Dealing with Painful Emotions

Dealing with Painful Emotions without Suffering 

Ritual Humanism® teaches that when you push something away or grasp on to it, you cause suffering. If your lover leaves you and you have a lot of pain, as I suspect you might, that pain magnifies as you try to force it away. If you just let it be pain and stand back and observe it, it is still pain, but not devastating. If you are currently feeling emotional pain – or physical pain for that matter, just try separating yourself from it and watching it as if it were happening to someone else.

I don’t mean to try to hide the pain or do away with it, just mentally separate yourself from it and observe. Perhaps it will help to describe it as if you were talking to someone else.

Letting go of the suffering associated with the pain is different from letting go of the pain itself. These emotions are valid – whether they are from physical pain or from emotional pain. We just want you to learn to deal with the pain in a different way that takes some of the suffering away.

By examining your emotions, you are revealing yourself to them. Looking and describing but not acting on your feelings can keep you from being swallowed up or overwhelmed by them.

We can choose to accept painful emotions without approving of them. When we do this we begin to let go of the hold they have on us and the suffering that they cause. Allowing yourself to realize that you have those emotions and that they are real and valid, does not mean that you approve of them. We don’t approve of the suffering they might cause or approving of the events that caused these emotions.

Again - you can choose acceptance without choosing to approve of these emotions or the events that caused them. In fact, I would think you a bit odd if you did approve of painful emotion. It is not OK that we feel so much pain. It is just a fact that we can do little about.

What do you think the effect of accepting your painful emotions might be on your level of suffering?

If you are still struggling with the difference between pain and suffering, look at it like this: Suffering is the pain plus the frantic efforts to push to pain away, and feeling about the injustice of our suffering and the pain of having our pain.

So start by observing your emotion. Acknowledge that the emotion exists. Stand back from it and get yourself unstuck from it.

Experience your emotion as a wave, coming and going. You may find it helpful to concentrate on some part of the emotion, like how your body is feeling, or some image about it.

Lisa Dietz author of DBT Self Help, states that she imagines an ocean wave:

  • I try to imagine an ocean wave flowing through me, but not so big that it knocks me over
  • Don't try to push the emotion away. This makes it bigger, and increases our suffering. Don't reject the emotion.
  • Don't judge your emotion. It is not good or bad. It is just there. There are no bad emotions, just emotions. Anger, fear, sadness are all painful emotions, but they are not bad. Everyone has them, and they are just as valid as the happy emotions.
  • At the same time, do not hang onto your emotion. Don't rehearse it over and over to yourself. Don't escalate it or make it bigger.
  • Sometimes when we feel a very painful emotion, like anger or a deep  grief, we hold onto it, or we intensify it, making it stronger or bigger, in our efforts to deal with it or to give it our full  attention.  Try not to do this. Just let it be however it is. This can result in a lessening of the pain.


  • Observe your emotion. Stand back.
  • Experience your emotion as a wave, coming and going.
  • Don't push away your emotion. Accept it.
  • Don't judge your emotion. It's not good or bad
  • Don't hang on to your emotion.
  • Try not to intensify your emotion. Let it be how it is.
  • Remember that you are not your emotion.
  • Remember that you don't necessarily have to act on your emotion.
  • Practice loving your emotions.

Remember that you are a courageous person for doing this work, and that you deserve and will have success and move closer to a happier and more fulfilling life.



Our next page is directed toward someone Living with a Chronic Illness. Otherwise, you can learn how Our Brains are Wired for Ritual.