Find a therapist Search articles

Picking apart pain

Written by Lori Gottlieb, MFT

A negative emotion concept featuring facial expressions on speech bubbles.

An exclusive excerpt from “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: The Workbook”

One of my big revelations in “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” happens after my own therapist, Wendell, interrupts my obsessing about my ex-boyfriend by standing up, walking across his office, and lightly kicking my foot with his long leg.

“What was that?” I asked.

“Well, you seem like you’re enjoying the experience of suffering, so I thought I’d help you out with that.”

He wisely explained that there’s a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is beyond our control—it’s part of being a person in the world. We’re all going to experience pain at times, but we don’t have to suffer so much. “You’re not choosing the pain, but you’re choosing the suffering,” Wendell said.

He was right. I was creating my own suffering by telling the story of Boyfriend over and over, by googling him and making up stories about what I’d found—stories that inevitably provided evidence for a bigger story: I wasn’t lovable enough.

Our pain holds important clues about what’s not working in our lives and what we might start to change. Nobody likes to feel it, though, so we push it away any way we can. We gloss over painful feelings or we lash out at others because of it. More often, we turn those feelings inward and berate ourselves. All of this serves to take the pain, which may have been initially helpful, and twist it into something more like suffering.

So how do you shift out of suffering?

Here’s where reading between the lines can help. By examining a few pain points in your stories, you begin to see what that pain is telling you and where you’re creating suffering. Consider this exercise our workbook’s version of Wendell’s kick.

Free Worksheets from Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: The Workbook

Get the toolkit for editing your story and changing your life

When “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone was released into the world, it became an instant New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon, with readers across the globe finding their truth in the powerful stories I shared from inside my therapy room. As millions highlighted and underlined page after page, a movement took shape, and they asked for more: Could I take these lessons and create a guide as transformative as the book itself?

I decided to do just that. In this empowering, one-of-a-kind workbook, I offer a step-by-step process for becoming the author of your own life story by giving it a thorough edit. Using eye-opening concepts, thought-provoking exercises, compelling writing prompts, and real examples from the patients in the original book, I’ve created an easy-to-follow guide through the journey of becoming our own editors, examining aspects of our narratives that hold us back, and discovering the ways in which changing our stories can change our lives.

An experience, a meditation, and a practical toolkit combined into one, “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: The Workbook” is the companion readers have been asking for: a revolutionary method for understanding which stories to keep and which to revise so we can create our own personal masterpieces. By the end of this “unknowing,” you will be surprised, inspired, and most of all, liberated.

Order your copy here.

Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist and the New York Times bestselling author of “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone,” which has sold over one million copies and is currently being adapted as a television series. In addition to her clinical practice, she writes The Atlantic’s weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column and is cohost of the popular “Dear Therapists” podcast produced by Katie Couric. She contributes regularly to the New York Times and many other publications, and her recent TED Talk was one of the top 10 most watched of the year.

Learn more about Lori Gottlieb’s educational products, including upcoming live seminars.

About the publisher

For more than 40 years, nonprofit organization PESI, Inc., has provided cutting-edge continuing education to professionals across the nation. Working alongside the world’s leading experts, PESI educates and instructs the general public, public organizations, private industry, students, and professionals in acquiring, developing, and enhancing their knowledge and skills.

Related articles

A woman talking on the phone.

Learning the art of being

It isn’t easy to learn self-care. Sometimes, you need to go through a fiery...

A woman uses a touchscreen displaying Hebrew phrases at a history museum

“I had a recurring nightmare that I was being chased by Nazis”

Anxiety and fear are as familiar to American Jews as their own ancestors. But...

A woman thinking many thoughts.

The power of self-awareness: The mind (your superpower)

In part three of this four-part series, learn what mind-brain fusion, cognitive...

A woman with her eyes closed practicing mindfulness.

Understanding the five core skills of mindfulness

Terry Fralich, LCPC, shares five core skills of mindfulness and how to best...

See more