When dealing with pain, I've always pictured myself as stuffing it down the layers of armor I'd set up around me. Just like an onion.
This is something I think we all do to an extent. I was just very extreme about it.
My armor was very elaborate, and involved masks of happiness.
It was easier to fool everyone-- even myself-- into believing that I was happy, than to deal with my pain.
We're raised to swallow back negative emotions because it makes those around us uncomfortable.
Maybe others get uncomfortable when faced with anger or distress because something deep inside their onion-y layers totally resonates with these emotions.
I was an expert stuffer-of-Bad-Feelings.
It didn't matter what happened.
Boyfriend cheated on me? I laughed.
A "friend" humiliated me in public? I smiled.
A co-worker cornered me and asked me if I'd ever fuck him? I pretended it never happened.
Eventually, there was too much pain to bear.
The layers cracked under the weight. I experienced the leaks of emotional pain in terrible, violent nightmares. I'd cry for what seemed like no reason at all. Sometimes, when alone, I felt like my heart was breaking and I'd have a panic attack.
Eventually, I couldn't stuff the pain anymore. My happy-mask broke off and layers and layers of pain came with it.
No matter what I did, at the end of the day, when I was alone, the pain would still be right there. It felt like it was tearing apart my insides.
I realized it wasn't going away. It needed to be faced.
I began to take deep breaths.
I felt better after doing things like yoga, painting, and ceremonies.
I began to acknowledge my pain.
Instead of expecting myself to just get over it, I gave myself permission to hurt. To feel every betrayal, every horrible situation, every stab-in-my-back.
Once I gave myself this support, I was able to release my layers.
This wasn't easy.
There were moments when I felt like I couldn't feel any worse.
There were moments when I wondered if healing was even worth it.
Slowly, very slowly, it got easier.
Over time, the pain has become something I can handle.
It's not that I no longer have a happy-mask. I still smile when I want to scream sometimes.
But I've learned the art of dealing with my emotions as they come. Instead of stuffing them, I honor them.
I've learned that pain can be a Way-Shower in my path.
It tells me when I am being taken advantage of. It tells me when I need to rest. It's a warning signal for when I've gone too far (or have allowed another to go too far).
Pain has taught me self-protection.
In this way, I've learned that pain-energy can be transformed into something beautiful.
I've written a little e-booklet on the practices I've found helpful with transforming my emotional pain. If you are interested, it is on sale in my Etsy shop for 99¢.