Knowing the Difference Between Clean and Dirty Pain Can Change Your Life

podcast Dec 15, 2020


Can't listen? Here's the transcript: 

Hey Dethroners!  Today I want to talk about ending unnecessary suffering in our lives, by knowing the difference between clean and dirty pain.  I would say that most of my clients work with me because in some area of their life, they are suffering. They are struggling in their business or career, they are struggling with a relationship, they are struggling with getting healthy, they are struggling with parenting, or they are struggling with feeling good about themselves.  And that is because they have been swimming in the river of misery that has been created by THEIR thoughts, and they aren’t even aware of their role in creating their pain.  For most people, their automatic thoughts are a complete blind spot-- most people who are suffering attempt to change their circumstances without changing their thoughts.  And this is what continues to perpetuate unnecessary suffering.  This is what is known as ‘dirty pain’

I want people to know the difference when they are experiencing dirty pain and clean pain.  Pain is part of life-- as the saying goes, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”  I want our kids to grow up in a world where we are all able to KNOW how to intentionally think-- how to use your minds in a way that you never have before, so that you are knowing how to direct your brain with intentionality so that you can make big changes in your life, and create a different future for yourself.  That’s what I support people in doing-- to create a different future.  And to create a different future, you need to know when your Inner Critic mind is creating dirty pain.

I didn’t invent the concept of clean pain versus dirty pain.  But this concept is very useful and necessary to anyone who ever suffers for any reason, which is all of us!  Clean pain is what you feel when something happens that is, well, painful.  The death of someone we love, a break up, an unexpected job loss, a failure or rejection of some kind.   It is the pain we feel when we are responding to an event in the here and now.  And there is pain there, for sure!  And sometimes the pain is so intense that it manifests itself physically. And that is because there is a profound connection between the body and the mind.  So, I have a colleague who lost her son to a drug overdose years ago.  This loss was extremely painful for her, of course.  But, through her grief, through her sadness, through missing her son, she was still able to continue her life.  She allowed herself to grieve, and she also allowed herself to find joy and laughter and connection and strength from others.   And that is because, although she was experiencing pain, she did the work to manage her thoughts in a way that allowed her to go through an experience that is incredibly painful, and navigate it without being paralyzed.  Because she allowed herself to fully experience her grief.  She didn’t stuff it, numb it, operate on top of it.  She was willing to actually feel her negative emotions, which is something that many people aren’t willing to do.  And when you aren’t willing to FEEL your pain, that is how we create dirty pain.  

"Dirty" pain is the result of our automatic Inner Critic thoughts about how wrong this is, how that shouldn’t have happened, how we shouldn’t have done what we did, how it proves we -- and life -- are bad. It is generated by our Inner Critic mind. It is the suffering we create for ourselves in the privacy of our own mind, when our Inner Critic is spinning stories about what it all means and why our pain is "different" or “worse” or “unbearable”. Your Inner Critic assigns meaning to a difficult circumstance and blames you, or someone else for why it happened, and is should-ing all over it-- like it should have been different, I should have been different, or they should have been different.  

Some examples of clean versus dirty pain:

 Clean pain: “I lost my job unexpectedly and I am really sad about it”

Dirty pain: “I lost my job because I am stupid, not good enough, don’t have what it takes, and will never have the career I really want.”  Or  “My mom died and I miss her a lot.” versus  “My mom wouldn’t have died if I had just been a better daughter, if she had just eaten better, or my step dad would have been better to her.  Dirty pain is blaming yourself or someone else for something that you can’t control, or worrying endlessly about a past experience or about what could happen in the future.

 Are you seeing the differences here? Clean pain is real, valid, pain about a current circumstance.  Dirty pain is what our Inner Critic says about the circumstance.

Why are so many people unwilling to feel their pain?  Remember, we have a part of our brain that is primitive-- this is our lizard brain, and the part of our brain that is dominated by instinct or impulse rather than rational thought.  So our primitive brain actually thinks that negative feeling equals death.  Fear and anxiety means we are about to be eaten by a tiger.   Rejection, failure, loneliness and sadness means that we are going to be abandoned by our tribe.  Because back in caveman times, that was the job of our primitive brain-- keep us alive by making sure we could run from danger and stay safe by being accepted by our tribe.  That was all we needed to worry about millions of years ago.  So that is our hard wiring.  We are hard wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  So, of course, our automatic instinct is to NOT FEEL, or at least to try to make our negative feelings go away as quickly as possible.  And unfortunately, this is the polar opposite of how we actually become the best and grandest versions of ourselves.  When we are acting from our primitive brain, that IS our Inner Critic mind.  That is the part of your mind that is on autopilot, hard wired to keep you away from your pain.  So when your Inner Critic is in control of your life, your Inner Critic mind is creating dirty pain.  

