The annoying uncle at your party

The annoying uncle at your party

10 min. reading time


Louis Zantema

5 January 2020

Louis is a GZ-Psychologist with a great passion for gaming. For him, a game training that offers therapy is the most valuable thing you can develop: especially for pain complaints, which are on the interesting intersection of body and mind. His aim is to make himself dispensable as a therapist.

Imagine this: You announced on your family's app group (the one that really has everyone in it) that you're celebrating your birthday this weekend. It's Saturday, and very cosy at your home. In the garden children play, people chat with each other and in between handing out coffee and cakes you have some nice conversations.

You think everyone is there, when suddenly the bell rings. Maybe a package? When you walk towards the door, the cake in your stomach seems to turn into concrete. Your least favorite uncle (to put it mildly) is at the door. Was he in the app group at all? Apparently... While you're not even at the door yet, you already have the feeling that you can smell your uncle through the door...

So, what are you gonna do?

A) With an excuse to refuse your uncle

B) Admitting your uncle, but constantly trying to make sure that he doesn't bother anyone, and staying in conversation with him as much as possible.

C) Admitting your uncle and still trying to entertain yourself as much as possible, while trying to accept that he also belongs to the family. 

Although I would choose A or B faster myself, psychologists sometimes agree on which solution is best, namely C. Sometimes you just have 'shit' in your life that you have to deal with. In fact, by refusing the problems, or wanting full control over them, the problems only get bigger! 

Clean' and 'dirty' pain

For problems that seem to be getting bigger and bigger, an interesting comparison has been made, namely 'clean' and 'dirty' pain.

Clean pain' is the emotional and physical pain that exists, and that you cannot escape. The things that are against you, the pain that you feel, and in the example above the uncle who suddenly stands at your door. Unfortunately, you have little influence over some things in your life, or you have made a choice that will cause problems later on that you hadn't overlooked.

Dirty pain is pain caused by how you deal with your clean pain. By grumbling, by irritating you, by always wishing that things would be different from what they are, by blaming yourself, by saying but not doing, and so on. All the negative energy you spend on problems you often couldn't get away from anyway. In the example you can imagine that on A or B you can get a lot of 'dirty pain'! 

And that explains why psychologists recommend option C en masse. Try to allow the 'clean pain' and then work towards a solution. Because this is the least 'dirty pain'! 


Maybe you have already made the comparison, but if you extend the example above to yourself, you could say that the annoying uncle is 'your pain'. Your body is your home, where the pain just walks in, without you waiting for it! Your pain doesn't even have the decency to ring the bell...

Write down for yourself what you see as "clean pain". What feelings arise in you that are normal? On which you have little or no influence? 

Then write down what 'dirty pain' arises here. Be honest! What do you think and do, with which you might bother yourself more than you help? Are you crossing your boundaries, are you becoming passive? Do you blame yourself? Do you blame someone else? Are you stuck in irritation, or sadness? 

Finally, write down 1 or 2 intentions to reduce your dirty pain. Choose a habit or way of reacting yourself that causes more dirty pain. Think of an alternative that will hopefully reduce your dirty pain. For example: Every time I notice that I think 'oh no, you'll have the pain again', I do my best to let go of that idea and take three deep breaths. 

Good luck! 


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