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How to Stop the Pain

Photo of Gala Darling by Made U Look Photography
Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances. ~Wayne Dyer

I’ve spent the last week brooding over unexpected events that have transpired in my work and personal life, holing myself up in a darkened room contemplating all of the dire consequences these events will have on my present and future.

The same thoughts have been turning somersaults in my mind for hours on end, disrupting my sleep and pushing me to lash out when it’s entirely unnecessary and, sometimes, inappropriate.

In truth, I took situations that were completely neutral and transformed them in my mind to represent all kinds of gloom and doom. I’m beginning to see this as something I’m ridiculously good at–something I know that I need to change.

I can say in hindsight that I’ve spent a lot of my life waiting for the other shoe to drop–equating times of happiness and fulfillment to being at the top of a roller coaster where it’s only a matter of time before everything goes careening downhill.

I’m not entirely sure what the psychology is behind this mindset, but I know that I have an underlying belief that life tends to equal things out–good is followed by bad, accomplishment is followed by struggle, etc.

I have so much faith that “bad” situations, experiences and people will continue to show up in my life, I mistakenly place these labels where they aren’t deserved. Labels allow the unknown to be categorized before the true nature of the situation or the person is shown.

This creates a false sense of “knowing” in which the projected outcome is usually far worse than the reality. And of course, the amount of energy spent by entertaining false outcomes and the direness of future situations is utterly exhausting.

From the age of 12 to 16 I attended a local art school in which a great deal of my day was spent recreating still life scenes on paper, spending hours shading to reflect the light and trying again and again to get the proportions of each object just right.

While I struggled at times to grasp the technical side of creating “good” art, the biggest hurdle I faced was rather simple: learning how to draw exactly what I saw and not allowing my mind to add in extras that weren’t actually there.

It was my mind that would trick me into changing the placement of an object or making the features of someone’s face larger than they actually were. I needed to train myself to simply be the vessel in which reality was transferred to paper.

It took great discipline to constantly look up from what I was drawing to refer back to the scene sitting in front of me — just like it takes discipline to continue checking in with reality instead of drawing my own hasty conclusions based on nothing more than a label or a feeling.

With this little bit of self-awareness, I can say that there have been countless situations and events in my life in which I have responded to by jumping into conclusions, assuming the worst when reality might have indicated otherwise.

I’ve fought with a friend and assumed the friendship was over; been passed over for a job and assumed it was because I wasn’t talented enough; encountered financial hardship and assumed I was doomed to living from paycheck to paycheck for the rest of my life.

Every time I’ve resorted to this thought process I’ve seen other areas of my life begin to suffer–I lash out in my personal relationships, lose motivation to work for the things I want; the list goes on and on.

In recovering from this past week of dwelling in a negative alternate reality, here are the three reminders I now have tacked up on my refrigerator:

Reminder #1: Go to the Source

The majority of the anger and upset I was experiencing this week stemmed from a decision made by someone else that affected me greatly. It was from this decision that I began making assumption after assumption about what is said about me and what I had been doing wrong.

Luckily they approached me about the situation and all of the hurt and confusion I had been experiencing was cleared up in a two-minute conversation. That’s all it took.

If I would have just asked for the facts, I wouldn’t have had as much room to create my own version of the story.

Reminder #2: Seek to Understand

A few months ago my sister went to an astrologer who told her that her sibling (me) would be very surprised by an upcoming situation. When asked if the surprise was good or bad, the astrologer simply said, “Neither.”

I didn’t fully understand what that meant until now. The situation–or the “surprise” as she referred to it–was neither positive or negative. It was my interpretation of it that could make it one or the other.

Often times we label a situation negative until later on when we can see the positive aspects of it. We may not have all the knowledge we need to see the full picture when we’re in the midst of something, but simply recognizing the labels when we use them is a step in the right direction.

Reminder #3: Move Slowly & Deliberately

If I were to make decisions while I was driving the same way I respond to life situations–quickly and without much thought–I would probably be in a horrible accident.

I allow my mind to be ten steps ahead of what is actually occurring, and that, as I’ve learned, is detrimental to my wellbeing.

It’s time to stop, think about the situation with given facts, and respond slowly and deliberately to what is actually going on. If I choose to pass judgment one way or another, I need to routinely check in to see what that judgment is based upon.

The amount of energy I’ve spent mulling over scenarios that have never actually happened is absurd. I choose now to redirect that energy elsewhere.

