The stories in your head aren’t made up.
When something bothers you, or when you feel angry, frustrated, jealous, or sad…it’s not because you’re weird.
There is a reason. There’s something that you learned that makes you react the way that you’re reacting right now.
It’s not made up, and you’re not crazy. Perhaps your reaction feels out of proportion to the situation. Or perhaps you don’t like the reaction that you’re having.
But business as usual means we eventually forget about it and move on. And then the next time the situation comes up again, you react the same way, feel that pain, and then move on.
In those moments of discomfort, we think that *we’re* being difficult or that *we* just don’t get it.
An alternative approach:
Perhaps your reaction to this situation isn’t isolated. Perhaps instead, you learned a lesson long ago. Either through personal experience or through a shared narrative, you learned that a specific action requires a specific reaction. A friend being late means they’re untrustworthy and you should cut off the friendship. If you cry about the situation, the teasing or ridiculing will stop. If you mess up, you have a right to be shamed.
The next time you find yourself sad, or angry, or jealous, or fearful…ask yourself why. Name the situation in front of you that caused the reaction, and then ask yourself “where did I learn that this was the way to deal with this situation?”
You’ll find that your emotions are coming from a deeper place than the current situation (which is why these emotions feel so deep and intense in the first place).
We see these reactions for what they really are: ingrained habits, patterns, or stories. And in that seeing, we can decide if and how we want to rewrite them.
Eckhart Tolle calls these deep, negative emotions and reactions the “pain body”. The pain body is the emotional residue left over from past hurts. And in these situations when we’re triggered, the pain body raises itself up to cause an unconscious reaction. We follow the same pattern we always have because it’s been our protection mechanism.
Eckhart Tolle writes, “the pain-body wants to survive, just like every other entity in existence, and it can only survive if it gets you to unconsciously identify with it. It can then rise up, take you over, “become you,” and live through you. It needs to get its “food” through you. It will feed on any experience that resonates with its own kind of energy, anything that creates further pain in whatever form: anger, destructiveness, hatred, grief, emotional drama, violence, and even illness. So the pain-body, when it has taken you over, will create a situation in your life that reflects back its own energy frequency for it to feed on. Pain can only feed on pain. Pain cannot feed on joy. It finds it quite indigestible.”
So how do we move past this pain body?
That first step is seeing the story at work. Seeing that you are following a pattern, rather than responding consciously to the moment.
Again from Eckhart Tolle, “The moment you observe it, feel its energy field within you, and take your attention into it, the identification is broken.”
Which means: when you see the pattern at play and you realize that this is an unconscious reaction, you have broken the illusion that it *is* you. That this reaction is how you are or that it is how you have to react.
“You have found your own innermost strength”, Eckhart Tolle says, because you’ve learned that there are other options.
Thank the pain body
One step that I always like in this process of shedding reactions, pain bodies, and stories is to thank it. You built a protective wall for a reason. You developed a coping mechanism because you *needed* to cope. So once you’ve seen this pain body at work, you’ve seen the story that you’ve constructed, and you’ve decided that you don’t want to live out that story anymore…Thank it.
Thank that story for how it’s tried to protect you over the years. Thank it for being there when you needed it. And then let it know that you’re ready to let it go.
In honoring your past, seeing your future, and living in your present, you find freedom.Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.