Posts Tagged ‘emotional pain’

Love Heals

Monday, June 30th, 2014

I’m sure you have read or heard it said that love is the greatest healer of all. But often when we need it the most, that healing love can be hard to find. In this post, I’m going to share a very personal story about how I found a way access the healing power of love, with the hope and the intention that it helps you find a way to access it for yourself.

What happened was that after sharing some special intimate time with my girlfriend, I was half awake and half asleep, and she was gently and lovingly touching me. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, I was enjoying her touch a lot.

But what happened next was both unexpected and healing. I’m not sure how, but I went into the same state I was in many, many years ago when I was lovingly touched by my mother, and I stayed there. In it I felt very vulnerable, and also very loved and cared for.

While I eventually came out of that state, being in it has had a lasting effect on me. Over the next 24 hours, I realized that even though I haven’t been in touch with or aware of it, I have wanted and needed that kind of love and care ever since the time that memory was formed.

The next part of my story is hard to describe, but I’ll do my best.

Getting in touch with the part of me that needed that love and care was very empowering, because I have learned that I can give it to myself. In a way, it’s like having another person, who has his own needs, inside me.

That may sound strange, but it’s a pretty good description of how it feels. It’s a part of me I wasn’t aware of before. But even though I wasn’t aware of it, I have a strong sense that a lot of the sadness and discontent I would feel about my life from time to time came from it. Also, my sense is that a lot of the procrastination I used to suffer from was due to the angst that was coming from it.

Once I started checking in with that part of me, and then giving it the love and care it wanted and needed, I found myself happier, more at peace, and more focused.

Before the experience you’ve just read about, I knew that, like you and everyone else, I needed love and care. To meet that need, I would spend time with people who loved me and cared about me. I would also do my best to give myself love and care. Unfortunately, I was not able to do that nearly as well as I wanted. But that changed dramatically after I got in touch with the part of me that had long needed so much of it.

Having learned about myself, my sense is that there are many people (maybe most people) who have parts of themselves that need lots of love and care.

If you’re one of them, I hope this story will help you identify and get in touch with that part of yourself, and give it the love and care it needs. I know that doing so can – and does – heal both emotional and physical pain.

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To learn about other effective ways to heal your pain, I invite you to sign up for my free E-Course: Learn How to Raise Your Energy – and Your Spirit – in Just 21 Days.

Are You Bitter Because of How Your Chronic Illness has Affected Your Life?

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

I recently received an unsettling email from a woman who has lived with Myalgic Encephalopathy / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 25 years. Kathleen, as I’ll call her, wanted to know if I could help her.

The reason Kathleen’s email was unsettling was because she referred to a blog post I wrote last summer in which I basically asked my readers to imagine watching a movie where the protagonist had the same illness and was dealing with the same challenges that they were (here’s the link to that post). But instead of writing, as others who have contacted me about that post have written, that it was helpful, she said that if the protagonist has been wrongly accused or imprisoned, she identifies with them, but if not, not only does she not have any compassion for them, but she is happy when they fail.

She went on to say that that is how bitter not being able to be a mother or to have a successful career has made her, and added that while she would never do it, she sometimes has fantasies of killing people who are leading normal lives.

While what Kathleen wrote was unsettling, my heart goes out to her. When she became sick,she was working on a Ph.D. in psychology and felt very optimistic about her future. And then after almost 3 years of doing everything she could to regain her health, and getting some of it back, an accidental exposure to pesticides caused a relapse and even more symptoms, from which she has never recovered.

From what she wrote, I think Kathleen was talking about her reaction to watching real movies. But in my previous blog post, I was asking my readers to IMAGINE watching a movie in which the protagonist had the same illness and challenges they did. And if I have a chance to talk to Kathleen, I will suggest that she do that.

But while I didn’t say so in the previous post, I will be very clear with her that while imagining watching a movie like that is almost always very helpful and healing, it is not easy to do. To the contrary, it be very difficult and emotionally painful.

That’s why when I work with people, I give them several tools, strategies, and suggestions, and not just that one. If you’re interested, you can learn about several of those other strategies in my free E-Course: Learn How to Raise Your Energy – and Your Spirit – in Just 21 Days.

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Tom Robinson, who has a chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) himself, helps people with chronic illnesses meet their many challenges and then find and follow a path to happiness and fulfillment.

An Awful Christmas Present

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Earlier this month, I was having a conversation with a woman who has lupus. The reason I’m writing about it is because I was greatly affected by one of the things she said.

Linda, who is a cable TV installer, told me about a customer of hers who has some very difficult health challenges. And then she shared something the woman had said to her, which was this:  “The best Christmas present I could get would be to not wake up.”

