There is a saying by Carl Jung that says - “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering”. And while this has got to be one of his most famous quotes, it is not easily understood.
In today’s world it is often advocated that one should avoid pain at all costs. This is something that comes in many forms and guises. From drugs that are based on removing pain, to alcohol and numerous other things that society provides.
And it doesn’t stop in the mainstream society either; a big part of the self-help industry is also based on the avoidance of pain. Here, it is often about positive thinking or affirmations for example and not allowing ones pain to be registered in any way.
Good And Bad
Life will have moments that make one feel good and moments that make one feel bad. This is normal and part of life. To lose a loved one, to experience the end of a relationship, or a job loss for example, can all have the potential to create intense pain and grief.
And while positive thinking clearly has a function in life; what is also clear, is that one cannot think their way out of grief. This is something that will not be removed by the mind; it will take time to dissolve.
Pleasure And Pain
What is evident, is that pleasure feels a lot better than pain. And the ego mind has all kinds of defences at its disposal to avoid the emotions and feelings of the heart and the body.
This can range from: repression, dissociation, avoidance, projection and many others. So the mind by its very nature is designed to avoid facing pain. And although this is so, it is not a negative thing; it is for survival reasons.
Without these defences, it would be overwhelming and these allow for some kind of internal regulation to occur.
Out Of Mind
So while this allows for the mind to settle the whole system and to bring sense of equilibrium back, it is often nothing more than a temporary solution. The emotions and feelings won’t have disappeared just because the mind no longer notices them or rarely comes into contact with them.
There is a saying that says ‘’out of sight out of mind’’. And just because something is out of mind, doesn’t mean it’s out of the body. In the short-term it may well appear to have disappeared, but in the long term it will lead to all kind of problems.
On the inside is the way that the ego mind does all that it can to avoiding facing pain and then there are the external hindrances. Perhaps these external challenges are nothing more than a mirror of what is going on within.
If within we try to avoid our emotions, then without will simply be a reflection of this avoidance. While some emotions are accepted in our society, some are not. This can then lead to the expression of some and the repression and denial of others.
The need to wear a mask and to act a certain way in public is very much part of the modern day world. And again, this requires a denial of how one is feeling and what’s actually going on inside.
So what this can lead to, is the experience of not only denying how we are feeling, but to deny who we are. As although we do have a mind, we also have a heart and a body. Each of these has a purpose and a function.
To avoid facing emotions and feelings that have built up from ones childhood and adult challenges and losses; can have the potential to create all kinds of dysfunctional and unhealthy consequences.
I believe that as a result of not feeling our pain and allowing it to be released, it can lead to:
· These so-called ‘disorders’ that are around today
· Mental problems
· Physical Illness
· Emotional problems
· Self harm
· Irrational fears
· Relationship problems
· Reactive behaviour
This does not mean that one is forever stuck in their emotions, what it likely means is that one allows the natural emotional flow to take place. The reason they have created so many problems and become so overwhelming is due to their existence being ignored for so long.
However, in order to face ones pain and to let it go, one has to feel safe to do so. And this has got to be one of the biggest challenges around this. Just like breathing, were one breathes in and breathes out. When an emotion is felt, it will need to be released.
This will often not be possible in the moments that they arise, but this doesn’t mean that they have to be denied for weeks, months or even years after.
One of the reasons therapists, healers, coaches or trusted friends are so powerful here, is that they will allow one to feel safe enough to feel what is really going on. To embrace how they truly feel and not to pretend that everything is fine.
It is often thought that strength comes from not letting anything affect who one is and to not give in to ones emotions. This has been true for men for a long time; they cannot cry, for that is a sign of weakness.
And of course women can cry as they are allowed. The trouble is, even though they both look different, both men and women have emotions.
So if anything, to be in touch with ones emotions is a sign of strength and courage. And it will also lead to a more healthy, functional and whole human being.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.