Clean Pain vs Dirty Pain

All emotional pain is not the same.

In my latest scope, I reflect on the recent terror attacks and discuss two types of emotional pain.

Learning about clean pain and dirty pain was helpful for me. Knowing the difference caused a shift out of unnecessary worry, rumination, and blame. Understanding these two types of emotional pain can help you live a more peaceful life.

Watch the video below, then read on for more on how to recognize and what to do with clean and dirty pain.

In the video, I talk about an experience one morning where I realized I was creating dirty pain. It did not feel good. I explain the steps I took to shift myself out of the dirty pain and into a place of relaxation and peace.

Please note: If you notice that the pain and sensations you’re present to are from dirty pain, you may be able to simply let go of the thinking that’s causing your pain. If you’re able to completely let go of the thinking that’s causing the pain, great job! It’s not easy to do this, but it is possible. I’ve found that the steps I share below are more reliable in relieving emotional pain.

Types of Clean Pain:

  • Grief, sorrow, sadness: Loss of a friend or loved one (death, divorce, separation, friendship ends)
  • Sadness, sorrow: Someone you care about is ill or has been in an accident (causing short or long term pain)
  • Natural disasters or terrorist events.
  • Sad, upset: Someone does or says something to you that is intentionally hurtful
  • Regret: You did some sort of wrong against another
  • Hurt or sadness over an experience (present or past) that you haven’t grieved or worked through

Types of Dirty Pain:

  • Ruminating and worrying above and beyond normal emotional sensations (tears, sadness) of a loss.
  • Blaming yourself or others for a painful experience that was out of your/their control.
  • “Should-ing” about a painful experience (i.e. it shouldn’t have happened at all; it shouldn’t have happened this way; it should be this way or that; he, she, or I should have…)
  • Thinking, spinning thoughts, or worrying endlessly about a past experience or about what could happen in the future (i.e. stuck in fear about future tragedies or things that “could” happen)
  • Blaming a victim for what they were wearing, doing.
  • Blaming an entire group for the actions of one or a few.

What to do:

PRACTICE SELF AWARENESS: Many of us resist emotional pain. We do many things to avoid feeling. Begin to notice your body (the next step will facilitate connecting with your body), be aware of emotions or sensations that are present. Notice without judgment when you resist or are avoiding your pain.

BREATHE: Take a deep breath. If you’re able, follow your in and out breaths. As I mention in the video, you don’t need to breathe differently, just notice your in breath, then notice your out breath. To help with this, say to yourself, “There’s my in breath, there’s my out breath.” Do this for 10 seconds or as long as you can.

SLOW DOWN & FEEL: Take a break, allow yourself to feel the sensations in your body. You may have tears, allow them to come. You may experience other sensations in your body, like a “pit” in your stomach, or a sensation in your eyes or chest or throat.  These body sensations are different for every person, so just notice the sensations. If it isn’t too overwhelming to you, you can “track” the sensations you notice or follow them in your body. I discuss this in the video above. Sometimes writing or talking to a trusted friend about the experience will facilitate your feelings and sensations.

CONNECT: Connect with a loved one, a friend, or family member. Be with a group where you feel comforted by others – perhaps at a religious institution or at a vigil you attend. Give and receive hugs, comforting words, and other kindnesses. If a friend is sick or hurting, offer to sit with them. You don’t have to say much, just be with them. If you’re the one hurting, allow others to support you when you’re ready.

BE IN NATURE: As you’re able or as your pain eases, begin to connect with your surroundings and with nature. If you have an animal, connect with it. If you can go outside and look at the sky (or trees, plants, ocean, horizon) do that. Or wherever you are, simply let your eyes wander to wherever they want to go. Don’t force your eyes to look, let them look wherever they are drawn.

SELF COMPASSION: Follow the steps found here to soothe and accept yourself exactly as you are in the moment.

I hope this conversation and these steps help you in some way now or in the future. Want more support? Connect with me here or on Facebook.