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A Key to Finding Inner Peace: Understand Your Emotional Pain

March 21, 2022 | by Rabbi Dov Heller, LMFT

If we have the courage to listen to our pain and learn from it, we will find inner peace and empowerment.

Inner conflicts we don’t understand often undermine our inner peace. The conflict could mean that we are avoiding facing a frightening truth about ourselves and our lives. And as long as we resist facing this truth, we will be at war with ourselves.

Important truths are often embedded in our greatest pain. Physical pain in our body tells us something is not right in our body; so too, emotional pain indicates that there is a something off in our soul. This is why dismissing or numbing our feelings is a bad idea. The more we try to hide from this truth, the more anxious and uneasy we become as our life slips away from our control.

Natalie is angry at her husband of one year for not protecting her from his controlling mother. Her attempts to convince him to set stronger boundaries and put her in her place got his attention and he tried to be stronger with his mom. But Natalie’s deep fear of her mother-in-law has stayed entrenched in her heart. She could no longer bear the anxiety and fear any longer, and concluded that she had no choice but to seek a divorce.

The better we understand our feelings, the better we understand ourselves.

Then came the breakthrough moment when she discovered the truth embedded in her fear. She realized she was depending on her husband to protect her because she felt utterly helpless and powerless to protect and take care of her self. In her marriage she felt like the little girl who was attacked by her mother every time she tried to assert her opinions and needs. Natalie grew up with a mother who beat her down every time she tried to be assertive and express herself. Passivity and helplessness became engrained in her personality. She only knew one way to be in a relationship with a strong person which was to cave in and crumble. Her childhood pain became her destiny in her marriage.

When she discovered this core truth about herself, she instantly felt at peace and empowered. When our biggest struggle becomes clear in the larger context of our life history, we come alive and our will to grow is activated.

Natalie accepted responsibility to become an assertive person. She was determined to no longer be a helpless, powerless little girl.

Alex, 40, was burned out. Although he had a family and a lucrative business, he felt his life was devoid of meaning. To cope with his pain, he smoked marijuana almost daily. In the conversation that led to his breakthrough he said, “I have no idea what love is.” The truth embedded in his feelings of meaningless was obvious, a life without love is a meaningless life. He did not feel loved, even though he was married to a very loving wife. He had grown up in home where feeling loved was painfully absent. He immediately understood what was missing from his life and began to explore his loveless life narrative and how to begin to feel love and give love.

The better we understand our feelings, the better we understand ourselves. Our feelings are the gateway to self-discovery and self-understanding. If we have the courage to listen to our pain and learn from it, we will find inner peace and empowerment. When we stop fighting our feelings and acknowledge them, we find peace and the beginning of an authentic growth process.

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