Someone crushed my heart pretty badly. It was one of those breakups you don’t see coming, the kind of heartbreak you never thought could happen to you. But it happened to me, and I lost myself for a while. I was in so much pain, I wanted nothing more than to get rid of it. So I did.
But the only way to heal emotional pain quickly is by running away from it. And I knew that wasn’t something I could do. One of the main messages in my breathwork teaching is to feel everything—even when it’s excruciating.
But I was so TIRED of feeling the pain. I just wanted it to disappear. We’re wired to run from pain. We want to get as far away from it as possible, whether that means pushing it away or finding a way to go numb. The problem with those approaches is that they create bigger problems, in the form of disease, anxiety, and emotional stagnation.
If you’re someone who wants to live a deeply fulfilling life, you have to learn to face your pain. I know it doesn’t sound appealing, but ignoring your pain will only make it worse over time. Only by staring it right in the face, and really dealing with it, can you find the richness, beauty, and joy that comes with true freedom. Which do you want for your life?
Instead of hiding from the horrible pain I was feeling, I faced it. These tools were fundamental in helping me process my pain, release it, and transmute it into love:
1. Be present with your feelings.
When you feel an emotion coming on—whether it’s worthlessness, resentment, emptiness, shame, or loneliness—feel it completely. To feel your emotions means to allow them to arise in the body and notice the sensations that occur. Don’t manipulate or try to control them. Allow yourself to be present and observe them.
Pain triggers childhood wounds, and we often revert to versions of ourselves that aren’t logical, when we are deeply distressed. It’s important not to shame yourself for any feeling that comes up, no matter what it is. Anything goes. Treat yourself like you’re your own child. Tell yourself everything is OK. Tell yourself that you’re there. This might seem weird, but the love we have for ourselves is our greatest tool for healing emotional pain.
2. Breathe into your heart.
I teach breathwork because it’s a transformative practice for healing and accessing self-love. There are a variety of ways to breathe that encourage healing. One of the simplest techniques is to lie on the ground and breathe long, slow inhalations and exhalations into the heart. Breathing gently through your nose and into your heart can help open the heart chakra, which is often blocked when you’re going through emotional pain. Breathe this way for 5 to 10 minutes, or longer if you like.
Again, pay attention to any emotions that arise and allow them to surface without judgment. You might feel sadness and the need to cry. Don’t hold anything in.
3. Scream into a pillow.
I’m a big fan of screaming. I have my breathwork students let out no-holds-barred yells several times during healing sessions. Using the voice to release emotion is really cathartic. It helps propel stuck energy out of our bodies and leaves us in a more peaceful state. Some people repress anger for a lifetime because they’ve been taught it’s wrong or bad to feel anger. It isn’t. Even if you don’t feel angry, screaming can be a great energetic release.
So, grab a pillow, stuff your face into it, and scream until you feel like you’re done. If you find yourself needing to cry, let it out. You might feel a sudden burst of happiness or giddiness and want to start laughing. Whatever you feel, just go with it.
4. Move your body.
Our bodies need movement. Try playing an upbeat song you love and letting your body move however it wants to move. See if you end up getting lost in the song. You might just find yourself experiencing a little joy.
Sometimes we’re in so much emotional pain that dancing just doesn’t feel possible. In those cases, getting outside and taking a walk can help lift your mood enough to make a huge difference in your day. Try some gentle yoga or a walk in nature. Movement gets energy flowing and helps release stuck pain.
Remember that human beings are wired to seek pleasure and run from pain, so you’re probably not going to be excited to do any of these things. Do them anyway. Try just one. You’ll notice a difference in how you feel, and that will be your incentive to keep feeling all your feelings. You will be showing up for yourself, you will be giving yourself love, and you will be healing.