Is Tolle’s ‘painbody’ just another name for egotistic self in self-destruct mode?

Penultimate draft

This Handout for our study group is to explore how we each struggle to minimise the effects of what Eckhart Tolle calls the ‘painbody’ – including some extracts from an article by Eckhart Tolle in the Huffington Post-  SOURCE


Living in Presence With Your Emotional Pain Body: is the painbody just another name for egotistic self?

RPs definition = the painful, negative experiences that we haven’t ‘processed into integration’ and which still present buttons that others push, knowingly or unwittingly. It’s another word for ego, the lower self or shadow side, or neurosis.  It works excellently well for emotional self-laceration and testing relations with others to the point of destruction!  We owe Tolle for coining the term and making it crystal clear.

RPs definition of the ‘collective painbody’ – the collectivization/instutionalization of individual painbodies – the most extreme so far is seen in organizations such as IS.


There is such a thing as old emotional pain living inside you. It is an accumulation of painful life experience that was not fully faced and accepted in the moment it arose. It leaves behind an energy form of emotional pain. It comes together with other energy forms from other instances, and so after some years you have a “painbody,” an energy entity consisting of old emotion.

It lives in human beings, and it is the emotional aspect of egoic consciousness. When the ego is amplified by the emotion of the painbody, the ego has enormous strength still — particularly at those times. It requires very great presence so that you can be there as the space also for your painbody, when it arises.

That is everybody’s job here — to be there, to recognize the painbody when it shifts from dormant to active, when something triggers a very strong emotional reaction. At that moment, when it does take over your mind, the internal dialogue, which is dysfunctional at the best of times, now becomes the voice of the painbody talking to you internally. Everything it says is deeply colored by the old, painful emotion of the painbody. Every interpretation, everything it says, every judgment about your life, about other people, about a situation you are in, will be totally distorted by the old emotional pain.

If you are not there as the space for it, you are identified with the painbody and you believe every negative thought that it is telling you. If you are alone, the painbody will feed on every negative thought that arises, and get more energy. That’s why it’s become active — after it does that for a while, you can’t stop thinking, at night, or whenever it is. The painbody is feeding, and after a few hours, it’s had enough. You feel a little depleted. And then it happens again a few weeks later, or few days later.

The painbody would feel even better if it could feed on somebody else’s reaction. Your partner would be a favorite person. And it will, if there is somebody around, or family situations. Our pain bodies love families. And it will just provoke this person, your partner or whoever it is. The painbody knows exactly what the thing is that will trigger a negative response. Then it says the thing that is going to really hurt you. And of course, if you are not absolutely present in that moment, then immediately you will react. And the painbody loves it! Give me more drama, please!

Both painbodies are now awake, and feeding on each other. Then, a few hours later, or the next day, the painbodies no longer need it. They are full, they have replenished themselves. And you can look at each other and say, “What was that all about?” In some cases, you may not even remember how it all started. This huge drama started somewhere, and then one thing led to another. Wasn’t it the same two weeks ago?

Can we be present and see if next time we can catch it at its early stage, so that we don’t get drawn in totally?  Can we both endeavor to be present for each other, and for ourselves?

See if we can see the first signs of the painbody — either in ourselves, or in the other. Immediately realize it, be the space for it, and if possible — even voice it to your partner and say “My painbody got triggered when you said that.”

Often, little situations trigger enormous reactions. Be there, present for it. Your partner will find it easier to see it in you, and you will find it easier to see it in them. Whether or not you can tell your partner that his or her painbody has become activated depends on the degree to which your partner has already been taken over by it. If you catch it at a very early stage, then some remnant of Consciousness will still be there in your partner and that remnant will be hearing you when you say, “Could that be your painbody?” It has to be phrased very carefully. You may want to add, “Do you remember our agreement?”

If there is still a remnant of Consciousness then that will be listening to you, and your partner will be able to be there as the space for his or her painbody. If there is no remnant of Consciousness in your partner, you will be talking to the painbody, and the painbody does not like to hear about the painbody. Of course, it will deny any such thing. “My painbody? Look at yours!”

So, what do you do? Can I be the space for that? While the partner is there, be the space for that. When you are the space for something, it does not necessarily mean that you have to stay there. You can be the space, and then remove yourself. Self observation – this is why being in the body is an important part of this. Feel the inner body as often as you can. When an old emotion arises, it will be easier to be present as it arises.     

If you are present, the painbody cannot feed anymore on your thoughts, or on other people’s reactions. You can simply observe it, and be the witness, be the space for it. Then gradually, its energy will decrease.

Eckhart Tolle Spiritual Teacher and Author was born in Germany. He is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Power of Now (translated into 33 languages) and the highly acclaimed follow-up A New Earth, which are widely regarded as two of the most influential spiritual books of our time.  


SOM: You talk in your book about the pain-body, both personal and collective. What do you mean by the pain-body?Tolle: The pain-body is my term for the accumulation of old emotional pain that almost all people carry in their energy field. I see it as a semi-autonomous psychic entity. It consists of negative emotions that were not faced, accepted, and then let go in the moment they arose. These negative emotions leave a residue of emotional pain, which is stored in the cells of the body. There is also a collective human pain-body containing the pain suffered by countless human beings throughout history. The pain-body has a dormant stage and an active stage. Periodically it becomes activated, and when it does, it seeks more suffering to feed on. If you are not absolutely present, it takes over your mind and feeds on negative thinking as well as negative experiences such as drama in relationships. This is how it has been perpetuating itself throughout human history. Another way of describing the pain-body is this: the addiction to unhappiness.

SOM: Can you suggest a way to eliminate the pain-body?

Tolle: Yes. We release it by cutting the link between the pain-body and our thought processes, so that we no longer feed the pain-body with our thinking. Every negative thought has a similar frequency to the pain-body and so feeds it. It cannot feed on positive thoughts. When the pain-body no longer runs the internal dialogue of our compulsive thinking, we become aware of it directly. We feel the emotion in our body, and so we bring awareness to it, the light of consciousness. The old emotion is then transmuted into consciousness in the same way that a fire transmutes everything into itself. So disidentification from the emotion and just being in the now moment is the way to stop the cycle of constantly recreating painful experiences.

SOM: Fear seems to lie behind most negative emotions. How can it be released? You speak about a process of disidentification. How does it work?

Tolle: Fear arises through identification with form, whether it be a material possession, a physical body, a social role, a self-image, a thought, or an emotion. It arises through unawareness of the formless inner dimension of consciousness or spirit, which is the essence of who you are. You are trapped in object consciousness, unaware of the dimension of inner space which alone is true freedom

Every fearful thought is about future, is about something that could or may happen. Most people are familiar with the “mental movies” that cause stress and anxiety and keep you awake at night, while your body lies in a warm and comfortable bed. The moment you recognize a fearful thought for what it is, that is to say futile and self-destructive mind activity, you begin to disidentify from it. Awareness or Presence then takes over from thinking. I am not saying that you don’t think anymore, just that you no longer confuse it with who you are. Thinking becomes rooted in awareness rather than being autonomous & self-serving, which is the ego.

Every pain-body contains a great deal of fear, since fear is the primordial negative emotion. How do we deal with that? Here again, you recognize it for what it is: the pain-body, an accumulation of old emotion. Once you recognize it, it cannot take over your mind, feed on your negative thoughts, and control your internal dialogue as well as what you say and do. Once the pain-body has come up, don’t fight or resist it. It is part of the “isness” of the present moment with which you always need to be in inner alignment. So you allow it to be there. If you don’t feed it anymore, it loses its energy charge and the negative emotion undergoes transmutation. SOURCE: