What we say and what we do, especially in the heat of an emotionally charged moment, can usually be traced back to originate from one of two figurative areas: From our “brain” or from our “pain”*. Consider the following:
Our Brain – This is the metaphorical part of our consciousness that can put aside emotion to instead use rational and reasonable thinking. Decisions and actions are then based on a combination of sound judgment, reason, logic and good sense.
Our Pain – This symbolizes our personal collection of emotionally-charged memories of how we were mistreated, abused, hurt, frightened, cheated, tricked or taken advantage of in the past. This can be especially hard to ignore when the pain comes from a deep emotional scar or when the painful wound is still “open” (e.g. has not healed yet)
Surely you are already aware of the value of thinking before reacting and it is likely that you have been instructed to think before you speak since childhood. However, the question is, are you putting this into practice, especially in difficult, impassioned, or emotionally sensitive situations? It can be a challenge. Consider a few common ways to recognize if your thoughts and actions are coming more from your “brain” or more from your “pain”
Know Yourself…Questions for Discussion:
Did anything in the above chart stand out to you personally? What are some of your strengths and challenges?
When it comes to emotional pain, what are some of your sensitive areas? (Think about things that can trigger you)
Discuss and share as a group: What is helpful to you personally when it comes to successfully managing your emotions in a positive way, even when you may be feeling triggered?
*This concept of “brain vs. pain” is being presented in a very basic and brief format as a simplified tool for decision making when facing stress or conflict particularly when coping with a substance use or mental health issue. Similar expanded and more detailed versions of this concept our outlined and explained in greater detail in several therapeutic approaches such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and others.