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Unpacking Clean Pain and Dirty Pain


Hey there, let's talk about something we all face at some point: pain. Yeah, it's that unwelcome guest that barges into our lives unannounced. But guess what? Not all pain is cut from the same cloth. There's this interesting concept in psychology developed by Dr. Steven Hayes that splits pain into two categories: clean pain and dirty pain. It’s a topic I’ll be discussing on an upcoming podcast and because of that wanted to share some ideas with you here on the subject.


Clean Pain: The Real Talk


Okay, picture this: clean pain is like that raw reaction you have when life throws you a curveball. It's the real and immediate hurt that hits you when things go south. You know, that ache in your chest when you drop your baby off at a college dorm, or the tears that show up uninvited after a betrayal. Clean pain is a sign that you're human, feeling, and alive. It's like a signpost that says, "Hey, something important is happening here."


Let's take that betrayal for instance. Feeling sad, angry, or even heartbroken – that's clean pain. It's like your heart's way of saying, "Hey, this situation matters, and I need to deal with it." Clean pain is where personal growth is forged.


Dirty Pain: The Drama Queen of Suffering


Now, dirty pain, on the other hand, is like that friend who overstays their welcome and turns your house into a mess. It's the pain we add to our lives with our thoughts, attitudes, and refusal to let go. You know, like when something goes wrong and suddenly you're playing a mental reel of every tiny detail, tearing yourself apart with thoughts like "I'm never going to get this right" or "It's all my fault." Dirty pain is like the drama queen of suffering – it thrives on our mental turmoil and keeps the hurt alive longer than it should.


Remember that betrayal? Dirty pain is when you're clinging onto those thoughts, blaming yourself relentlessly, and making yourself miserable long after the event itself. It's like wearing a shirt of negativity that you can't take off.


I’ll never forget my dirty pain......I was with a new friend, wallowing in a story of mine, one that was very painful, and one that was more than three years ago She listened with empathy then said to me, “Aren’t you tired of telling that story? That’s no longer a part of your life – give it up.” A lightbulb went off in my head…..YES, time to give that one up.


Mastering Mindfulness in the Pain Game


So, how do we deal with these two different pains? Here's some ideas:


Stay Tuned In: The first step is being aware of what you're feeling. Become the observer of your own thoughts. Notice any emotions without judging yourself. It's like being your own detective, observing without passing a verdict.


Embrace the Feels: Accept that pain is part of life's roller coaster. Clean pain is real – it's a natural reaction. Embrace it, but don't let it bulldoze you.


Mind the Thoughts: When those negative thoughts start dancing in your brain, take a moment to question them. Are they actually helpful, or are they just stirring up more trouble?


Be Your Own Best Friend: Treat yourself like you'd treat your best friend who's going through a rough patch. Be kind, be gentle, and don't pile on extra misery.


Release the Grip: Mindfulness means letting go of those thoughts and emotions that keep you stuck in a loop. Imagine them as leaves on a river – they come and go, and that's okay.


Grow: Instead of feeding the dirty pain drama, focus on the lessons clean pain brings. See it as a chance to evolve, to learn, and to become stronger.


Lean on Others: Don't be afraid to reach out to friends, family, or professionals when the going gets tough. Sometimes, a fresh perspective is all you need.


Bottom line, pain is a huge part of life, but you get to decide how you’re going to deal with it. Clean pain is a sign you're living life fully, and dirty pain is the unnecessary baggage we all need to learn to ditch. So, next time you're faced with pain, feel it, and let it go. You're stronger than you think!

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