How To Start Conversations About Emotional PAIN

How To Start Conversations About Emotional PAIN

We may be incredibly social and tactful conversationalists on any given day, but somehow, when the topic turns to someone’s emotional pain, the conversation often comes to a screeching halt.

Why is it so hard to speak about a thing EVERY human experiences (usually a lot more than once) in their lifetime? Why do we get flooded with doubt, stumbling over our words, when someone shares their brush with tragedy? Why are we filtering our gut-wrenching urges to know more about the loss, the cancer, the chronic fatigue, the addiction, the depression, the breakup?

We are genetically hard-wired for connection; which means, our brains are designed to dig deep in search of connection with other humans… even (or especially) when they’re in pain.

But yet, we fumble. Our words. Our plays. Our involvement. Our opportunities to sift past the surface conversations (we all hate deep down inside anyways) and cuddle up with the REAL shit. The raw. The vulnerable. The tender. All that stuff that knocks us right in our chests, reminding us of how lucky, fragile, powerful, devastating, and HUMAN we all are.

If we’re ever going to have a chance at being more than cowards feigning ignorant in the face of people’s (and our OWN, for crying out loud), we’re going to have to understand two things:

  1. All pain is a matter of disconnection, or rather, connection.
  2. Your ONLY job as a loved one/support person is to f*cking SHOW UP.

Suicide. Divorce. Job loss. Miscarriage. Amputation. Death. Addiction. Mental Illness. Anxiety. Depression. Caretaking. The list is forever long.

The truth is: You can’t fix anyone else’s pain. And you’re the ONLY one who can fix your own.

Read that again. Let it sink in. And give up the agenda, the mission, the project to transform your loved one out of their anguish and into deep fulfillment and happiness (while simultaneously lavishing undying gratitude on you for the rest of their days for rescuing them).

It ain’t gonna happen. Nor should it. Because that’s actually robbery. You trying to jump in and rob them of the process they are absolutely dependent on moving through in order to heal themselves is a not your job.

Don’t be a robber. Instead, be present. Be THERE. Existing WITH them. Standing beside them. Hugging, holding hands, sharing kleenex and “what the fuck is life” convos while shaking your fist at heaven.

You imposing your human energy in their space, in their terrible, awful realm of sadness, will inevitably shift the energy of their current existence. Even if they never show a sign of it, they’ll sense they’re not alone.

Human touch and eye contact and presence. Well, it’s absolutely everything when you’re sitting in your darkest hour. So, show up. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Don’t be polite or tactful and “give them space” (unless you’ve already shown up and they’ve said “k, thanks. Bye.” In that case, wait a little while and show up again).

Oh, and by the way… if you are reading this post-robbery or post-epically failing to show up, it’s not too late. I don’t care if it was days or decades ago, as long as you’re both breathing, it’s never too late to apologize or own up to what you didn’t know but now you do.

We all experience pain and we all mess up. Perfection and flawless transitions are not part of any equation that involves humans. But living at your highest level of knowledge and choosing integrity over comfort will get you closer, deeper, and more fulfilled within your relationships then anything else.

Try it. I dare you. Next time someone brings up an emotionally delicate topic and you are triggered with discomfort and the urge to hightail it out of there, try something new. Lean in. Acknowledge their pain and if you want to, address your own ignorance on the topic (“I don’t have any idea what to say, but I want you to know I’m here to listen”). Be curious about their experience and be respectful of their story (“I can’t imagine how you are processing this right now, what is most difficult today?”).

Tact is required in these conversations because your “lean in” will depend on your current bond, the setting, the type of pain, the rawness of the griever, your level of awkwardness, their level of desired privacy, their response to you, etc. So, be aware and pay attention (this would not be a good time to check your phone or wave to someone across the room).

Start with eye contact. From there, just do your best to follow their lead. If the griever mentions their pain, they’re usually going to be open to you leaning in. If you know about the tragedy/loss but the griever hasn’t directly mentioned it, you’ll have to decipher when/where/how is best to show up and connect.

Above all, let human connection be your beginning point. We can do hard things, whether it’s surviving a suicide or engaging in an uncomfortable conversation about someone else’s emotional darkness. We can all do hard things.



PS. I’m here if you have any specific questions or comments. Please don’t hesitate to ask!

Pain is Universal: You’re Not Alone In Yours

Pain is Universal: You’re Not Alone In Yours

Every human experiences pain. It’s inevitable. It’s universal.

When you’re in pain, you have a choice: separate yourself because your pain is unlike everyone else’s OR lock eyes with the ones who have walked through deep pain too and keep living.

I can tell in an instant those who have moved through their pain (not rejecting it, staying in it or running their lives by it); the ones who have sat with it, grieved with bloodshot eyes, and chosen to rediscover life after it. It doesn’t mean we don’t ache or that we “get over” it, but there’s a certain understanding piercing through the eyes of one who has honestly accepted their heartache and it’s noticeable to other grievers instantly.

