Inadvertently, we do an amazing amount of things to keep our emotional pain alive. It’s not our fault, like some (including ourselves) may think. Most of us don’t have a deliberate self-destructive masochistic side to us! We just don’t realise what we’re doing, but we are making it worse by how we react to it. It’s like when we have to deal with a naughty child that keeps bugging us wanting attention.

Here’s some of the ways we respond to sadness, fear, anger and embarrassment. The same can be applied to the naughty child!

1) Dreading it: We say things like, ’This should not be happening!’

2) Fighting it: Seems like a good idea, but it will be back! Negative attention is better than no attention! Ask a naughty child!

3) Feeling guilty about it: Using it as an excuse to beat ourselves up. Naughty children can spot this to get what they want a mile away!

4) Hiding it: Pretending that we’re ‘normal’ by not having any pain. Actually, it’s more normal to have pain unless we’re stagnating!

5) Being proud of it: We relate to others who have similar pain. We get what we want by expressing it. We all need an identity. If only we could identify more with the positives in our lives!

6) Being scared of it: This one is curious! We’re scared of being scared! The double whammy! But, like the naughty child, we have to be in control of it or it takes control! We have to calm ourselves when the pain turns up to be able to deal with it.

7) Suppressing it: Shoving it away when it appears only makes it come back, or lurk about in the background, generally making us feel uncomfortable.

8) Playing with it: This one gives us a buzz.  It’s like the fairground ride or the adventure game. That excitement we feel when we are angry or fearful is fine but we find it hard to relax and it becomes a habit.

9) Analysing it: Our pains become the subject of great fascination for not only ourselves, but for friends and particularly for our psychiatrists and therapists. Of course, the idea in analysing it is to understand and cope with them, but, like the naughty child, we reward the negative behaviour instead of the positive. 

10) Being a victim to it: Getting depressed about it and letting it ‘get’ to us means that it has total control.

11) Tormenting ourselves with it: This happens when it goes quiet. We can’t believe that it’s not there, so we poke it a bit and wake it up! We don’t exactly miss it, but we’re a bit lost and confused without it. Then we complain when it comes back!

12) Feeling we need it: The absolute delusion! We cling to it because we think we’ll do reckless things without fear. Actually, it’s the fear that makes us do reckless things. Fight/ flight reaction drains away blood from our rational mind, so we can’t think clearly. ‘Counting to ten’ before we act isn’t such a bad idea.

All of these responses only feed the pain. The problem itself isn’t often the real problem. Sure, sadness, fear, anger and embarrassment are not nice, but we make them last longer and they become more persistent because of our response to them. The naughty child loves all that!

So, what calms the naughty child? Acknowledgements they exist, reassurance, love and a clear, calm message about what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Could we do the same to ourselves when we experience emotional pain? Acknowledge it, reassure ourselves it won’t last, stop beating ourselves up for having it, and give it a clear message that it’s time to let go instead of letting it get to us.

Author's Bio: 

Liz Temple has been using a combination of conventional and alternative therapies in her NHS speciality of stress and mental health as a community psychiatric nurse for 12 years. She also is a qualified homeopath and ZPoint Process practitioner. She loves the idea of having an internal 'toolbox' of self help techniques. She has written a self help ebook, 'You Can Pull Yourself Together- How to be Your Own Internal Therapist', available free on her website, and has produced articles, a blog and recordings to help tackle common problem emotions.