You are currently viewing Episode 33 –  Clean Pain, Dirty Pain

Episode 33 – Clean Pain, Dirty Pain

Pain is universal for most humans. 

But suffering is optional.

On today’s episode we are talking all about clean and dirty pain. What they are, how to recognize them, and how to allow the clean pain and drop the dirty. Whether the pain is from your miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss or anything else going on in your life, You won’t want to miss this one.

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Music provided by ZingDog / Pond5

Photo on Unsplash


Hey, everybody. I was listening to a podcast about podcasting, and they said that by episode 33, it really dialed everything in and you’re feeling confident and you’re starting to get good.

Of course, that is a totally made up thought, but I think it’s a fun one to choose to believe. So for those of you who are old timers, thank you so much for being here for the first 32. You are awesome and I’m so grateful for you and those of you who are new here. You were just lucky you started on that magical episode 33, but definitely go back and review because we’ve covered so many amazing topics.

Speaking of reviews, I’d love it if you took a minute even, pause the podcast right now and write a review. If you shop online at all, and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t, then you know how important reviews are. When other people know how much the podcast has helped you, they are gonna hit play and get to learn all about managing their mind as they build their life after loss, just like you have.

Thank you. Thank you, thank you. Today we are talking about clean and dirty pain. These terms have been around for a while, and if you’ve been in therapy before, you may have heard them. Another way to talk about it is pain versus suffering. As I prepared for this podcast, I thought about coming up with a term I liked better to describe this than clean and dirty.

But here’s the mini lesson for the day. Remember we talked about decision making and taking action, so I just decided that even though they aren’t my favorite descriptions, I’m just gonna use them because this is all such valuable information that I wanna give it to you. I just made the choice and moved forward.

No need to stay stuck brainstorming, but feel free to come up with your own terms if you like. As a human, you are guaranteed to experience pain. Pain is universal. There’s really no way out of it. It’s part of what we are here for. And even if you believe that intellectually going through the reality of the pain can be a different story.

To its definition, pain is uncomfortable and we are pre-programmed to avoid it. Pain means death to our brain, and so it does everything it can to get away from it, and this is where the problem begins for us. When we listen to our brain doing its job and we believe it, we create a lot of suffering. Right now during covid, a lot of people are losing their jobs.

Most of us can relate to someone being laid off for whatever reason. It is not fun to get laid off unless you really, really hated your job, but it comes with a grief of its own. That’s clean pain. You’ve had a sudden change in your reality, and it’s normal to feel sad or shocked or whatever you feel, and most people don’t want to feel totally fine about losing a job.

Where the dirty pain comes in is when we make it mean something about us, about our ability to provide for our family, and how everything is stacked against us. Often anger comes in as well, being mad at your boss, mad at the situation, mad at yourself. So now not only do you not have a job, but you’re miserable as well.

Another example I see a lot is when someone you care about says something you interpret as insensitive about your baby. Clean pain means you feel some sadness for a while, and you recognize why those words were so painful to you. Dirty pain is the whole rest of the story. They don’t care about me, they don’t understand me.

I’m gonna have to cut them outta my life. I can’t believe they would say something like that. They should know better. It’s anger, indignance, offense. It’s everything you make those words mean about you and the other person, Brooke Castillo says, when we do this, it’s like punching ourselves in the face.

But we don’t even see it at first. We are causing ourselves so much pain. With that kind of thinking, it’s poisonous and it is not necessary. The first thing people misunderstand with thought work is that we are trying to be happy all the time, that if we can just think good thoughts, we’ll feel good all the time.

But that’s a hundred percent wrong. It’s not about avoiding negative emotions, it’s about learning to feel them. And it can be so uncomfortable, but that’s okay. We can handle uncomfortable when we talk about situations that cause us pain. It’s real. You guys know this. You know that You can feel an intensity of emotion that manifests in your body.

So that’s something we actually have going for us. We’ve already lived through the pain of losing a child, and as much as we don’t like negative emotions, they are truly harmless. They are vibrations in our bodies. Feeling feelings is not the problem. Resisting those feelings is often the worst part. Like I said before, we are wired to hate negative emotion.

And we live in a world that gives us so many options of how not to feel them. Not many of us get very good at it, but here’s your big chance, mama. How we do this when a feeling comes up is to relax into it. Lean into it. I mean that quite literally. Think about the last time you noticed you might start crying.

Whether it was that darn Pampers from their first breath commercial, or just a reminder of your baby. Often our first reaction is to tense up against the tears we hold back. We try to distract ourselves. We even hold our breath to try anything, not to feel sadness. We are so afraid of feeling it, but you have to allow yourself to relax your body.

Take deep breaths. Name the emotion you’re feeling. I. Say this is sadness. Sadness can’t hurt me. I’m willing to feel some sadness. I’m not saying you have to break down in the middle of a work meeting or that you need to cry for an hour, but I promise if you try this, you’ll find that allowing the emotion helps it pass and lessen an intensity so much faster.

Don’t tuck your brain out of feeling. Let it. It is less painful to experience an emotion than it is to resist it. I see this a lot with my pregnancy. After lost clients, they want so badly to not feel anxiety in their pregnancy. They have a story about how everything has gone wrong and how everything should be, and they make it mean so many things about themselves.

