“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
Releasing Old Emotional Pain
Most of us have old emotional pain living inside. Whenever you cannot fully process a difficult life experience it leaves a painful energy imprint in your body. Over time, these pain imprints become more heavily accumulated. Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle calls this accumulation of unprocessed emotional energy the "pain-body."
The emotional pain-body remains dormant for periods of time. When the pain body is activated, your view of people, situations, and memories become distorted. When the pain-body becomes triggered, you will see life "darkly" through the lens of your unhealed emotional pain.
Negative Thoughts Keep the Pain Body Intact
The urge to blame others for your emotional pain will feel intense when the pain-body is activated. The emotional pain-body feeds on negative thoughts of blame, victimization and/or self-recrimination.
Because the accumulation of negative emotions in the body is exceedingly uncomfortable, the urge to project emotional pain out onto other people can feel extreme. The pain-body loves to create fights, especially with family, lovers or those closest to you.
Yet, instead of believing your vengeful and victimized thoughts, you can compassionately witness your emotional pain for what it actually is: unwitnessed, uncared for emotional energy from the past that is trying to resolve and complete.
Compassionately Witnessing Your Pain-Body
1. Catch your arising pain-body at its inception: Watch for signs of unhappiness in yourself - in any form. Catch your pain-body the moment it awakens from its dormant stage. Pain-body activation can take the form of irritation, impatience, a dark or somber mood, anger, rage, loneliness, depression, a desire to hurt yourself or others, and a need to create drama in your relationships.
2. Observe your pain-body without thinking: Become very alert as your pain-body activates. Observe your compulsion to ruminate on your emotional pain. Also, observe your intense resistance to feeling your emotional pain. Do not look for an outside cause for your pain. Notice the urge to get the emotional pain out of your body by blaming others for how you feel, or by wishing your outer life could be different.
Continued emotional suffering becomes its own living entity (called the pain-body) that feeds on negativity. Observe the peculiar pleasure you derive from being unhappy. Observe your attachment to your emotional pain, and see how it wants to gather evidence for why it exists. Left unchecked, your pain body can gather speed and destroy your relationships.
3. Cultivate laser loving attention to your pain-body: Focus laser loving attention upon the negative emotions inside of you. Don't judge yourself or try to talk yourself out of feeling the painful emotions that are arising. Know that this is your emotional pain-body, and your loving presence to it will help it to dissipate.
Don't let your painful emotions turn into negative stories about yourself, your life situation or other people. Stay present to the old emotional pain that needs to move out of stagnation. Let the energy of your emotions move through your body even as they are painful. Don't lash out at others in an attempt to dispel your pain. Hold a strong presence, and witness your emotional pain as it changes and dissipates.
4. Paint Your Pain Body: A great way to witness your emotional pain body, without thinking about it, is to spontaneously paint it in abstract form, as I have above. Invite your unhealed pain to come out of your body, down your arm, and through your paintbrush. Let your emotional energy direct the shapes, colours and composition of your painting. Observe your pain body painting without judgement when you are finished.