One of my clients was going through a particularly difficult time with finances. Her hours at work had been reduced and she needed to dip into her savings each month to pay her bills. This went on for several months and she complained the stress of worrying about money was having a negative impact on her sleep, health and personal relationships. Normally, a gentle and easy-going individual, her emotional distress was causing her to be irritable and short-tempered. She could find nothing to be happy with and found fault in all things and every one. She was painting her life with a broad black brush.
When I asked what percentage of the time she thought about her financial situation she answered “It seems like I think about it 100% of the time. I can’t let it go and it feels like a weight that is causing me to drown.”
What this young woman was doing is not different from what many of us do when we find ourselves faced with emotional pain. We tend to dwell on the negative circumstances and carry the pain with us throughout our day. We allow emotional pain to control us. We allow it to creep into all aspects of our lives by making us feel miserable 24/7. In turn it has a negative impact on everything we do as well as our relationships. It consumes us and eventually we become the pain.
For example, your boss is critical of your work and demands that you demonstrated improvement or changes will need to be made. You now start worrying about getting fired and how you are going to make ends meet. You worry about it when you’re alone. You worry about it when you are surrounded by others. You worry about it when you are supposed to be involved in joyful activities. Worrying about being fired has become the center of your existence. When I work with clients who are obsessed with worry over a negative circumstances in their lives I instructed them to “put the pain in its proper place”. What does it look like to “put pain in its proper place”? Let’s go back to the client who was suffering from financial issues. She was asked to reframe her thinking and to understand although her finance problem is concerning it does not represent everything she has going on in her life. Because she spends so much of her time focusing on money problems it gives her the impression that her life is out of control and everything is wrong.
However, when we looked at her situation through truth and logic we saw she had many blessings she could point to: her health was good; she is well educated; she has a strong network of friends; and she has loving parents – to name a few. This young woman, like most of us, needed to learn to take the emotional pain she was experiencing and limit the amount of time she would focus on it. Together we brainstormed what would be a healthy amount of time she would need to spend being concerned about her finances. After much conversation we agreed she should limit her concern about finances to 20% of the time. The other 80% of the time she would be focusing on the blessings in her life including the fact that she still had a job!
It is extremely important to note that putting emotional pain in its place does not mean ignoring our pain. That would be a mistake, which would lead to the pain manifesting itself in other ways and through other outlets. We must deal with our emotional pain without allowing it to dominate our lives. My client learned by putting her emotional pain in its place she had once again empowered herself. She could experience a sense of control even though her financial situation had not changed. Putting emotional pain in its place can help us to see clearly and more importantly allow us to enjoy the blessings we have despite any negative circumstances we may be experiencing.
Eddie Capparucci, MA, LPC is a licensed counselor with a private practice in Marietta, GA. Please feel free to share or re-post this article. Read more of his articles at www.abundantlifecounselingga.com or on one of his blogs: www.SexuallyPureMen.com