Every human experiences emotional pain. The awareness of this pain in each individual exists on a spectrum from total awareness to no awareness. Very few exist on the poles. Those that do are very sick and often in the news for some tradegy they caused or were a part of. Most of us exist somewhere in between. There is no perfect center of awareness and acceptance and even if there were we would not know we had arrived there and would not exist there very long. Humans are incapable of perfect peace. Dont be fooled, even the most balanced person experiences emotional pain in the quiet of their heart and mind. Lonlieness, fear, doubts, sadness, demandingness; no one escapes the humble condition of imperfection. The term "emotional pain" is my terminology. It has been termed psychological pain, mental pain, algopsychalia, psychalgia, psychic pain, social pain, spiritual pain, or just suffering by secular psychologists, scientists, and philosophers. Emotional pain is experienced inside of and outside of relationships, inside the self, between us and God. Emotional pain is also experienced through physical manifestations such as heaviness in the torso, pressure or tension in the head/skull, tension in the neck, back, and shoulders, unexplainable pains in the body, tightness in the chest, weakness, excessive energy, excessive drowsiness, etc. It is realized to some as intense discomfort, often a need to relax, a need for a vacation, a desire to drink or have sex to relax. Some people have a growing compulsion to buy things, sleep too much, escape into television or video games, masturbate, throw parties and entertain, stay up late, exercise too long, eat too little or too much.
All of these things listed above (in moderation) are just activities with no intrinsically evil properties. The problem enters when we are not aware enough or too much aware of our emotional pain and use these activites to deny, resist, fight, feed, or run away from the state of our internal self. Instead of staying with or sitting down in the pain to feel it (acceptance), identify it, put it beside me so that its with me, and then keep moving forward in Gods healing power, we may instead use self defeating and faith killing tactics to deal with/cope with our emotional pain.
Those that exist on the "not aware to some extent" or "denial using" side of the spectrum tend to fake it, wear masks, be superficial, have poor self-care, are constantly busy, may be very productive, may be very effective at completing tasks, maybe well organized or even seem controling to their environment or tasks. They are good at managing being distracted, using denial, resisting the pull of their instincts, fighting the body's demands for unmet needs, running away from any emotionally charged situation, using achievement/completing tasks to mask intimacy, keeping rules etc. However, in relationship with a person on this end of the spectrum you may experience an inability to connect, poor communication skills, pride that inhibits connection, hiddenness, denial of reality in some form, control, demandingness, high expectations or unrealistic expectations, discomfort with intimacy as it is too vulnerable to emotional pain, selfishness through the demandingness to meet their expectations and needs, etc. There are so many attributes I cannot nearly name them all.
Those that exist on the "too aware of my emotional pain" side of the spectrum tend to be drama queens/kings, emotionally controlling (their emotional states control situations), self-obsessed, inwardly focused, victimized by everyone and everything, entitled to retribution/pay-back/revenge/hate when "wronged", immature, unforgiving, pleasure seekers to extremes or identifiable levels, lacking in faith or tend to abandon faith in times of struggle, passionate, easily distracted or quickly obsessed, etc. Again, there are many characteristics and positive ones as well but I gave mainly perceived negative characteristics as thats how people often identify a place of struggle.
There is most definately a third type that exists and that is the person who mixes the two extremes: over identifying with emotional pain and numbing out all emotional pain. This is often those therapists and psychologists identify as those having a personality disorder. A personality disorder is not a pathology that a person is born with but instead a mixture of social construction, biological tendencies, and personal psychological patterns of processing information with a great emphasis on social construction. The mixing person may become very confusing for loved ones but also very confusing for themselves due to their very oppositional perspectives and demands. A deeper look into attachment may be needed in these cases. Often people struggling in this category are so self-protective that they become their nurturer and their own protector. Its as if they take on the role of the mother and father they did not have or did not relationally have. Just an FYI...personality disorders can and do exist on both sides of the continuum as well, not just when the sides are mixed togethor. One more FYI...I think its common for most people to mix between the two sides of the continuum also just in a much less extreme presentation and with much higher ability to function in life.
I bring up a good point in "self-protection". All of the above types presented in a person who exists on the continuum outside the safe zone of behavior have learned that they have to protect themselves and that being vulnerable is the most threatening thing there is to the safety of their identity or sense of self. Even when a person feeds their feelings, they are now not really feeling their true feelings. Their feelings become so intense that they are distorted even distorting the mind, the thinking and perceiving, then triggering physical manifestations that thus re-trigger the emotions to an even higher level state of distortion. Sadly, this escalation cycle can and often does go quite high even for average folks leaving people in a state of panic, depression, intense anxiety, phobic, raging, whatever.
I believe, this is one of the most important topics of our time: The acceptance of a constant state of human emotional pain (constantly varying in intensity). The fighting of this state of human emotional pain and the desire to eradicate all pain has actually become social movements! It is folly. It is delusional and grandiose to attempt to eradicate pain. This attempt, whether on a large scale or an individual scale only breeds more pain!
When we are raw, that is when we feel our sense of smallness and can see that the tidalwave of pain will destroy us if there is NOT a power greater than ourselves!! It is in these moments we have the will to believe there's a God, there must be a God!! And if we begin to have a mustard seed of faith to believe there is a God we may begin to tempt ourselves to think that He may be able to help me, no, He may be able to bring me to sanity!!! It is NOT in our strength and proud moments, our self-reliance, our "I got this!" attitudes that we can connect with God! It is when we are nearest to our powerlessness, brokenness, smallness, humility, our neediness that we can all of the sudden imagine there is a God that may love me AND may be able to and may WANT to reach down into this deep pit of emotional pain Im in and get me out! And I, may want Him too!
Check out this sermon from Constance E Free Church! A great Biblical perspective on this topic.
Constance Evangelical Free Church: Saved by the Blood
Below is an emotional pain map that I developed to give this discussion visual learning for us creative types! ;)
Emotional Pain Map PDF
Psalm 131:2, "Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me" (NKJV).