Emotional pain is challenging to deal with, and not only because of the event or relationship that created the misery in the first place. If people don’t acknowledge their emotional wounds, they may act out in self-defeating ways or inflict injury on those around them, according to Dr. Venus Nicolino. Or — worst-case scenario — they do both.


Nicolino, who holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, advises people to find ways of releasing emotional pain that are healthy, giving themselves peace and a better handle on their emotions. 


“Take it out. But not on others and not on yourself,” Dr. Venus Nicolino said in a video on her popular TikTok page. “Stress, pain, and old traumas can cause us to take out our internal issues on others. Or, just as bad, on ourselves. That stuff inside us, it’s going to come out, no way around that. But there are positive ways to take it out, to release the hurt without hurting others and without multiplying our suffering.”


People don’t have to take up extreme sports as a physical release, she said. But they must find ways to let go of the torment with something that benefits them while not hurting others. As Nicolino put it, you need to find activities “where minds tend to drift, just like some of the pain will.”


What Is Emotional Pain?


The term “emotional pain” is heard often, but what exactly does it mean? The first step in handling emotional pain in a healthy way is understanding what it is and where it comes from.


Emotional pain is a natural response to difficult feelings, according to the Center for Mental Wellness. A variety of sources can cause emotional pain, including grief, trauma, stress, toxic relationships, and loss. These experiences imprint themselves on both the mind and body.


While these events offer valuable life lessons and often lead to people empowering themselves, these positive outcomes only happen if emotional pain is acknowledged. Suppressing it can have detrimental effects on health and overall happiness. 


It’s important to recognize that a person’s thoughts are potent triggers for emotions, creating a strong link between mental and emotional pain. For instance, anxiety significantly impacts how someone processes and manages emotions. It can become so bad that it hinders their ability to carry out daily routines.


Similarly, experiencing a traumatic event, such as losing a loved one, may lead to profound emotional anguish. Some signs that may accompany emotional pain include fatigue, reduced time spent with family and friends, struggles with anger management, difficulty with eating habits, lack of motivation for completing tasks, and feelings of guilt and hopelessness.


Regardless of the root cause, emotional pain has far-reaching effects. It’s crucial to develop healthy coping mechanisms to effectively navigate and overcome these obstacles. 


Emotional Pain Is Going To Come Out, Dr. Venus Nicolino Explains


Dr. Venus Nicolino noted that emotional pain is going to come out whether a person acknowledges it or not. The best first step in handling it is to admit experiencing it.


“You’re going to have to start by acknowledging you have some issues deep inside that bother you. If not, you’re the lucky 0.0001% of the population,” said Dr. Nicolino, author of Bad Advice: How to Survive and Thrive in an Age of Bulls–t. 


“But if you’re like the rest of us, you need to spend time figuring out where those issues came from. Some of it isn’t pretty, but you are strong enough to take a look at it. If you’re strong enough to be living with it, you’re definitely strong enough to be examining it, right?”


Not doing so can lead to behavior and habits that take a toll on the people experiencing the hurt, as well as the people around them. One of the first missteps people make is denial, according to Mental Health America, which involves people refusing to accept or admit that anything’s wrong or that they may need help. When people bottle up problematic feelings, they may later act out in adverse ways. 


Some of those harmful ways may include withdrawal from anything that involves being around others, bullying (including threats and ridiculing others), self-harm, and substance abuse. 


Healthy Ways To Release Emotional Pain


When it comes to healthy ways to release this negativity, Dr. Venus Nicolino believes people need to get in tune with their feelings. After acknowledging emotional distress and the feelings it’s causing, they must then take stock of the activities and experiences that give them pleasure and help them manage the pain.


“You need something or somewhere to take all this stuff out on. Not someone — that’s a key point, so remember that,” said Nicolino. “You don’t have to join a kickboxing gym, climb rocks, or run ultramarathons either. I mean, those work great for releasing pain, have at it, but you can also take the pain out on an easy nature trail where steps and beauty hit their stride together.”


Nicolino also pointed out that many people relieve their emotional pain “on pages; they write away their sorrows.” Others play guitar or spend time in the garden, cultivating flowers and tomatoes.


“Any method will do as long as it gives you peace, joy, and a feeling of accomplishment,” she said. “And when it does, you need to clock those feelings. Drill it into your head, those activities that free you of hurt and stress. Use a sticky note next to your toothbrush. Get a stupid magnet for your fridge, whatever.”


She pointed out that others can help people stick to their healthy approach to dealing with emotional pain. For example, friends can remind people that they should stick to their healthy activities. She also said that partners are a great resource when it comes to taking emotional pain out in a healthy way. 


“Ask your partner to join you in taking out frustrations in the right way,” Dr. Venus Nicolino advised. “You’ll both have a release and find more peace together.”