What Happens When You Stuff Your Pain and Don't Deal with It
Ignoring and hiding internal pain is an all-too-common decision. In comparison, when we experience physical pain, the result is often loud and forthright. In order to address, solve, and remedy what has happened to us or maybe what is continuing to happen, like a foot stuck under a heavy object, we announce our current anguish. But what if this isn’t the approach to our inner feelings of hurt? What happens, when we make a habit of not dealing with the pain we stuff deep inside?
Being understood, or even just heard, is often the first step in bridging the gap between us and another. But how can another understand what we refuse to share? Hiding our pain makes a habit of developing “walls” between ourselves and others. Of course, this ultimately leads to feelings of isolation.
Like most harmful cycles, feeling alone tends to encourage us further into isolating behaviors or practices, making it more and more difficult to connect and enjoy honest and open relationships with those around us. It’s important, in order to break this cycle, that we de-isolate our pains. This means expressing our feelings and hurts to others, such as family, friends, a therapist, or even the individual(s) who might have caused the pain in the first place.
“If they knew how damaged I was, they couldn’t possibly like me.” Does this sound at all familiar? Unresolved conflict can force us to view ourselves differently. Even in situations where you might be a victim, the emotional and psychological weight of carrying hurts alone forces us to question our feelings, thoughts, plans, etc. All this mental traffic can make it easy to fall into a trap of anxious thinking, which in turn will bleed out into many other areas of life, making it more difficult to manage stressful and meaningful situations.
Putting a band aid on a large cut is about as effective as trying to stuff down an internal wound. Like all pain, there is a very real mental and physiological reaction to what has happened to us. When you ignore a wound, it doesn’t do anything to stop the pain. This leads a person to begin “medicating” or coping in the methods which most affirm their current decisions.
Coping mechanisms are highly varied. They may include medication, illicit drugs, alcohol, smoking, food binging, over-sleeping, heightened acts of aggression, or risk-taking behaviors among many other habits.
Some coping mechanisms may not seem problematic at the start, but ultimately what is happening is that an individual is putting off the act of recovery, which is never truly going to be a healthy approach.
Negative health issues
As you look at the list of coping mechanisms, it’s easy to draw a line from those to the negative impacts that not dealing with your pain can have on your physical health as well as your mental and emotional. People can experience an increase in headaches, weight fluctuations, digestive issues, sexual issues, and more.
Oftentimes we want to pretend that because what we experienced wasn’t a physical attack or injury, it will have little to no bearing on our external well-being, but this has been shown to be utterly false.
We can come up with an infinite number of reasons not to deal with our internal pain. It may feel problematic, maybe you think that your openness will hurt others, but the reality is that your pain is yours and yours alone.
You’re responsible for your personal well-being, not for how others might react. Finally, you owe it to yourself to heal, to avoid all these problems that occur when you make the choice to stuff your pain down.