There are so many clubs no one ever wants to join, but when they are forced in, they’re so thankful others are there to walk with them: the widow/widower club, the survivors of suicide club, the miscarriage club, the loss of a child club, the divorceè club, the cancer club, the amputee club, the PTSD club, the depression/anxiety club, the caretakers club, the loved one of an addict club, this list is endless…

If we look for it, we’ll see our pain in the eyes of strangers all around us. I’m not being Negative Nancy here, asking you to see how woeful the world is, but rather, I’m asking you to notice how alike we are.

You are not alone in your pain.

When you learn to sit with your own pain, deeply observing it and allowing it to exist in you, you will give yourself the most sacred gift a grieving heart can receive: hope to live beyond the darkest hour of your life thus far.

When you meet your darkness, though you fear it will pull you under and suffocate you slowly, it will actually show a splinter of light peeking in on the other side.

You will notice that you are not alone in your experience (no matter how unique, there is nothing new under the sun). You will find there are MANY people equipped and ready to hold your hand and walk you through the the crippling hollow that steals your breath.

Your only job when you’re in pain is this: keep breathing and do not give up.

The reason I fixate on the topic of connection so much is mostly for this reason:

We are all going to experience pain. People are our lifelines in the thick of heartache, tethering us to the world outside and hope beyond this moment. It is imperative for our survival that we are able to maintain connection through our pain.

So, who do you have in your corner? Who’s going to show up when shit goes down? Who’s going to stand beside you and stare your darkness right in the face and not try to fix it, diminish it, delete it, or help you forget it?

If you’re grieving now, reach out (to me, to a support group, to any safe place for your heart). If you’re not in pain now, start building deep connections with people who will be your legs when yours buckle and who you can carry when they are stricken down.

Beauty is all around us. So is pain. If we are truly living, we will see and live both.

No matter where you are, there are people–GOOD people–in the world who are big enough, strong enough, capable enough to hold YOU up while you find your footing.

Life is no joke. It can be ruthless sometimes. And it can be so damn fulfilling too. Everything is temporary, aside from love. Love can live on through generations of pain and healing cycles, death, and dysfunction.

Keep breathing, loves. Find love in the eyes of another human today, it’ll remind you that you’re still alive.



The Self-Sabotage MIND-Field

The Self-Sabotage MIND-Field

Self-sabotage keeps you from being able to receive love. It’ll leave you empty, searching and always wanting more.

But how do you STOP being your own worst enemy? How do you stop getting in your own way and missing out on opportunities for deep connection?

You clean up your mind. Tackling the MIND-field can seem daunting when it’s been wired by unconscious habits, first-family wounds, and years of practice… but there is hope.

It’s time to be your own savior and ride in on a white horse and claim what’s rightfully YOURS: your mind.

It starts with consciousness (aka mindfulness, aka awareness).

Mindfulness is like stepping back and getting a broad view of your life without the sting of self-judgement, shame, or criticism. It’s observing the reality of the condition you’re in and accepting it fully, just as it is. This acceptance isn’t a free pass to continue living in old patterns that aren’t serving you, rather it’s a call to become aware of where you are.

When awareness becomes the new lense to view your life, growth toward your true self naturally presents itself. And it’s that invitation to grow that will allow you to break free from self-sabotage.

How do you become mindful? Well, luckily, there are many paths to living a conscious lifestyle, but in short, it is the practice of connection with self. Whether it is through meditation, prayer, yoga, breath work, or a combination, the key is to quiet the mind and sink deep into yourself. Past the analyzation, through the feelings, and into the soul.

Obsessing, worrying, over-thinking, criticizing, and judging yourself (and others) will only rob you from actually living your life. You’ll miss the whole thing (LIFE) if you never take the time to clean up your mind.

Seems like a no-brainer, but people spend their entire lives running FROM themselves because it takes a hell of a lot of courage to sit with your TRUE self. You know, the one that you’ve been trying to keep hidden from the rest of the world? The dark thoughts, the emotional instability, the crazy tendencies, the deepest dreams, the rawest form.

It’s going to take you realizing that those fears, deficiencies, wounds, triggers, imperfections are all what make you… just a human. And that what may seem to be brokenness is actually your invitation to bloom into power.

Every single person on earth has them. Even Oprah. And that’s f*cking beautiful.

So, start there. Figure out what being a human actually means. This will take you naming and burning all the bullshit ideas about yourself that you picked up along the way through childhood, church, school, family, work, relationships. (A piece of paper or notebook may come in handy here)

I’m a HUGE fan of lists. My current list is titled: FACT vs. FANTASY. This list is another step in me cleaning up my mind. I’ve been running the list for about a week and I already feel freer, lighter, and cleaner in the head! Which means I have more space to connect with my little humans and the world I’m actually involved in today.

What list do you need to start today? Fear vs. Reality, True vs. False Beliefs, Who They Want You To Be vs. Who You Want To Be, Who You Are vs. Who You Want To Be?

