my pain and suffering and free myself for a life of meaning and purpose.
It was devastating to realize after years of chasing a meaningful life that I could not create safety, joy, and purpose through the actions of my mind.
Subconsciously, I stayed trapped in cycles of pain while trying to resolve my past by hoping the people around me would change. I kept my life small so I could stay in control. I never wanted to be around crowds of people. I never wanted to share and be vulnerable, and I never wanted to let anyone see my feelings. I stayed hidden away behind my mind, where I felt in control and safe.
But I also felt miserable. Empty and purposeless. For a while, I was suicidal.
Thankfully, I left those feelings behind years ago, but the emptiness of going through the motions of life without a true connection to what I was doing or why I was here remained, and it was maddening.
I have found that more people feel this emptiness than anyone would ever think. Many of us keep it hidden in the silence of shame because we desperately want it to be fixed and go away. It’s embarrassing to admit that we feel broken and sad behind all the layers of achievement and pretty social media posts.
We attempt to fill this emptiness with eating, drinking, scrolling, having sex, shopping, collecting things, and so on. So many of us are terrified at the thought of spending a whole day, much less a whole lifetime, being alone with ourselves. Being with ourselves with no distractions.
The thoughts in our mind haunt us. We torture ourselves with memories from the past and worries for the future. We torture ourselves with thoughts of how disappointed we are in how our lives have turned out. We recreate pain from the past over and over again by dwelling on the twisted and tormented thoughts in our minds and feel that life is unfair.
Many people will tell you the answer is praying, reading the bible, going to a therapist, reading self-help books, or doing something with your mind. None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but no amount of staying in your mind will fix or heal the pain of your past that you continue to repeat in the present.
Unresolved emotions of the past are stored in our bodies, and they’re in the driver’s seat of our lives, causing chaos, disappointment, and frustration everywhere we go.
I used to think I was really bad at making friends. I usually would wait until someone approached me before striking up a friendship. I isolated a lot because it just felt safer and easier. Over time, I got frustrated because I realized that I kept ending up in these friendships with people who never really saw me.
My pain and fear of rejection was in the driver’s seat, so I protected myself by keeping the real me hidden away. If I caught anyone’s attention, I would play the role I thought I needed to play to be friends.
The biggest problem here is that this attracted other people who also played roles instead of being their authentic selves. The role they played was “take care of me,” while I was playing the role of “I’ll take care of you.” This match worked well initially, but always left me in the same broken pattern of not being truly seen. That empty crater in my soul just kept getting bigger and bigger.
The only way to stop the cycle of pain is to become fully present with yourself here and now. To connect to your body and the spirit within you that is ever present.
When you drop into your body and feel your emotions, you are then free to just be. So many of us are terrified of the silence of being with ourselves because the pain of the past combined with our present actions to distract ourselves haunt us. The secrets we hold inside are killing us.
You aren’t a bad person for the things you do to find some form of pain relief. Life isn’t about being a good or bad person. It is about being authentic, real, and connected, or disconnected and fragmented because of the cycles of pain on repeat.
Are you tired of the constant disappointment? Are you tired of hating yourself and your life? Are you tired of feeling like you are always behind, not quite enough, and devastatingly empty inside? It is so painful, isn’t it? It is so painful to feel the destruction and pain of the disconnection to our true selves. It is painful to face the things we do to distract ourselves from the reality of our emptiness.
Healing happens in the body. Pain is released from your body. Get out of your mind and into your body and you will be set free. You will experience peace and joy. You will stop the cycles of pain and be at peace with the present moment just as it is.
I know it feels impossibly hard. There is so much chaos swirling around in your body that it feels dangerous to actually feel your feelings. A great quote from my mentor, Colin Ross, helped set me free. “Feeling your feelings won’t kill you; it’s your attempt to not feel them that will.”
It is uncomfortable, it is painful, it can be overwhelming at times, but feeling your feelings will set you free.
Here is a place to start: Play some music that brings you comfort and close your eyes. Pretend you are getting in a glass elevator in your mind and ride it down into your body. Once the elevator has arrived in your body, identify the emotions you find. Write them down.
Lower the elevator a little more and see if different emotions are in a different part of your body. Explore your whole body and write down everything you discover.
For the days to come, spend some time with each of those emotions and ask them what they have to say. Give each emotion a name if it’s easier. Once you feel more comfortable with an emotion, you will feel safer to actually feel it.
For example, when I ride my elevator down into my chest, I can see anger. I named my anger Carrie. In my journaling time I ask Carrie, what do you have to say? She tells me all the reasons why she is angry and feels that life is unfair.
She tells me about my former marriage and how much I was taken advantage of. She reminds me of all the times he silenced me when I tried to share my needs and shamed me when I tried to speak up for myself.
She tells me about how enraged she feels that I never had a voice growing up. I was sexually abused and emotionally neglected, and if I expressed any emotion other than happiness, I was shamed and rejected by my family and culture. She is so angry for the “good girl” roles I had to play while never really being seen or valued.
As I get to know her and hear all of these things she has to say, I feel compassion for her and also start to feel anger along with her myself. Each time I connect with her, I validate why she is angry. The intensity of her emotion gets smaller and smaller the more I connect with her and feel her.
You can do this exercise with all emotions, and it can help you get to know yourself and not be so scared of what is contained inside.
When neither your past nor your emotions haunt you, you are free to love your life in the present moment just as it is. Flawed, imperfect, messy, and unpredictable.
Now that I’m not scared of feeling my emotions, I am at peace. Sometimes I still need to grieve the truth of what has happened to me. I will never be okay with the abuse and neglect I experienced. However, I can feel those emotions when they come up, and they don’t overwhelm me. I feel them for that moment, and then I can move on to enjoy the life I have created now. A life that has people who really see me and care about me in it.
Perhaps the biggest change for me is that I don’t feel I have to prove my worth to anyone. I am just me, and I feel at peace with that. This shift has allowed me to get out of my head and just be.
We don’t need to dwell on the past or control how our life looks or what will happen next. We can just be here in the present, full of gratitude, hope, love, joy, and all the messiness from the past lives we have lived.