I don’t know what illnesses she has, but I have to think she has probably been in a lot of pain and that she has struggled with her illnesses for a long time. And I know, from both my own experience with a chronic illness and from working with 100’s of people with chronic illnesses for over 10 years, how hopeless a person can feel and how impossible a better life can seem.

But I also know, from what my clients have shared about their lives, from books and posts I’ve read, and from my own experiences, that miracles can—and do—happen. And while I don’t know if they will happen, for me or for anyone else, I have learned what we can do to make it much more likely that they will.

First, we can look for all the things we have to be grateful for, including food to eat, a roof over our heads, friends and family and the good times we’ve had and the special moments and love we’ve shared, the education we received that makes it possible for us to read books, blogs, magazines, etc., our organs that are working fine (and everyone who is alive has some) – the list goes on and on.

And second, we can have empathy and compassion for the parts of ourselves (remember, we all are made up of many parts) that are struggling and are in emotional or physical pain. And we can let the organs and the parts of our bodies that aren’t well know we appreciate them for doing the best they can, and then send them loving compassion.

I sent Linda an email letting her know that I would be glad to give her customer a no cost consultation. I hope she takes me up on my offer. I know it’s after Christmas, but if she does the things I’ve described here, I have a strong sense she will find that life, even with serious health challenges, is a gift, and she will want to wake up tomorrow and the next day and the next, etc., and enjoy that gift.

If you need help, reach out! And tell friends and family members who need help to do the same

Monday, September 30th, 2013

I chose the subject for this post because of what a former classmate, whom I’ll call Bill, told me at my high school reunion last month. We shared with each other what we had done since we graduated several decades ago. I learned that he had become a chemist. When I told him that I had left my career in engineering behind and for the last 11 years had been helping people with the emotional challenges of living with chronic illnesses, his expression changed noticeably.

Bill shared with me that his son Mark had been in a Ph.D. program at a prestigious university, but before completing the program had been diagnosed with Lyme disease. He also had other debilitating symptoms due to another illness that doctors had been unable to identify.

Mark tried his absolute best to keep up with his heavy academic load, but was not able to do so. The reality that he would not be able to complete his degree was devastating for him, especially because he had almost no one to turn to for emotional support. He was close to his parents, but they were 3,000 miles away.

Sadly, Mark took his own life.

Bill told me his son’s suicide was the most painful experience he had ever gone through. As a parent myself, I had no doubt that it was. He added that there is a part of himself that will never get over it.

One of the aspects of suicide that makes it especially painful for those who loved the person who committed it is that it can almost always be prevented, usually fairly easily, if people know it’s being contemplated.

While chronic illnesses like Lyme disease can’t always be cured, with the right caring support, people with them can virtually always have better lives. And knowing that there are others who truly care about how physically and emotionally difficult it is to live with a chronic illness has a big positive effect, just by itself.

But sometimes, as in Mark’s case, unless they are told, others don’t know how difficult living with the the physical and emotional pain of a chronic illness is.

Fortunately, the vast majority of people who are living with chronic illnesses and don’t get the support they need, don’t commit suicide. But like Mark, many of them have decided that others don’t care, and they don’t ask for or seek out the support they need.

If you are one, please start asking and seeking. There are people who care (I’m one), but you’re unlikely to find them until you do.

Best wishes in your search and quest to have the best life possible. And please share this post with others who need support and care, but aren’t reaching out for it.

Are you a people pleaser – or a YOU pleaser?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Recently, I gave a coaching session to a woman I’ll call Brenda. We were looking at things she could do to make her life with Crohn’s disease, arthritis, and several other difficult challenges a lot better. As we did, Brenda started feeling so much emotional pain that she started to cry. That had happened earlier in the session and in several previous sessions as well.

As I coached her, it occurred to me that she could probably work through a lot of the pain that came up in coaching sessions by blogging. I told her so, and I also told her that blogging had the added benefit that if she wrote about the challenges she was going through and the painful feelings she experienced as she did, she would very likely get supportive comments from people who read her post.

Brenda agreed that blogging would probably be helpful. She didn’t commit to actually doing it, but she did commit to considering it and deciding if was the right thing for her to do. As I listened to Brenda, I had a strong sense that blogging would be very beneficial for her

In her session the following week, I found out that Brenda had not done what she had agreed to do: she did not spend any time thinking about blogging and its potential benefit. I asked her if she still thought that blogging about her challenges and her feelings would be helpful, and she said that she did.

But I sensed that something essential was missing and I said so. I told Brenda that until we found out what the missing piece was and added it back, blogging wasn’t going to be helpful for her.

