recognizing emotional pain

Each week at work I spend time on different sites that present content on human elements and human capital in the workplace. These articles help me to explore new or less familiar human resources related topics that help me to perform better at my job and to understand new things in my field that I can expect to encounter.

A couple of the resources that I visit are the SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) website and blog, the Thrive Global daily newsletter that comes to my email inbox, and my favorite: the TedX ideas website. I am assuming many of you are familiar with or have watch/attended/been inspired by Ted talks throughout the last few years. The organization and its influence have spread like wildfire and we even host a local TedX event in Grand Forks.

The Ted ideas website has excellent content sorted by a number of categories: Tech, Business, Arts & Design, Science, and We Humans. You can get to the website but following this link! Earlier this week when I hopped on there to review what was new I found a brand new article in my favorite section (especially as a HR careerist), We Humans, and was immediately drawn to reading it. The title of the article is “Why we need to take emotional pain as seriously as physical pain” and you can read it by following this link.

After I read the article I felt like I needed to take a break for reflection because it brought about so many thoughts and things that I wanted to think through for myself. I read the article on Tuesday the 13th of February and as the week progressed I found its content becoming even more and more relevant for me on a personal level and even more relevant on a national level as we experienced another devastating mass school shooting on Wednesday the 14th.

I won’t recap the article in a large amount of detail here because if you are interested in the topic I would really encourage you to give the article a read yourself after you finish reading my post. It isn’t a crazy lengthy read and it also has a video of the content expert at the end talking on the same subject to get more in-depth. This is the format of all of the articles on the website and I think it’s a great platform that allows you to dig in further on subject and articles that you find helpful, intriguing, and are curious to learn more about.

As you could probably tell from the title of the article it went into depth explaining the differences in our modern society in how physical pain is treated and recognized versus how emotional pain is treated and recognized. I’m sure that without even reading you can guess that as a society it is much easier for us to treat and recognize physical pain because it often has very visible cues and faces. Physical ailments and injuries are (and of course I’m not a doctor!) in my experience fairly easy to see with our eyes and possibly diagnose right away – oh no, looks like you gave your ankle a bad sprain during that soccer practice – someone quick run and get the nurse, it looks like Jen broke her nose during the basketball game and needs medical attention now….

On the flip side of the coin we have emotional pain. Something that often doesn’t surface or show itself in a recognizable or obvious physical way because it is something that we are experiencing internally and the type of emotional pain we’re experiencing or why it came about isn’t apparent to anyone looking at or observing us. That is not to say that emotional pain can’t manifest itself in a physical way (crying, blank looks, anger, visible tiredness, etc) but we aren’t able to understand why someone is experiencing emotional pain unless we ask them.

The author of the article, Guy Winch, describes some of his own experiences through sessions he has had with patients over his years of experience as a psychologist. It was tough to read about the accounts he heard from teenagers who experienced heartbreak or tough emotional situations and then suffered greatly at school because of their inability to focus after being in a difficult emotional scenario. His main story in the article describes an openly gay teenager who worked up the courage to ask another gay kid at his school to hang out after having a crush on him for a long time. When his crush openly declined his invitation and embarassed him in front of other classmates the student had to try to take a test the next period but could barely focus from the emotional distress. When he brought the information forward to his teacher and said he struggled during the exam his teacher told him he was “making excuses”.

As a society (myself included) we don’t often acknowledge or ask others when they seem down if they are in pain of if we can do anything to help. They might not be in outward pain but I have certainly been through my own heartbreak and know that even though you don’t look hurt anywhere physically you are torn and in pain inside. Sometimes emotional pain can last a long time, sometimes it’s gone quickly. Sometimes it comes and goes in waves; when we have reminders of our pain it can come rushing back without a moments notice. As fellow humans I think we could all work harder at showing our compassion for people when they’re in emotional pain. This kind of pain can effect us similarly and it might make it tough to do the normal things that are expected of us at work, school, and in relationships and friendships.

The other aspect of this reflection for me was that often times I don’t acknowledge my own emotional pain that I might be experiencing when I am going through tough situations. This article was a reminder to me that it’s OK if I don’t always feel on top of my game when I’m going through challenges in my work and personal life. I am going to work to be better about keeping my emotional health and awareness at the forefront and not feeling embarrassed by emotionally tough situations.

I wanted to share this with all of you in the hopes that it sparks some reflection for you as well. It’s good to challenge ourselves to step outside of our norm and I am going to challenge myself to be more aware of others: my coworkers, friends, family members and remember to ask them if they’re OK if I get any signs that they might be in pain. Offer to help or just acknowledge that you’re there for them if they need anything. Just having that conversation with someone might make all the difference in the world for them. Having someone acknowledge the pain they’re feeling will be a welcome change and can help them to realize it’s OK if they aren’t feeling 100% like themselves and might need some time to get back to normal.

As always, thanks so much for reading! It was fun to go a little bit different of a direction this week. Look forward to sharing something new with all of you next week 🙂 Have a great one.


xoxo Jen


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s