That Bad Bad Feeling Inside

Don't run away from that feeling troubled inside.

Posted Jan 29, 2011

I was thinking about that bad bad feeling inside. You know the one - when you hurt inside so much that you feel it physically. Some people describe it as a deep ache or pain located in the chest or stomach. Others characterize it as a profound feeling of emptiness. I've heard some describe it as a sensation that something is blocking their throat or feels lodged in their chest. Most people have a very clear picture of where it is located in the body. But, however it's defined, we don't like it and we very much want it to go away.

Some people find that eating helps in the moment in the effort to soften the pain. Others totally lose interest in food and don't want to eat. Some drink or use drugs and that might help in the short run. But mostly, we don't want to look at it too directly. It's scary. We try to avoid it, thinking that if we look away, it might be gone by the time we look back.

It's a remarkable thing though, when you reflect on it, that the process of thinking something can cause such intense physical pain. Often not much has changed in our actual lives - we still live in the same apartment and do the same job, getting into the same bed each night to try to go to sleep. But inside there's an invisible world that affects us so deeply.

The pain might be brought about by the loss of the love of another person or the fear of the loss of that love. Or the pain might be the result of loneliness. In my practice, I often hear people say that it is the actions of their friends and relatives that cause them pain because they fear that they are being perceived as a "bad person" and that terrifies them. So many of us are so reactive.

What advice do I have? Being human, I too have experienced that pain in my life. One thing I tried was to stay with it and not avoid it. I've found that things are less scary when you're not running away from them. You remember, as a kid playing hide and go seek - how thrillingly scary it was when you were running away to find a place to hide. If you stop and face that bad bad feeling and even say "hello" to it, you'll take it down a notch on the fear factor.

But also, when emotions are in high gear, the mind cannot engage. When a friend or relative says negative things about you, you can try to think it through and decide if you agree or not. And even if you accept that you could have done things differently, it's not the worst thing in the world to have done something wrong. I think we can use the same power of the mind to think things through so we don't just tacitly react and get hurt because someone else disapproves of our behavior.

For many people, just being human and trying to stay on an even keel is a real challenge. But happiness is a choice. So even if the pain is visiting for a while and you do say "hello" to it, you don't have to invite it to move in permanently! Remember the Buddhist principle that life contains 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows and keep the door ajar for the next joy to enter.