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Eight Ways We Take Refuge in Emotional Pain

emotionalpainNo one likes emotional pain, but some of enjoy the fringe benefits.

The reason why we cling to unnecessary emotional pain has to do with taking unconscious pleasure in it. In other words, we unconsciously understand that it pays to suffer.

Over the course of a lifetime, the toll for this unconscious self-sabotage is high. The added stress of chronic emotional suffering robs you of both quality and quantity of life.

Most people would agree, consciously, that it is not worth it. The problem is, most of us harbor seductive unconscious attachments to emotional suffering that get the best of us.

The attachments have to do with taking refuge in emotional suffering. It’s a dangerous practice, because it makes emotional stress a way of life.

Here are eight statements that reflect this phenomenon:

1. I may feel worthless, but at least I know nothing can be expected of me (relief, safety).

2. I may be angry, but at least it’s not my fault (self-justification, blame, innocence)

3. I may be anxious, but at least I have an excuse not to perform (emotional safety).

4. I may feel discouraged, but at least I don’t have to deal with the risk of success or failure. (emotional protection).

5. I may be standoffish, but it’s because other people are mean (and therefore, I am innocent).

6. I may feel jealous, but at least I am not a slut (I am better than).

7. I may be apathetic, but at least I am not stupid enough to believe that life has inherent meaning (intellectually superior).

8. I may be frustrated with you, but at least I get things done (not a slouch).

How is this above a reflection of emotional self-sabotage?

It is self-sabotage because the negative emotions are not necessary. You don’t need to panic in order to manage expectations. You don’t need to be frustrated to get things done. You don’t need to be angry to hold others accountable. And so on.

We tell ourselves that these negative emotions are doing something for us so that we can hang on to them. We fool ourselves if we think they are necessary.

In fact, they are the least effective means of managing your life, expectations and dealing with challenges.

If you catch yourself in any of the above patterns, ask yourself:

What is a better way to handle this?

How can I manage this situation without getting upset?

How did I learn that becoming emotionally upset gets me what I want?

What do I really want and how I can I make it happen proactively?

Most of all, learn about self-sabotage. Understanding your unconscious emotional habits is a life changer. This free video is a great place to begin.

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Eight Ways We Take Refuge in Emotional Pain

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2013). Eight Ways We Take Refuge in Emotional Pain. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Aug 2013
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