Sunday, April 26, 2009

Emotional Pain

Many survivors of abuse and sufferers of depression and anxiety experience inner emotional pain. Sometimes it is experienced as a pain in the stomach or chest that is not associated with any physical problem. Sometimes it is a pervasive feeling of being stressed or restless. It can develop in childhood as a result of neglect, verbal abuse or lack of nurturing. It is there because there is a need going unmet. Needs for safety and affirmation are two big ones.

Emotional pain can lead to some kind of addiction from serious problems like alcohol and drugs to less destructive ones like shopping or internet addictions. Even the more minor ones can have the effect of causing a person to neglect relationships, neglect responsibilities at home and work, or stagnate recovery and therapy efforts. People don’t like emotional pain any more than they like physical pain. So we try to cover it up. Physical pain means there is a problem that needs to be resolved. Sometimes it turns out to be something temporary like a headache or serious like a heart attack. The same goes for emotional pain; it means something is wrong. Too many people live with the emotional pain or develop an addiction to numb it.

Emotional pain can get to an intolerable level when we push it down and try to hide it. We need to express the anger or disappointment that has occurred over our life. As children it may not have been safe to express our feelings at all. We couldn’t show disappointment or anger or grief. It just didn’t go away, it went deep. Even after we grew up we kept up the pattern of hiding our feelings because it was the only thing we knew. Often we are afraid of what others will think of us if we do.  

One thing that needs to happen at some point in the process of feeling the hidden pain is to forgive those who caused you to hide your feelings in the first place. That usually turns out to be parents. There may be other relatives or caretakers, coaches or teachers too. However, to continue to hold the feelings in isn’t going to help. I did an extended book review on “Wounded” by Terry Wardle. It can be found on my blog in previous posts. He talks about steps to healing that include releasing the emotions to God and then forgiveness. Jesus took all the hurts we experience on Himself at the cross. Those things were sins against God and us. It does us no good and does the abuser no harm for a person to continue to hold onto those feelings and not forgive.  


  1. Ahhhh...forgiveness. I have been very blessed to have been a forgiving person since I was very young. Perhaps it was because I knew the Lord at a very young age? Whatever the reason, it has been a blessing.

    Emotional pain...very hard at times to deal with. I so agree that, if left undealt with, it will not go away. It will keep on hitting us.

    I appreciate your thoughts on this.

  2. I was abused sexually, emotionally, physcially from the time I was 11 till I was 40. It began with my stepfather, then multiple employees of a state hospital while I was a patient and under 16. Pimps and players and users as an adult.

    I can put it in the past and accept it most of the time: however, when my depression returns so does all the emotions of that time.

    1. Try to talk about it to a close friend or clergy when you become depressed.

  3. Interesting that I stumbled upon your article right now as I am thinking about forgiving. Not sure yet if that idea really helps but I guess there are many misunderstandings about forgiving. Be blessed

  4. I've been so focused on forgiving the offenders that I haven't considered those who participated by enabling. That really is huge. One more thing now to work through. One wonders when, or if, it ever ends. I seriously doubt that it does.