Aside from the more visible physical pains that humans experience, social and psychological pains can come in the form of shame, guilt, humiliation and embarrassment. It’s normal to have experienced these pains at some point of time in your life, or even more than one at the same time.
Even the toughest anime characters are tested and they don’t always become the best versions of themselves during these trying times. Perhaps in witnessing their experiences, you may take a leaf from their book or learn to forgive yourself when you’ve acted poorly due to these pains.
Shame – Zuko (Avatar The Last Airbender)
In Avatar: The Last Airbender, young Prince Zuko spoke out at a war meeting, questioning the morality of a war strategy. He was then chastised in front of the war council and ruthlessly challenged to an Agni Kai for impudence. Despite Zuko’s pleas for forgiveness, Ozai burned his son’s face, marking him with dishonour and then exiling him.
Disgraced, Zuko became obsessed with hunting down the Avatar so as to restore his place in the Fire Nation and the good graces of his father. He turned into a cruel, merciless individual, heavily burdened by his shame. He felt like he had to do everything to make things right, including raiding and torturing people from other nations to achieve his goal.
Guilt – Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist)
To resurrect his mother, Edward Elric delved deep into human transmutation ignorant of the extent of the cost. The ritual failed and as a result, Edward’s leg and Alphonse’s entire body were sacrificed. Edward’s grief became compounded with guilt for his brother’s loss of a body.
Edward threw himself into his research to find the philosopher’s stone to restore their bodies. Fueled by this guilt and burden of responsibility, he sacrificed sleep and rest in his pursuit. He felt that he could not care for himself when his actions caused his brother to pay such a hefty price.
Humiliation – Naofumi Iwatani (The Rising Of The Shield Hero)
Naofumi’s journey as the Shield Hero was fraught with humiliation beginning from the very day that he was summoned. As the only defensive Hero, he was laughed at and called useless by his peers as well as the king himself as he is viewed as the weakest among the four. Despite his perseverance, the degradation continued relentlessly.
While Naofumi eventually found trustworthy allies, the journey was not easy and it was tempting to give up. The trust he put in his allies helped him level up and grow stronger, becoming a formidable individual in a kingdom that had once ridiculed him.
Embarrassment – Mio Akiyama (K-On!)
In the anime K-On!, Mio Akiyama is the second vocalist and bassist of the band Ho-kago Tea Time. Mio’s choice of instrument reflected her shy nature as the bass guitarist was typically positioned in the shadow of the main guitarist. Adding to her quietness, Mio feels embarrassment easily, leading to her feeling self-conscious often.
Mio’s self-consciousness makes it difficult for her to recognise her worth and stop downplaying her talent. Memories of humiliating moments past also lead her to worry about possible repeats of those situations. With the support of the other members of the band, Mio learns to embrace failure and come to terms with accepting anxiety as part of herself.
What can you do about emotional pain
Recognise that it is a real pain
Our brains experience emotional pain in the same way that we feel physical pain. Recognise that it is a real pain that you have to tend to and treat like any physical injury.
Name the emotion
Identify what is behind those secondary emotions that is driving your behavior. Shame, guilt, humiliation and embarrassment can cause us to behave in unpleasant ways that reinforce even more negative emotions. Share with a compassionate adult what exactly you are feeling and name that emotion. When you name that emotion, you separate your self-worth from that negative feeling.
Reframe those emotions
Identify what are the triggers that cause these emotions to arise and the thoughts that are linked to these emotions. Ask yourself if the underlying thought is accurate or distorted? Reframe the situation and your thinking that led you to feel these emotions.
Be kind to yourself
Practicing loving kindness to yourself is a big step to be free from such emotions. Recognise how these emotions devalue us and cause us to react with negative and unhelpful behavior. Negative things happen, mistakes happen. Learning from the experience, forgiving ourselves and pressing on to that better version of ourselves is a sure way to be free from socially inflicted pain.
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