Cumbria shootings: emotional pain reduction

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There are comparatively few people in physical pain as a result of Derrick Bird’s shooting spree. The ones he killed are no longer suffering. The dozens left behind, injured and bereaved are the ones hurting, potentially catastrophically. And those uncovering and stirring their own old wounds as they are impacted by the media.

I’m not an anaesthetist so am not going to comment on reduction of purely physical pain.  Though a lot of physical pain is caused by emotional problems, the pain of physical injury is not my brief here.

However, I do have a track record of reducing emotional pain. I can categorically state that emotional pain CAN be reduced, if not completely eliminated, and when it goes, for many people it takes a lot of physical pain with it. That is not speculative comment. It happens. Let me explain a bit more…

Human beings, it seems, have basic emotional needs in the same way that they have basic physical needs in order to exist. Physical needs include food, water, sleep, protection – things like that.  The psychologist Maslow had what he called a Hierachy of Needs, and these physical things are ‘bottom line’ essentials for existence. Without them our physical bodies collapse. Maslow also had on his list emotional needs, and although we can live without them to survive, we cannot live without them without suffering emotionally.  They are emotional essentials. Deprived of them you HURT. Resupply them and the pain stops. Emotional pain is caused by the differential (the gap) between the need and the supply, so sometimes it is perfectly possible to reduce the pain by reducing a person’s need of those emotional essentials.

It’s interesting that some of them are perceptual. Here’s an example. The need to be accepted into a group is generally regarded as a very strong human emotional essential, but if you genuinely don’t interpret a group’s behaviour as rejection, you won’t feel the pain, even though people are rejecting you wholesale. And conversely, if you imagine their behaviour to be rejection, then you will feel pain, even if they are not rejecting you at all!

Emotional pain is very subjective. In other words, to a large extent it is up to you how it affects you. Now that is a useful thing to realise, because, potentially at least, it means that if you are in control of the way you think you can control the emotional pain you experience. This of course, like many things in life, may be simple, but not necessarily easy. The good thing is you can learn how to control it – if you want to. (Some people rather enjoy emotionally induced pain in a way that people can enjoy physically induced pain. It can have some real pluses: be a lifetime talking point, provide identity, and give you a bond with other sufferers.)

You CAN get rid of emotional pain – pretty much anyway. One way, like starvation in your physical body, is to provide what its crying out for. That can work, but it can also have other side effects. Like food, there are optimum levels for your emotional essentials, and too much is as bad as too little. It is easy to overcompensate and damage ourselves. And like a physical wound the damage starts to cause pain.

In Powerchange we have what we call  ‘psychological anaesthetic’ to enable people to find a new (usually lower) level of emotional need and close the differential gap so the pain stops.  The addiction to an external supply of the ’emotional need’ also stops.  Freedom!

It’s that freedom I’m wishing upon the people in West Cumbria this week, and anyone affected by Derrick Bird’s final journey.

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