Brenda quickly identified what the missing piece was. The previous week, she meant it when she said she would consider blogging, because she saw that it could be helpful. But the next week, when she said that she still thought blogging would be helpful, she said it not because she still believed it, but to please me.

Not surprisingly, that was not the first time Brenda said something to please someone else instead saying what was true for her. She saw that she had been doing that her whole life.

I told her that the person for her to please was not me. It was the woman in the mirror. I suggested that several times a day, she ask that woman how she could please her.

She said she would, and I’m looking forward to Brenda’s next session to find out how she’s pleased herself. I know that doing so will do her a lot more good than blogging just to please me would.

How about you? What will the person in the mirror tell you? Whatever it is (assuming that it doesn’t hurt anyone else) I encourage you to do it, and then leave a comment here telling my readers and me what you did.

What’s so great about situation-specific self-compassion?

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

What’s so great about situation-specific self-compassion is that it is an extremely powerful tool for healing. In this post, I’m going to tell you what it is and how it differs from “normal” self-compassion.

Over the past few months, I recommended to several clients and others who have been going through very difficult challenges that they give themselves self-compassion, and they responded that they were doing that. But they weren’t- at least not in the way I meant.

From the descriptions they gave me and from their answers to my subsequent questions, I realized that the self-compassion they were giving themselves was broad and general, and was like the compassion a person would feel for an acquaintance or a distant relative who was going through a hard time. Maybe it was somewhat stronger than that. But it wasn’t self-compassion that was specifically about and for the challenge they were going through at the time. And because it wasn’t, it wasn’t very healing for them.

So I told them about situation specific self-compassion. And I told them that a good way to give it to themselves would be to imagine that someone they loved and cared about a lot was experiencing the same difficult challenges they were, and think about how they would feel knowing that.

They all said that they would feel lots of compassion for the person, and empathy too, and that they would want to comfort them. Some said that they would also feel sad or hurt because of what the person they loved and cared about was going through. That often happens, and it’s the main reason that it’s often hard for us to give ourselves situation-specific self-compassion.

Once they were in touch with the compassion and other feelings they would have for someone they loved and cared about who was going through the same challenge they were, I asked them to have the same feelings for and give the same compassion to themselves. Doing that didn’t make their difficult challenges go away, but it went a long way toward healing the emotional pain they were feeling.

I know it can do the same for you.

Do You Have a Hard Time Forgiving People? Here’s Why, and What You Can Do Instead

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

You have undoubtedly heard or read how good forgiving those that have hurt us is for our emotional and physical well-being. And it’s true: many studies have shown that forgiveness has a very positive effect on our health. However, forgiving others is sometimes very difficult, but the people who preach about and advocate forgiveness often don’t acknowledge that.

If you’re one of the many people who have had a hard time forgiving everyone who has hurt you, I have some good news: You can get the same benefits forgiveness provides without having to forgive all those people.

To explain why forgiving can be so hard and how to heal emotional wounds when it is, I’m going to use the analogy of an automobile accident. Imagine that a driver is proceeding through an intersection. Then another drive runs the red light and crashes into her car, and the first driver suffers some deep cuts, a broken arm, and some internal injuries. In that scenario, it would be absurd for the emergency medical technicians, the emergency room doctors and nurses, or anyone else to tell her to forgive the other driver. And, of course, none of them would do that. They would all do everything they could to take care of her and give her the treatment  she needed so that she could recover as rapidly as possible.

And hopefully the injured driver would be doing all she could to work with her medical team so that she healed quickly. Obviously it would be silly of her to give anything less than a 100% effort to her healing process because of any anger she felt toward the other driver.

Once our injured driver had completely healed, her car was satisfactorily repaired, and her life was back to the way it was before the accident, chances are that she wouldn’t dwell on angry thoughts about the other driver. She would probably see that it would be in her best interest to do whatever she could to minimize the chance of her ever being in a similar accident, and then focus on living and enjoying her life.

Getting back to the title of this post, if you are angry at someone, then you have been in the equivalent of a car accident with them. And what’s called for is to get the treatment you need to heal your wounds from that accident.

Many treatments to do that are available. I’ve written about some of them in previous posts and you can learn about many others by doing a search on “healing emotional wounds” in Google.

My best wishes as you heal your wounds. And once they’re healed, chances are very good that your anger at “the other driver” will be gone.

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Tom Robinson, who has Crohn’s disease himself, helps people struggling with chronic illnesses feel a lot better and enjoy life a lot more.

Get his free E-Course: How to Raise Your Energy – and Your Spirit – in Just 21 Days.

