Now you know why investigating your emotions can help you heal, and you’ve done some work to find the main culprits. Negative emotions, besides hindering your healing, just aren’t much fun. It’s not exactly something you’ve dreamed of—feeling fear, panic, anger, or despair (to name a few of the biggies) on a daily basis.
In fact—now think about this one—it’s actually your emotions about this vulvodynia experience that make it so un-fun. If you were feeling pain but didn’t feel upset about it, you would just feel pain. It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad or good thing in your life. It wouldn’t have a descriptor attached to it in your mental blog. (i.e. “This pain sucks! This pain is ruining my sex life! I can’t stand this pain!”) Without the mental angst, pain is just pain, and it exists and then it doesn’t. There’s no more to it than that. I’m not saying you can now immediately separate your emotions, thoughts, and physical pain. We are used to labeling our experiences mentally as we go through them, and then feeling an associated emotion. Undoing this connection takes more than a one-time epiphany.
Ironically, thinking about your pain only intensifies it and creates more mental discomfort for you. Pain, however, tends to be an attention-getter. It’s not always an easy thing to focus somewhere else when feeling pain. It’s also not so easy to simply stop feeling an emotion, especially when it is a strong, negative one. We are not all yogis with amazing meditative skills. We can, however, borrow one skill from the meditative geniuses to reduce both our focus on pain and our emotional discomfort in one fell swoop.
To change your focus from pain, physical and emotional, you need a new place to settle your attention. Close your eyes for a moment and move your focus inward to the most magical part of your body—the breath. Let your mind follow your breath, just observing, not changing it, for a few minutes. Really discover what is happening in your chest. Are you breathing quickly? Do you feel short of breath? Describe your own breath to yourself as you watch it.
Redirecting your focus to your breath is a simple, effective tool you can use anywhere, anytime, even when you are in a public venue. Doing this for several minutes can quickly calm a surge of panic, fear, anger, or despair. Deep breathing is also a powerful tool if used properly, but right now, all you need to do is turn your attention to your regular breath and let it flow. If a peaceful word pops into your head as you watch your breath, go ahead and use it as a mantra. This can strengthen your focus. It can be a simple as saying “in” as you breathe in and “out” as you breathe out.