This life often requires us to seek help to deal with everyday discomforts.  Being in community with others is often enough.  However, physical pain can become debilitating enough that we schedule with a physician.  We may turn to counsel for unique reasons, but what commonly prompts us to schedule is pain — either pain for which doctors cannot find a cause or pain originating in our thoughts, desires, or feelings. Such soul pain has the potential to interrupt our plans, disrupt our work, and derail our relationships every bit as much as chronic physical pain.

Dashboard of Emotions Emery Counseling

One metaphor for the function of pain, whether in the body or the soul, is the dashboard of a car.  Bells that ding until doors close, seat belts are fastened or headlights turn off provide necessary information to keep us safe or prevent the battery from running low.  Lights of various colors may light up or flash to inform us that we should attend to something.  The car may need fuel, air in the tires, oil, coolant, or maintenance.  Becoming annoyed at the dashboard’s interruption and responding by disconnecting the bell or putting duct tape over the flashing light does not fix the problem — and it may keep us from getting the car in a mechanic in time.

Human beings, too, are engineered with sophisticated early warning systems that inform us of threats to our identity, resilience, and longevity.  In the same way that duct tape on the dashboard can mask the car’s problems, ignoring the dashboard of our souls only opens the door to damage in our hearts.  While those around us may prefer we only show emotions that make them feel better, we deny ourselves the opportunity to receive help and be known for who we are when we ignore signals from our emotions.  

Few counselors are medical doctors, but researchers in both physical and mental healthcare have found a surprising connection between physical pain and stuffed, denied, or suppressed emotions.  One medical doctor has stated that most people suffering from lower back pain find relief, not after medical intervention, but only after they have dealt with unprocessed emotions. Those around us may respond to our pain with denial (“it didn’t hurt that bad”), disappointment (“aren’t you over that yet?”), or distraction (“just think about something else!”).  Families who consider the expression of painful emotions childish, weak, or a selfish bid for undue attention teach their children that showing their emotions will result in being ignored, isolated, or punished.  In such cases, the dashboard of information offered by emotions has been plastered over with the duct tape of disapproval.  Not only is the cause of pain unaffected, but the opportunity to be known for who you really are may be missed.  

Especially amidst busy endofsummer activities, notice the times you deal with pain – physical or emotional.  Pause long enough to recognize where you feel the pain in your body.  Then, consider bringing that observation into a session with your counselor.  What you learn about yourself may surprise you!

Karen Bridges

If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment with one of our counselors, you can call us. (970) 490-1309 You can also visit our website at EmeryCounseling.Com