Have you ever played the same sad love song over and over again until you were so sick of hearing it, you couldn’t stand to play it one more time? I have. I knew the words so well, I could sing it by heart and each time it played, I relived the same heart-wrenching feelings it triggered deep inside me.
Why would anyone do this to themselves? Do we enjoy pain? Are we punishing ourselves on purpose?
As I was exploring these questions it occurred to me, we often replay painful life experiences over and over in our heads. We vividly relive the difficult feelings these memories trigger such as sadness, hopelessness, and powerlessness. The pain often becomes so intense it affects every area of our life including our careers and businesses.
What happens next determines if we allow the pain to control us or if we take control by transforming it to power.
We attach meanings to these life experiences and then create stories.
These stories disempower or empower us.
Let me give you a personal example:
February 10th of this year would have been my 19th wedding anniversary and a total of 23 years together. My marriage fell apart in 2000, just three years into the marriage and after 7 years together.
My husband cheated on me. I walked in on him and a married female friend engaged in a sexual act. I froze. It felt like a knife stabbed right through my heart. The world stopped spinning and in that moment, I felt dead inside. It was by far one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. I was in so much pain. I felt shame, humiliation and like a failure.
I attached a meaning to the experience: I am not enough.
Then I created a story: I can’t trust others.
This story played over and over in my head for years afterward. This time, it was my own sad love song triggering the disempowering feelings. At the time, I was an executive level leader in my family’s business and my ability to lead effectively was significantly impacted. I allowed the story -that I could not trust others- and attached meaning -I am not enough- to define who I thought I was, hinder my performance and drive my emotional behavior. The effect was far-reaching in my relationships, decision-making, and risk-taking.
Have you ever told yourself the same disempowering story over and over again? Until the pain was so unbearable you couldn’t breathe? Are you experiencing this right now in your life? Is your career or business being negatively impacted?
You have a choice: allow the pain to disempower you or empower yourself by transforming it to power.
Here are 5 steps to transform your pain to power:
Lean into the pain. Numbing yourself through denial will only prolong the pain. Allow yourself to go deep and feel what you are experiencing. In order to heal, you must go through it. You are courageous, confident and strong enough to face whatever happened to you, I promise. Lean into the pain, that’s how breakthroughs happen.
Reach out for help. Find a trustworthy friend, mental health professional and/or support group. Connection, acceptance, and belonging are universal human needs. According to International best-selling author and renown vulnerability researcher Dr. Brené Brown, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Reach out for help, you do not need to do this alone.
Take a break. Spend time resting and relaxing. Do this for your own mental and emotional well-being, the sake of those you love and stability of your leadership, career and business. Throwing yourself into work or other distractions is a temporary solution. Take a break, your body, mind and spirit will thank you.
Rewrite the story. You have the power to change your mind about the meanings and stories tied to your experiences. During a call with Awakening Coach Chris Nielson, I had a huge “Aha” moment. He gently suggested that I walked in on my husband cheating on me once, but, I cheated on myself thousands of times by telling myself I was not enough and couldn’t trust others. Rewrite your story, it will change your life.
Speak your truth. Pain can cause you to shut down, isolate, suppress emotions and keep silent. Finding your voice gives you power. This blog post took me 16 years to write. Telling my story is liberating. I no longer feel sad, hopeless and powerless. I have discovered the lessons in the experience and by sharing my story of transformation, I am better able to serve others. Speak your truth, it will set you free.
Give yourself permission to transform your pain to power and you will feel happy, optimistic and #AuthenticallyPowerful in life, career and business.