Learning from Emotional Pain

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)

While we have different pain thresholds, all of us avoid pain.  Its not that we are weak, but its instinctual.  The sensation of pain is to make us aware of something that is immediately dangerous or damaging.  Inadvertantly touching a hot plate sends an immediate and intense sensation of pain that yells to get our attention that the plate is causing serious damage.  Pain responses often do not relay through our higher brain functions (cerebral cortex where we think and reason) but reside in the lower brain functions and brain stem, in the form of emotions and reflexes.  You do not so much think about the hotness of the plate as you simply react to it.

People are made in a way that we can not only experience physical pain, but emotional pain as well.  Emotional pain tends to be result of relationally dangerous things or wounds.  In the same way as our responses to physical pain, we have systems that seek to guard our sense of significance, security, and acceptance.  When interactions, or lack of interactions with others cause us to feel insignificant, insecure, or rejected, we experience pain.  That pain causes reflexic responses.  True to our DNA, we choose to flee, fight, forget, or freeze.  We do not think about our reactions, we simply react to pain, whether we are conscious of the reason or not.

Our emotional pain resulting from our failings and rejections begin to condition us and our responses.  Those who tend to flee at emotional pain, go from relationship to relationship wondering why they can't connect.  Often they will describe themselves as having "commitment" issues.  Those who tend to fight develop aggressive and controlling tendencies in their relationships.  Their strategy is control to protect.  Those who tend to forget will bury their pain.  Forgetters are more likely to be in abusive relationships where they feel powerless.  Interestingly, they have an affinity for relationships with those who control, making their pathologies synergistic.  Those who freeze, tend to simply shut down with emotional pain. Never really addressing pain, they simply become numb and disassociate as a mechanism of coping.

What if emotional pain caused by fears, failures, and rejection is to be a means of leading us to a deeper and more dependent relationship with God.  What if God, allows us to experience the pain of insignificance, insecurity, and rejection so that we will run to the God who supremely values us, will always be there for us, and will never turn away from us.  Your pain should not cause you to be further isolated, depressed, fearful, or angry, but is a signpost that we need to turn to God, not just for relational healing, but for the experience of God's presence, grace, and love.  This allows for the proper perspective of pain as well.  While others may reject us, and fail to appreciate us, those whose core identity is defined by their relationship with God will understand that these things damage relationships, but not our person.  Why?  Because our significance, security, and acceptance is not dependent upon our relationship with one person, but with God.

As we live and experience emotional pain daily, I pray that you will experience the God who loves you (acceptance), gave his son for you (significance), and has removed every barrier for your experience of his love (security).  This is what your pain is pointing towards and why we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

May God bless you,

Pastor M Traylor
Dr. M TraylorComment