How do you cope with the pain?

03 Jul 2018

A dear friend of mine is going through a very tough time. Someone she loves who should have behaved much, much better has let her down big time. It’s as if an enormous abyss has opened up under her feet. From where she stands, there is no way she can go except down. And down.

How we respond to tough times

One way or another, we all experience that kind of devastating disappointment in our lives. Mostly, when it happens, we flail and flounder in a way that takes us deeper into that abyss.

I see my friend doing all the things that we all do. I have done them (more than once!!). My clients do them, too.

First off, she blames herself for what has happened to her. That line of thought goes, “If only I had done this, that, or the other, then either that would not have happened, or else by now I would be doing better.”

She pictures the scenario that wounds her the most – that of the person who has hurt her so much, having a great time.

She reviews the entire relationship in the new light of the bad thing that has happened and she labels herself as “stupid”.

Her relationship was flawed but not actually toxic. Nevertheless, she reviews it with (the weapons of) hindsight and sees it as worse and sadder than it ever was.

How to make a bad situation even worse

My friend has – unwittingly – been doing all the things that make a bad situation worse.  She has started labelling herself “sad” and “pathetic”.

She paints a picture of her tragic, lonely, pointless future. In fact, despite being a normally wise, courageous woman, she, too, has slipped into Comparisonitis Self-harm. She compares herself to other women and concludes that they are so much more fortunate than she is because they have something that she does not have.

(N.B. Naturally, she does not factor into her self=assessment those things which she has she and they may not. “Yes but…” she would argue, “those things don’t count.” Now, those things may not have counted to the flawed person who dealt her the painful blows. However, they will be the firm foundation for her recovery.)

She deals in sweeping generalizations. Because that aspect of her life has failed, she labels herself and her life – past, present and future – as a failure.

Fortunately – or unfortunately – for her, the poor soul has me in her corner. As her friend, I will treat her with no less concern – and no less supportive love – than I treat my clients. So, I will listen, I will honor her pain, and I will do everything that I can to help her both honor her pain and feel as good in the circumstances as she possibly can.

Yes, the situation is very sad, indeed.

Still, she has nothing to gain by being totally submerged by her feelings of loss, worthlessness and sadness.

What to do instead

So, how do you cope with the pain? What can you do that will work better for you? What have I learned in all my years of doing what I do – and dealing with a fair few major life traumas myself – that she, and you, can use?

Here’s what springs to mind.

#1 Emotional pain hurts like hell.That matters. It’s easy for other people to tell you how much pain you should feel, as well as when you should (and should not) feel it. You simply need to acknowledge that you are going through hell and you can’t know when or if it will ever finish. Your pain is real and important.

#2 Accept that – until further notice – you are unlikely to function terribly effectively. Sure, that is horribly inconvenient and, actually, a total bummer. However there is not much you can do about it – except acknowledging that this is a reflection of the severity of the trauma you have experienced.

#3 Give yourself credit for what you do do. Sometimes, getting out of bed in the morning is an achievement. Sure, it’s also a pain in the butt if that is all that you can do but you wouldn’t expect yourself to run a marathon with one leg in plaster. (At least, I sure hope you wouldn’t.)

#4 Trust that you will heal. Healing is a thoroughly annoying process. It happens in its own time. Not yesterday!

#5 Quit blaming, shaming and “should-ing” yourself. These are some of the best ways I know for a person to make themselves feel worse. Period. Recently I heard about a woman who had an unfortunate experience when she stood close by a railway bridge. She find herself covered in yellow fluid. When you end up in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person, don’t be surprised if you get covered in…

#6 Learn the lessons.  My friend gravitates towards tragicality. I point her towards practicality. None of what happened was her fault. Still, there are some life lessons she has been avoiding all her life – like being too nice and too selfless for her own good. Her lessons include learning to love herself enough to insist on her own preeminence in her own life.

#7 Laugh.  Nobody is suggesting that the situation is funny. However, there is always a funny side to everything. Laughter is the only magic wand that actually works. It can shrink your problems better than anything except a Fairy Godmother. Fairy Godmothers are even more elusive than Personality Transplants.

#8 Treat yourself like you matter. You do – matter that is – and you don’t – treat yourself like a person worthy of your own consideration. That has always been a major problem in your life. If you are going to fix yourself – and why the hell would you go through so much pain if you didn’t have a decent future in mind?- you will have to change that habit of a lifetime.

#9  Remember to eat, sleep and breathe. Properly. Nobody is saying that you have to like it. However, nobody is saying that not taking care of yourself gives you much beyond the very short-lived relief of any kind of self-harm.

#10 Let go of the outcome. You know how you would like the situation to pan out. You may even have a couple of alternatives. (I had two: either I would “show” the wasband, or else he would get the Personality Transplant – and we could Live Happily Ever After. Neither alternative would have come anywhere near the life I enjoy today. That holds for my clients, also.) Life broadens out in mysterious ways. You can grow your own human stature beyond anything you could believe possible.

#11 Work on yourself. By that, I don’t mean “work” in the conventional sense, I mean apply yourself with love, delight and curiosity to discovering who you really are. Treat yourself with the same love, delight and curiosity that you would your own baby. Don’t treat yourself like the trashcan in the corner of your living space.

#12 Be patient with yourself. If most people could learn most of what they need to learn the first time that they were exposed to it, education would not be costly. High school might last 3 months and Higher Education would be as easy as polishing off your favorite drink or cake. Most of us learn deep lessons fairly slowly.

#13 Miracles usually have a LONG lead-in time. My lovely friend asks only to be on another emotional continent to the one where she currently is, asap. It’s as if she is looking at the back yard from hell and wanting to see it morph into an award-winning garden. That is by no means impossible. However, there are a few processes that need to take place first – like planning, clearing, planting, watering, and waiting. It’s all perfectly possible but most things do not happen without a bit of lead-in time effort and commitment.

Have I said all of this to my dear friend? I am drip-feeding it to her. Bright as she is, she can’t take it all in right now – because deep learning is a slow process. Will she get to this mysterious place called “there”? Undoubtedly. Will it be much better than she imagines? Absolutely. Can she do it? Of course she can. Not least because she is making sure that she has the help and support she needs. If you, too, need help and support, then you cannot afford to stint yourself. Get the help you need, from wherever is right for you, and that will – magically – transform the rest of your life. If you want my help, then get in touch.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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