Pain is an inherent experience in life. Most of us have been injured or heartbroken at least once. So it’s safe to assume you are familiar with both physical and emotional pain. A concept I find that many aren’t as aware of is clean pain versus dirty pain.
Clean pain is physical pain (such as a broken leg) or loss (such as a job or best friend moving to another country). Dirty pain is the story we tell ourselves about that clean pain. It causes deeper and unnecessary suffering. Clean pain is inevitable; dirty pain is optional.
For example, my mother’s suicide is clean pain. Loss of a loved one, and the emotional grief as a result, is clean pain.
Believing her death was my fault, or regretting actions taken (or not taken) prior to it, would be dirty pain. Any “should have, could have, would have” hindsight guilt is dirty pain. Dirty pain prolongs, drags out and muddies our ability to grieve cleanly and clearly.
As a master coach, I help you differentiate between the two. Each requires its own special focus, and different tools, for healing and moving past the pain.
Healing clean pain, such as grief, is mostly giving the time and space to feel it. Often we distract ourselves and bury it in busy-ness because we have a natural aversion to pain. When we give ourselves permission to feel into it, look at it, be with it, and accept it, that emotion will flow and go through it’s natural course…ultimately dissolving and integrating into a new, wiser version of ourselves.
Dirty pain is trickier. It’s like a tangled ball of string. Between society’s conditioning, the belief structure we grew up with and accepted without question, and our own personal journey of collecting stories about the way our life should be, it can be challenging to untie and untangle the knots.
Like a tangled ball of string, we approach it one knot at a time. Sometimes the knots are interconnected and we have to find the source of one other knot to untie before we can untie the one at the forefront. This is pretty much the process of coaching.
I hold safe, sacred space for us to untangle and dissolve the dirty pain as well as process the clean pain.
Are you curious about how much dirty pain you’re holding? Take this quiz to find out!
When answering the questions below, choose one area of loss to focus on. (Repeat the quiz for each loss to understand which one(s) may be holding the most dirty pain.)
Answer “True” or “False” to the following:
- If I’d made different choices, I wouldn’t have lost (person/place/thing).
- I should have been a better (role in that relationship).
- If others had taken different actions, I wouldn’t have lost (person/place/thing).
- I can’t survive without (lost person/place/thing).
- I can’t be happy without (lost person/place/thing).
- I shouldn’t be happy without (lost person/place/thing).
- I’m a terrible person because I…(insert action or inaction).
- If only (different circumstances), I wouldn’t have lost (person/place/thing).
- (Person, place, thing) should be here right now and for future milestones.
- The more I suffer, the more I prove my love, value, and/or dedication.
For every question you answered “True” give yourself 8%. Add up your percentages, and the total is the percentage of dirty pain that you carry regarding this particular loss.
If you’re looking for a safe, sacred space to untangle your mental knots and dissolve dirty pain, I’d be honored to work with you. Schedule a session!