I didn’t create the MIND method to eliminate your pain.  That is impossible, although I know that is what most people think they want.  But, I am sorry to say that when you are showing up in your life and creating big things and making big changes, you are going to experience pain.  Because pain is actually the flip side of experiencing a well lived life, where we are creating exhilarating joy and profound love by stepping outside of our comfort zone over and over again.  So if you are wanting to create big things in any area of your life, you need to expect and embrace pain.  But unnecessary suffering is something different altogether.  So let’s talk about how to use the MIND method to get our dirty pain, clean.  

Practicing the MIND method is ongoing-- daily in fact.  Because you are going to always have your circumstances, but either your Inner Critic is going to be automatically generating thoughts about the circumstances, which results in dirty pain, or you are going to practice intentional thoughts, which create clean pain.  And when you know how to separate yourself from dirty pain, you can try completely new things by knowing how to use the untapped potential in your mind.  So think about this question, “How has your Inner Critic created your life so far?”  That will get you in touch with the dirty pain that has been ruling your mind.  

The first step of the MIND method, M= meet your Inner Critic.  The first step involves observing and feeling your emotions.  Your emotions will give you access to your Inner Critic thoughts.  Any time you feel a certain way that feels like suffering, ask yourself, “What am I thinking?” and practice being with that feeling instead of avoiding, resisting, or reacting to it.When you can see your Inner Critic thought, that is when you can do the work to see that your current thought is actually a choice.  It’s not “the truth”.  Creating new pathways for your brain is about learning to experiment with completely new thoughts.  This is how you change the old Inner Critic habits and patterns by practicing new thoughts over and over.  The I= investigate the indication signs-- these are the blinking red lights that alert you to your dirty pain.  Feelings like Blame, shame, anger, frustration, anxiety, this is dirty pain created by your Inner Critic.  When you see the thought creating the pain, you will recognize that those thoughts are not new.  This is the third step of the MIND method N= neutralize the never ending message.  If you are having a thought that you didn’t reach your goal because you’re not good enough, that is NOT a new thought.  You have had that thought a gazillion times before since you have been a little child.  When we clearly see the never ending message, we can see it’s been with us for forever, and we are just assigning the same meaning to our current circumstance.  My Never ending message I am not good enough is the first place my Inner Critic mind goes when some part of my life doesn’t match the way my Inner Critic wants it to look.  Which takes us to the final step, D=design your life.  If I am going to create the life of my dreams, then I need to intentionally cultivate clean thoughts when I am faced with failure, rejection, loss, or any other painful circumstance.  When my business partner left my business 2 years ago, my Inner Critic wanted to convince me that I didn’t have what it took.  But I knew that was just my Inner Critic’s story.  So instead, I deliberately created thoughts generated by my AS, who knows how powerful I really am.  So within a year and a half, I literally tripled my business.  With my mind.  

Unhooking from your Inner Critic mind and stepping into a new mind MEANS that you are intentionally bypassing your primitive instincts.  You have to be willing to intentionally shift so that you let yourself sit in your pain-- sitting in the pain is meeting your Inner Critic.  Actually feeling where your pain IS in your body-- these are your Indication signs--are your shoulders tense, is your chest tight, do you have a sinking feeling in your stomach.  We have to be willing to experience all of that.  Now, when you aren’t used to feeling those feelings, it can be terrifying.  But ask yourself, “If I am willing to just let myself feel this, let the pain just be, what is the worst that can happen?”  See your Inner Critic thinks it IS the WORST THING, and so is always strategizing to come up with all of the solutions to avoid feeling the pain-- avoid the possibility of fear, loss, rejection, sadness, failure-- because that brings up the never ending message over and over.  And if we are spending our life trying to avoid all of that, how can we really have the lives we want?  How can we find true authentic love and connection with other humans if we are too afraid of rejection?  How can we really be out there and exposed and vulnerable and taking risks and stepping out of our comfort zone over and over again?  Remember, when we do this, it DOESN’T FEEL GOOD!  And the anticipation of not feeling good is WORSE than actually feeling it!  In anticipation of possibly not feeling good, our Inner Critic will drum up every worse case scenario possible, and how to avoid all of those potential dangers.  Now, research shows that 90% of what our Inner Critic worries about, doesn’t come true.  But our primitive brain doesn’t know that. Our primitive brain reacts as though all of those worse case scenarios are actually happening right now.  That’s why you can be lying in your warm, comfy bed, and your heart can be racing in anticipation of your big meeting tomorrow where you might blow the deal.   

