High-Risk Baggage: Emotional Pain Memory

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It is an unavoidable reality of being human: Life has stress.  

Stress itself is not always a bad thing.  For instance, challenging ourselves to stretch beyond our limitations in physical endurance or academics can be stressful, but these efforts can also make us stronger and can allow us to explore our human potential.

Stress produces collateral damage, however, when it hits a tipping point and becomes "too much."  What constitutes too much depends upon a number of factors: a person's individual capacity for handling stress, the intensity and duration of the stressor, other current stressors at influence, assistance/resources available, and more.  


When a situation in life becomes too much, we experience overwhelm.  In a state of overwhelm, we lose our capacities to stay emotional and psychologically present -- sometimes dissociating from our bodies completely.  It is in these moments that, what I call "Emotional Pain Memory" begins to accumulate within the body.  

Emotional Pain Memory (EPM) is a backlog of unmetabolized emotion that stores itself within the body's tissues.  This accumulation of toxic emotion threatens our health, stresses our relationships, and decreases our ability to lead functional, fulfilling, enjoyable lives.

Here are some of the leading causes of EPM

  • Singular or repetitive traumatic experience
  • Loss - a loved one, a home, a job, a relationship, catastrophy
  • Big life changes or transitions
  • Living out of integrity with your true self
  • Stress.  A vicious cycle: Too much stress begets more stress and on it goes!

Every person alive experiences at least one of the causes of EPM.  Regardless of the severity of the experience, we tend to have strongly-ingrained tendencies toward accumulating negative emotions and not discharging them.  

Releasing the EPM Baggage

Unfortunately, most of us wait until things have become so overwhelming that life becomes unbearable, before we take steps to address the backlog of Emotional Pain Memory -- our health is suffering, our anxiety is at a peak, our relationships are suffering, and there is a feeling of "I just can't stand it anymore!"

It's at this point that I usually meet my clients...in this "acute stage."  

If we knew better, most of us wouldn't actively choose to pile on this EPM baggage.  The problem is, we generally don’t have techniques for effectively releasing the intense emotional charges inherent in overwhelming life experiences.

Exercise, meditation, rest, eating well, and generally avoiding toxins (be they substances, people, or situations) can help a great deal to minimize EPM.  It is a reality, however, that life throws us curves that any amount of good lifestyle habits cannot overcome.  

This is the point when we need to reach out and get support.  

While many of us are conditioned to be "self reliant," there comes a time when that self reliance becomes a hinderance...not an asset.  If you find yourself being overwhelmed by life and Emotional Pain Memory, do the smart thing and reach out for support.