Cleaning up the MIND-field is like going to battle. So go in the officer’s tent (your safe alone space) and start drawing up a game plan (listing, naming, observing). Then watch how your newly keen awareness (free of judgement) begins to reveal the triggers and detonation codes.

A clean mind. Sound. Free. Calm. It’s not unattainable. In fact, it’s just around the corner.

Happy cleaning, friends!



On Emotional Exchange

On Emotional Exchange

It doesn’t matter what circle you’re relating in–the church, the dance floor, the family BBQ, the workplace–if you don’t know what you’re worth, you will not be able to identify or set clear boundaries to safeguard YOUR TRUTH.

The world can be ruthless to the unsuspecting. And if you’re running on your default coding (first family habits, relationship dynamics, and emotional intelligence), you’re going to be prey for being taken advantage of or feeling like a doormat.

So, what is it that makes us feel that we OWE people things just because they want things from us?

It’s codependency. It’s perceived opportunity to be seen. It’s a potential path to acceptance.

Remember, if we haven’t given our inner selves a safe home within our soul to rest in, we will be searching (no matter how ludacris the outlet is) for a place to belong.

When someone asks something of us, faulty programming will tell us they WANT/NEED us and that feels damn good to an inner child in need of attention. So, even if we see the flags on the play, we ignore them, because our desire to be accepted is so much greater than our desire to heed caution.

Awareness is the first step to re-coding the programming that isn’t truly serving you. This will require you making space to be quiet, listen to your inner voice, and allow yourself to FEEL (not think) your way through the relevant emotion–rejection, abandonment, loneliness, etc.

Then you can create the kind of “home” you need to feel truly at peace (see How Does Your Garden Grow? on my blog). This is where you will be able to hold your truth, build self-worth, and live with an open heart without fearing being trampled on or betrayed.

If you feel that others take advantage of you or if you feel obligated to accommodate people’s needs and it is taking a toll on your mental, physical or emotional well-being, it’s time to do some shadow work and follow the trigger feeling to its source.

But only do this if you’re tired of circling the same cycles in your life. Only pay attention if you are fed up with feeling empty and depleted from your relationships. Only lean in if your current tactics aren’t serving you anymore.

Once you see it one time, you’ll see it everywhere. That’s what growth does to you. It expands you. Makes you larger. Calls you into greatness.



Fault vs. Responsibility: What’s the Diff?

Fault vs. Responsibility: What’s the Diff?

Fault vs. Responsibility, do you know the difference?

Taking Responsibility does not mean condoning behavior nor does it equal admission.
Owning your part of the play (whether that is your own behavior within a relationship/situation or your response to toxic behavior against you), is where you uncover POWER in life.

The more you look for areas where you can own your emotions, actions, inactions, avoidance, and truth, the more empowered you will become.

This is applicable in EVERY area of your life: health, career, relationships, your past.
Where have you been caught up in fault-finding and blame-focused behaviors?

Pay attention every time the thought crosses your mind, “Well, it’s not my fault…” and actively shift your thoughts to “In this situation, what is/was my responsibility and where did I fail to step up?”

This will not only shift your focus from outside your realm of control to where you have power, but it will inevitably reshape your life, setting you up to not give a f*ck about all the meaningless sh*t that keeps you distracted from what really matters: self-discovery, inner peace and fulfillment!

Be sure to check out Will Smith’s YouTube video on this topic: pure brilliance.



The Trigger-Blame Game

The Trigger-Blame Game

Has anyone ever said to you, “You always want more… you expect too much… I can never seem to make you happy…” or anything else similar?

If so, listen up! That’s a red flag on the play! Codependency is in the HOUSE!
Often when we can’t clearly define our own needs, we project our frustration/unmet expectations/lack of fulfillment on other people (usually those closest to us).

Although the problem may TRULY feel like his inability to be attentive or her mood swings or his time management issues or her endless nagging… the problem ACTUALLY started much earlier than all of that.

It started when you weren’t aware of your own needs/wants within a relationship and therefore you didn’t communicate them effectively (bc you didn’t even know what they were), so your person never actually got to sign that contract you covertly wrote up and held them to!

Now you may say, “Obviously I’ve told them their behavior bothers me and it just ends up in a bickering match.”

Well, there could be a lot of reasons for that- but if you don’t come full circle with your relational needs (meaning: 1. Trigger 2. Pay attention to self/practice self-soothing 3. Figure out want/need to heal and provide that for yourself first, then 4. Effectively communicate what you need from your person 5. Calmly discuss how you can work together to help you heal), as in, if you skipped any of these steps- then yeah… when you bring up an issue, there’s a high chance for reactive behavior to ensue.

It’s critical that you establish a pattern of self-care in order for you to understand what you need to feel safe and loved within relationship. That is 100% your responsibility. And when we abandon ourselves there and place that responsibility on our people, we unconsciously set a trap for ourselves and our relationship.

Do you do this? Have you been blamed for someone else’s unspoken needs not being met?





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