The resistance to their experience causes a huge amount of dirty pain. And that’s okay. If you are listening to this and recognizing this in yourself. Welcome to the club. We’re humans and we’re compassionate with ourselves. Do not use this concept to beat yourself up. You’re not doing life wrong. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be, but the only way out is through.

So I’m going to give you some more tools to recognize and minimize dirty pain when it comes up in your life. First, remember that feelings aren’t really positive or negative. They are simply feelings. We just like to label them. If you get into your body and really describe what is happening, it helps you recognize this.

I talked a lot about this in episode 11, so go back and check that one out if you haven’t or if it’s been a while. But a quick example about this is to think about feeling excited and feeling nervous. You’ve got a quick heartbeat, clammy hands, shallow breathing, and energy in the pit of your stomach.

It’s almost identical except we love feeling excited and we hate being nervous, right? Excited is a good thing. Being nervous. We make it mean something terrible about ourselves. Clean pain is pain. We want to feel. When your baby dies, you want to feel sad about it. For most people, when the world is locked down, you may wanna be concerned about that.

When someone you love is sad, you may wanna be sad with them. Clean pain is often closely related to love. We know this as lost moms. We grieve so much because we love so much. Clean. Pain feels clear. It often comes in waves with breaks in between so we can get our footing. Again, it ebbs and flows. It gets better with time.

I believe that. I know some people really do not, but if you are allowing clean pain in time, it will get softer. Maybe not in a perfect linear fashion, but it will lessen. Clean pain will move us forward. Clean pain gets us somewhere dirty. Pain feels murky and heavy. You want desperately to escape from it, but you can’t.

You feel stuck with no relief. Dirty pain gets worse over time. It festers under the surface and won’t let go. Dirty pain most often comes in three forms. The first is fighting reality. This is so common. It’s where we want things to be different than they are. It’s a suffering of feeling like our life has gone wrong.

It’s wanting people to show up differently than they do. It’s wanting to go back and change things. Then there’s what we make it mean. This is a story we make up about ourselves and others, maybe even God, that if they cared about us, they would act differently. It’s a suffering of blaming ourselves, of blaming doctors, of creating villains in our story.

We make it mean we are not worthy or we are not loved, that we are failing, that we are imposters, and then we make it mean something about our future that we’ll never have the life we planned. That our marriage is gonna be like this forever. That our kids are gonna turn out terribly because of their choices or our mothering, that this country is never gonna recover from 2020, and our lives will never be normal again.

And often we like to combine all three because hey, we’re overachievers. I want you to pause for a second here and think of the first situation that comes to mind that is causing you pain right now. Take some time this week to write about it in your journal. See how much is clean pain and how much is dirty.

Because the good news is the dirty pain is one. We can learn how to drop entirely because dirty pain is created by our thoughts, the clean pain. We’re gonna learn how to allow it. Like I showed you earlier, we’re not gonna avoid it, but you can get rid of the dirty pain, even if it’s been eating at you for a long time.

For many of us. It’s even become a habit we aren’t aware of, but once we recognize it, we can work on it. Clean pain is being disappointed that school and work is different than you hoped for this fall. Dirty pain is everything your friends are sharing on Facebook about it. Clean pain is feeling sad. Your due date is coming up, but you aren’t pregnant.

Dirty pain is hating everyone who is. When I lost River, I had already been through a stillbirth and a rainbow pregnancy. I found out he had no heartbeat at 14 weeks and had a D N C. We chose to have him tested to find out whatever we could, including gender. But after waiting eight long weeks, we found out that the lab had made a mistake and there would be no answers.

I had a huge Mount Everest sized pile of dirty pain around this loss. I was mad at God that he didn’t answer my prayers for this baby to live. I was mad at myself for not making different choices. I was heartbroken that we send him off to a lab in that condition and didn’t get to meet him or bury him or get the answers we wanted.

I was upset that I hadn’t been offered more options. I made this all mean that I had failed to protect my baby, that I had utterly failed as a mother, and the list goes on. I was in full resistance of reality. I didn’t even want to grieve. I wanted it to not have happened. I found myself not carrying, eating my feelings and going through life like a zombie.

On the outside, you might not have been able to tell, but for two and a half years, I carried that dirty pain with me. All that pain I had created for myself with the story I was telling over and over in my mind until my coach told me I didn’t have to believe that about myself anymore. And I was shocked, but I was hopeful and with some work I was able to let go of that huge bag of pain I had been carrying around.

And now when I think about what happened, I still get sad. I still wish I knew the gender of our baby, but the sadness doesn’t last long when it comes and I know how to carry it with me. Sadness is much lighter than the anger and blame and shame I was carrying before. Accepting the reality is much less painful than fighting it, and I want that for you.

Whatever it is in your life that is causing you pain, let’s talk about it. I can teach you how to allow your feelings and how to let go of the suffering, whether it’s your sister-in-law that you can’t stand to be in the same room with your toddler who pushes all your buttons and makes you question yourself every day.

Or unresolved pain from the loss of your baby. I have got you. Sign up for a free mini session at the link in the show notes and we’ll get started. So to recap, today, clean pain is the pain of being human and living here on earth. It’s pain. We want to feel, even though we’re not very good at it sometimes, but with practice, we’ll be able to see that we can handle it.

Dirty pain is everything we heap on top of that because of our thoughts. And dirty pain is totally not necessary. It is okay to feel all the emotions. Emotions can’t hurt you, but let’s free up some mental and emotional space by getting rid of the dirty pain. I’ll talk to you next time.

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