By Kathi Whitten, LCSW
No. VA Psychotherapy Associates
It would be impossible to imagine going through life without the inevitable experience of emotional suffering. The very reality of lifes constant changes means that there will be losses of those we love, things we have relied on or hoped for, situations that have brought us comfort and familiarity.
In every persons life there will at times be pain. Sometimes the pain is physical, as when we must cope with illness, surgery or an accident. But there are many forms of emotional pain that we will encounter over our lives, and facing any kind of pain is never easy.
There are things that can help, such as understanding the situation as well as we can. The loss of a job, strains in a relationship, disappointments when our hopes or expectations are not met such things are at least a bit softened by being able to realize what led to their occurrence. Sometimes there are definite steps we can take to make things be different.
But that does not always soothe the hurt that can accompany a painful situation. One of the most reliable aids to coping with pain is to have the caring and comforting presence of others. For most people, being able to have someone trusted nearby is a great comfort. Talking about what hurts, being able to tell the story of our suffering has a healing aspect of its own. For some people turning to religion, meditation, or becoming immersed in absorbing activities can also help.
However, sometimes hurts dont go away, time doesnt appear to bring the longed-for easing of emotional pain. Perhaps this is when it is helpful to consider getting professional help. Others may not know how to offer their assistance, or perhaps they are, themselves, part of what is leading to the hurt.
Unresolved anger between people, lingering misunderstandings, jealousies and envies, difficulty feeling accepted or approved of by others, a sense of poor self-esteem or body image may be chronic forms of emotional pain. At times grieving that doesnt seem to stop, or the impact of incidents from childhood may hover in the background of our daily living. Something once turned to for celebration or tension relief may have turned into an addictive habit from which one cant find release. Loneliness, anger, fear, anxiety, grief are all normal parts of our necessary range of feelings. They serve a useful purpose, but when they seem to be too gripping, too consuming, when one feels powerless to see a way to bring an end to the suffering, talking to someone professionally may help.
Psychotherapy is a process that helps people find resolution to strong feelings that dont ease on their own. It helps people discover different ways to interact with each other for a more supportive environment, and works to help each person find a balance to suffering by encouraging acceptance, new ways to handle things, and a more satisfying and creative manner of being present to oneself and others.