Question for you: What conclusions have you jumped to only to find out in the end that you were wrong? Share your thoughts and stories in the comment section below.

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About the author

Kayla Albert is freelance writer intent on living life deliberately. You can follow her at Confessions of a Perfectionist. If there's a writing project you'd like for her to tackle, visit her website at kaylaalbert.com

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13 thoughts on How to Stop the Pain

  1. Nicole

    Kayla,

    Let me just start off by saying thank you for writing this. I am also going through the same thing as you. I don’t know why I think the way I do and get myself worked up over literally nothing. I am going to talk to a professional about this but this site is literally working wonders for me. I can relate to so many people on this site, including you. Keep writing because as I’m sure it benefits you, it benefits many others, to know there help in one form or another

    Nicole

  2. Sometimes we can be our worst enemy. Digging deeper holes and burying ourselves in terrible thoughts of worry, anger, and sadness. This is a great reminder that we always need to be present and face things as they come up. Great way to start Monday!

  3. Anne Mawby

    This article comes to my computer just when I need it most. Thank you.

  4. Kumar

    Hi Kayla,
    Thanks for the nice article which made me to take next action to prevent my mind to jump to conclusion.
    It used to happen with me all the time, I was being more sensitive if someone tells something harsh on me, I used to come to conclusion without understanding the context and dwell myself into bad situation. I never talk to anyone which was being even more painful. I started looking into the source and changing those to positive thoughts and understanding why someone commented like that, is there anything which myself need to correct (Understanding) all this helped. Still I am progressing and making the situation better and feeling happy.

    Nice descriptive article. Best simple ways to overcome your sorrows and to keep winning in life.

    Thanks,
    Kumar

  5. Linda

    I am always thinking the worst or as my boyfriend says I’m always adding two plus two and getting five..I hate being this way…It has held me back for so long and creates unecessary arguments. I get Reading this article, well at least I am not the only one.. I wish I could be more positive and worry less about my negative thoughts. Its disabling. I totally related to this article and it is encouraging. Thank you

  6. Great post!

    What if you analyze a situation to death? What if you ignore the red flags and your intuition because you think you’re ‘judging’ a person and or situation? This is where I get tripped up. I don’t ‘trust my vibes’ as Sonia Choquette because I learned from Catholic school not to ‘judge’ anyone or anything. Needless to say, ignoring the red flags and my intuition has gotten me into situations that could have been easily avoided if I would have just listened to my inner guidance. How do you get around this? Sometimes, I feel as if I have a tennis match taking place in my mind. :)

    BTW: After making a decision, I’ll read posts like the one you wrote, and think to myself, “Did I make the right decision?” It brings me back to square one. Sigh…

  7. Oops! I meant to say, “as Sonia Choquette would say.”

  8. Stephanie Dowrick reminds us to “give the benefit of the doubt” and this has saved me from many hours of soul-churning contemplation which would not have had a good ending!

    Lovely article Kayla!

  9. Kayla,

    This is a great post. “The battle is between the ears,” as a family member used to put it. Our minds are so powerful. We often project negativity on top of negativity. I have found that the trick is to see the positive in every situation, and to realize that nothing happens that isn’t mean to.

  10. “If I choose to pass judgment one way or another, I need to routinely check in to see what that judgment is based upon.”
    Well then most important is not to do things that will not make you regret, but don not regret for everything you’ve and just make the best of it.

  11. Thank you for sharing Kayla. There is a very valuable lesson in your story. You mentioned how your limiting beliefs contributed to your assumptions, so why isn’t examining and reframing your beliefs one of your steps to ending pain?
    Adopting the belief that everything happens for a reason has put an end to my emotional suffering. It helped me glide through the loss of my the best job of my life and every other loss, large and small, I’ve experienced since integtrating that belief.
    Peace,
    Michele

  12. Laura

    As we are weak, not in a negative way, but naturaly, and unable to percieve life differently than a subjective reality, indeed awarenes, discipline and practice are keys to carry us further what I like to call the animal side.
    I guess, as I “humanly” like to look for explanations, that out natural urge for evolution is guiding us towards the need of developing a greater and happier life, fortunatly aimed towards self-awarness to start with.
    Like many others, my life is at the edge of being lived to its full potential and it is just a matter of exercise and challange to not get stuck in systems that have nothing to do with being. I could actually state that it is beggining to be fun, in a hard way of course, to play around different realities.
    Great article. Very concise and flowing:)

  13. swati

    A very nice article..Thanks!

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