If we are just willing to feel our feelings, then we don’t have to live our lives warding off so much danger.  We can just LIVE-- we can take the actions that are going to get us to our dreams, even if they are really scary!  That is clean pain.  And that is consistent with the D step, design your life.  Going for your dreams doesn’t feel good a lot of the time!  But Trying to ward off feelings is sooo much worse than actually experiencing them!  That is dirty pain--And unless you allow yourself to experience the emotion, it’s hard to actually know what you’re thinking.   When You feel your feelings, you  use them as the brilliant teachers that they are.  Because if we can sit in our pain, and get quiet and still, we can actually examine and observe the thoughts that are creating that feeling.  Remember, it is NEVER the circumstances that cause our feelings.  It is always our THOUGHTS about the circumstances.  So if you are willing to relax and allow the feelings, you will learn SO much about what is keeping you from what you really want.  Your Inner Critic will tell you that having the feeling means there is something WRONG.  Your Inner Critic says, you shouldn’t have that feeling-- it’s a problem that needs to be solved-- but it’s actually NOT!  A feeling is just a feeling.  In fact, there is no such thing as a bad feeling.  Your Inner Critic wants to label feelings as bad.  

Clean pain is part of what it means to be human.  We experience loss because we experience love.  And when we are experiencing loss, we allow ourselves to have the full spectrum of emotions and body sensations that come with that.  When we avoid pain, that is when it becomes dirty pain.  We get stuck in our pain because our Inner Critic mind wants us to run away from it.  You are stuck in the Inner Critic thought loop of thinking negative thoughts about yourself, or someone else, or some circumstance that feels scary.  So my colleague who lost her son didn’t stay stuck in thoughts that made her angry about her son’s drug addiction, or angry and blaming herself, or her husband or God, about his overdose.  As the buddhist saying goes, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.  Suffering is created when our Inner Critic resists WHAT IS.  Because there is just WHAT IS, and then there are our thoughts about it.  And most of our thoughts about WHAT IS, are nothing more than our Inner Critic STORIES that we are mistaking for the truth.  WHAT IS, is that my colleague’s son died of an overdose.  The thoughts my colleague chooses to think about her son’s death, those thoughts are up to her.  If she is allowing her automatic Inner Critic mind to run amok, she might stay stuck in dirty pain and suffer for the rest of her life in anger and despair and what if I had done this, and what if he had done that and it should have been different than how it was.  Another way of thinking about this, is what is our Inner Critic mind attached to?  Our Inner Critic wants to manipulate the future so we don’t experience pain, which is impossible.  So when we are attached to how life goes in the future, we are actually creating dirty pain.  

Whenever I get stuck in any attachment to the direction my life should go in, I am stuck in dirty pain.  See, I can take actions that are in alignment with creating a magical life-- I can take action in my business, in my marriage, in all my relationships, in parenting my kids.  Those actions are taking place in the here and now. But the truth is, I have NO IDEA what results those actions will create.  Remember, half of life goes the way we want, half of life doesn’t.  I just need to keep taking the actions, feeling my feelings, sitting in my discomfort over and over again.  That is how I am living a life my Inner Critic never could have imagined.   Because every step of the way, I work on letting go of my attachment. My attachment to being liked, my attachment to what people think, my attachment to other people’s happiness, my attachment to all of it.  Now that is a moment by moment practice for me.  I get stuck in my Inner Critic mind all the time, and I get attached!  And when I am attached, that is when I am creating dirty pain-- there have been times where I have been miserable, even when everything is actually fine!  I am in my Inner Critic mind, future tripping about worse case scenarios, and actually CREATING dirty pain!!!  We humans are so crazy!  So when I have taken an action and it failed, which has happened to me multiple times, I can feel the pain of that-- that is clean pain-- “oh, this didn’t go the way I thought it would.  Ok, now what is there for me to learn?”  We actually WANT that pain because that is how we grow and evolve as humans.  And if we aren’t growing, we are dying.  And I know you all know people who are still living physically, but emotionally they are DEAD because they have spent a lifetime in dirty pain and suffering and resistance and anger-- and that creates shame, and self loathing, and all of these beliefs that either they are wrong and bad, or someone else is wrong or bad, or some circumstance is wrong and bad and shouldn’t have happened and shouldn’t be the way it is. And people stay stuck for their whole lives blaming others, hating them really, for their feelings.  Or thinking they are just not good enough, will never be good enough, and so they don’t take the actions that get them what they want-- in any area of life.  And they personalize other people’s behavior, and use it as evidence to prove their Inner Critic mind right.  And they really believe that mistakes from their past mean there is something wrong with them, and therefore they will never find the love they really want, never have the business they really want, never have the healthy life they want.  That is ALL dirty pain.  Their Inner Critic minds are creating their anger and shame and despair.  And then when they look out into their future, they are just seeing more of the same and actually CREATING their lives to play out the same way over and over again.  

And it truly breaks my heart, which is why I wrote my book and why I do this podcast and why I support people in managing their minds.  I want you ALL to be able to disintegrate your dirty pain that has held you back

Is Your Inner Critic Keeping You From Success?

Find out what your Inner Critic is saying to sabotage your success and how you can move past her limiting beliefs. 


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