THE BLOG
11/11/2014 11:33 am ET Updated Jan 11, 2015

Allow Yourself to Feel Pain

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I've been called "a force of nature." I do not cry often, at least not in public. When I do it is more out of self-pity than true genuine sadness. When bad things happen to me, I smile and move on -- until I get home. Then I process every single little thing that happened. Every word. Every action. Every mistake. Every feeling I may or may not have had. This could take hours, weeks, months or years depending on how much it impacted me. And all of this time you'd never know that my brain was processing all this information for so long until eventually I tell you -- and that is if I even bother to tell you at all.

The truth is no one makes out of his or her life unscathed by some wrong or hurt. To the degree that it matters to some more than others, it could have a lasting impact on how we live our lives. I think a healthy amount of introspection is good and when I do write about lessons I have learned in my life for the entire public to read it is because I have been struggling for a very long time with this lesson and I hope my hard-earned insights will benefit others. Doing the work is hard. If being happy were so easy, everybody would be doing it.

A little background to how we were raised and taught to deal with conflict is important here so I'll share my background. It's the all too common immigration story. My parents came from Cuba with nothing but the clothes on their back. Our family motto was "No excuses." Life was tough for them but not for me because I had everything so I could never complain. If I complained, I was ungrateful and did not understand the meaning of sacrifice. I'd come home from middle school where I had some very painful experiences, and my dad would say, "Tough times never last, but tough people do." I could not just mourn the end of friendship or a bad situation, I had to get right back up on the saddle and just work harder. Be the best. Move on. Be tough. Stand up for myself. Just have thicker skin.

Sounds heroic I tell you but it did not work for me. The reason it did not work is because I am a sensitive soul. To pretend to be anything else has impacted my relationships, my ability to be happy and my ability to be my authentic self. Very few people ever see my softer side, which is something I am deeply and wrongly proud of. Being sensitive is often perceived in our culture as a sign of weakness and I may be sensitive, but I am most definitely not weak and I am not afraid to slay the dragons. But I only became tough in appearance because I had to be tough. I think to some extent that conditioning has helped me get through some aspects of my career but in reality, it's just not me. I do not want to be strong all the time anymore.

What I have learned recently is that by trying to stop the process of feeling any pain I felt as a kid and later on throughout my life, I was wedging those hurts into my psyche. Once a perceived hurt is wedged in, it will fester and become an actual hurt whereas, if I had just learned to feel the pain in the moment, acknowledge it and then let it go (no revisiting), I would have had a much happier life.

It sounds much more complicated than it is but if you think about it this way -- when you are in pain, you tend to retreat immediately "wow that hurt" and then you avoid situations or people in order to no longer feel that type of pain again. We get into a pattern of avoidance, whether its relationships, situations, places or things because we feel by avoiding things they will just go away or we can avoid those situations. Are you really going to avoid every human you encounter for the rest of your life?

So the way to deal with emotional pain it is to not retreat -- face whatever is causing you pain head on. Feel the pain, acknowledge it and then let it go. Practice being a dispassionate observer, because all life really is just one very long lesson on letting go. If you learn to put this method for dealing with pain into practice, your life will feel lighter and you will be much happier. It will happen almost immediately, like taking a Sudafed for your soul. All the emotional pores that were once clogged up, will just open up. I promise.