Dirty Pain versus Clean Pain – They both hurt, but one doesn’t have to.

Do you know the difference between Dirty Pain and Clean Pain? They both hurt, but one doesn’t have to. In fact, spoiler alert, one of these doesn’t even need to exist! I bet you have already figured out that it’s Dirty Pain. And you are correct, but keep reading if you want to know why.

First, let’s talk about what they have in common.

Dirty Pain and Clean Pain are both Emotional Pain. They both hurt. They both feel like they will last forever. They both disrupt your life.

Now, let’s talk about how they are different.

Clean Pain comes from an event, a happening, just living life. For example, you break your foot, your partner leaves you for someone else, the world experiences a pandemic. (I used to think that last example was far fetched but sadly it’s not.)

Clean Pain in all of the examples above HURTS. Physically and emotionally. It’s often feels tangible. It’s stuff you actually saw or experienced. For example, if you and your partner had a conversation about your break up, you can remember the details of he/she/them walking out. The door closing. The expression on their face, in their eyes. Loving moments that you had together or fights. Hurtful words said. The experience of loss.

Dirty Pain is the emotional turmoil you create in your mind with the stories you concoct and tell yourself about the Clean Pain experience. “I was so stupid to not see this coming.” “I will never find anyone to love me.” “I will never get over this.” “My whole life is derailed because of this setback.” “Maybe I can win them back if I change _____________.”

Left to grow unchecked, Dirty Pain allows us to completely ignore the present. We use our past painful experiences to predict our future. We wallow in what happened and project it into what is to come. And this future we create is a world of make believe.

Truthfully, think about it. The world we create with people, happenings, and conversations we write are no different than well crafted fiction stories that we watch on tv or read in a book. The only difference is WE are writing the stories and the stories we write with Dirty Pain, never have happy endings! Dirty Pain is not a very imaginative co-author. The ending always sucks.

So what is the answer to feeling Clean Pain without feeling Dirty Pain? The answer is in the present or rather, not allowing yourself to jump from your past painful experience, straight to your created future.

You see, Clean Pain if allowed to be felt and endured, has a beginning and an end. There is no predicting how long your clean pain will last, but it will end. The Clean Pain from a lost job, lost relationship or loved one will fade if you allow yourself to actually feel it. And by “feel it” I mean, cry, scream, eat a tub of ice cream, stay home and binge tv, grab a blanket and live on the couch. I think you get the idea. Emotions and hurt will NEVER pass through your mind and body if you don’t allow yourself to fully feel them. But they will pass. And one day, you will discover that it actually feels good to wash your hair. Eat something healthy for lunch. Take a walk in the sunshine. It feels good to once again be alive.

None of this is easy. I know. And I know you realize this too. But I’d rather let Clean Pain wash over me even though I feel like I could drown in it versus live in a never ending world created by my Dirty Pain. Hadn’t you?

It really is this simple. Clean Pain is unavoidable. Dirty Pain is a choice. You get to decide.

Sending you ❤️

~Brenda

P.S. If you need someone to talk to or if your life is in transition and you need help navigating the next steps, I’m here for you. You can read about my Life Coach services on this page and schedule a free Inquiry Phone Call here.


Did you like this story? If you did, I have a feeling you’d like this one too. It’s all about the The Elusive Search for Belonging.  Go here to read my most popular blog post. Curious about what I mean by Gently Do What Is Right For You? You can find a post about it here.

  1. Wow! This is such perfect timing. Before reading this post, today I finally accepted that I moved away from a clean pain situation that I turned into a dirty pain situation. I had been holding onto it for awhile, replaying all of the major events in my head trying to calculate where I went wrong and that made it linger and crush me much longer than necessary. I’m happy to have read this today because now I can ask myself in future situations (because they will come), “Do you want to handle this the clean way or the dirty way?” Thank you! =)

    1. Oh I love that question! “Do you want to handle this the clean way or the dirty way?” I’m so glad this helped you today. I was reluctant to write about this. I created the art for it last week but kept putting off writing the post. It’s such an important subject and I wanted to get it right. I’m so happy it helped you!

  2. I love how you make the distinction between the types of pain. It make Dirty Pain have less power. Thank you so much!💕

    1. I find that whenever I’m brave enough to name something, it always takes some of the power out of it immediately. Thanks for reading!

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