The Healing Power of Self-Compassion

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Of all the strategies I teach my clients to help them live well when they have a chronic illness, the one I teach the most is compassion. I teach it and reinforce it by having them wear their watch on the non-normal wrist and put notes on their bathroom mirror as reminders, and by assigning them the task of trying to give themselves an overdose of compassion every day – even though it’s not possible to do that! The reason I focus so much on that strategy is because I have found that it is one of the most healing things people can do.

I know, both from my own experience and from the experiences of my clients, that self-compassion can heal the emotional pain that almost always comes with having a chronic illness. Not only that, but I have seen people stop both migraines and herpes outbreaks by giving themselves compassion.  And while I can’t prove it, I’m convinced that giving myself compassion is the main reason I’m able to keep my Crohn’s disease in remission without drugs*.

But I’ve learned that self-compassion can do more than heal the emotional pain we’re feeling today; it can also heal the emotional pain we suffered when bad or traumatic things happened to us years ago.

Maybe you’re wondering how a person would use compassion that way or why they would want to. I’ll answer both questions with a true story of a client I had not too long ago. I had a sense that some emotional pain from Maria’s past was affecting her life, so in our telephone session I asked her some probing questions. I found out she was given up for adoption and also that her country went through a revolution when she was a child. It was clear that both of those events were scary and traumatic. I had her visualize the seven-year-old that she was, and then I had her compassionately comfort that little girl. When she did that, we both simultaneously felt a palpable healing energy. And the next time we talked, she told me that her insomnia of eight years had disappeared.

So how do you know when it would be helpful to heal emotional pain from the past? I can’t answer that question. However, I can tell you that my clients have benefited from 1) revisiting the following: car crashes, being diagnosed with an illness or an emotional illness, the death of a family member, getting fired or laid off from a job, the ending of a relationship, and similar events; and then 2)  giving the person they were at that time as much compassion as they could.

I have done the same thing for many similar events in my own life, and I know that doing so was healing because my memories of those events don’t have the same painful feelings associated with them they used to.

For both myself and my clients, self-compassion has helped us to heal a lot of our emotional pain. It can do the same for you.

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*As I recently wrote, I had flare of my Crohn’s disease at the beginning of March, but it ended on its own a week later, without my taking any drugs.

When you get angry, be gentle and understanding – with yourself

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

I decided on today’s topic because of a conversation that took place recently in one of the online support groups I belong to. A woman I’ll call Carolyn wrote about her long, ongoing struggle to try to get disability insurance. She said she was very angry because she was being treated unfairly by the disability insurance system, especially compared to a relative of hers who was getting a much quicker response.

I don’t know Carolyn, but from what she shared about herself it seems clear to me that she qualifies for and should get disability insurance. I can easily empathize with her, not only because of her struggle to get the insurance, but because she lives in constant pain and shouldn’t have to go through all that additional stress. The fact that it’s well known that valid claims are routinely denied, especially the first time they are made, doesn’t make Carolyn’s-or anyone’s–experience of trying to get disability insurance any less trying and stressful.

Carolyn was denied not just once, but twice, so her anger is completely understandable and very probably justifiable as well. But I hope she follows it up with a lot of gentleness and compassion for herself (and I let her know that). When we get angry when we feel like we’ve been treated badly or unfairly, we often don’t realize that underneath that anger is a lot of emotional pain. And just as we give those we care about compassion when they have been emotionally hurt and are in emotional pain, we can do the same for ourselves.

Another person in the group told Carolyn to try to stay positive. That sounds good, but when we’re going through a hard time, neither I nor people I’ve talked about it with have been able do that for very long. And not only is giving ourselves compassion is much easier to do than staying positive, but it heals the emotional pain rather than just covering it up.

Another way to benefit if you’re in an online support group

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

In this post, I’m going to describe a very different way to benefit from participating in on online support group. But first I will say a few words about them for those who have never joined one.

They are great places to connect with others who understand what it’s like to have your illness because they have it too. And the groups are also a great place to support others and receive support in return.

To find support group, go to yahoogroups.com or groups.google.com. There are literally thousands of them.

If you are someone who already participates in online support groups, here is a new and very different way to benefit from them: go through your group’s message archives and read your old posts. Read them not as you normally read things you’ve written, but the way you would if someone else wrote them.

Read them with empathy and compassion. Let yourself be deeply touched by the writer’s words and try to imagine what he or she was feeling, when he or she wrote each post.

If you were hurting a lot physically or emotionally when you wrote those posts, reading them may bring tears to your eyes. If they do, give yourself a big, comforting and compassionate hug, and keep reading.

From my own and my clients’ experience, I know you will find reading your old posts with empathy and compassion to be very healing – healing that you deserve!