What is happening just before you notice the sensation of pain?
I’m talking about the usual, familiar, probably daily pain in your neck, back, jaw, head or wherever it is for you. You notice it on most days. But what is happening just before you notice the pain. Rewind your life just 30 seconds. What were you thinking? What did you read? What was the conversation? Or most importantly, what were you feeling emotionally?
We tend to blame pain on a physical incident, i.e. poor posture, moving wrong, effects of getting old. But the more I do this work on myself and with others, I am beginning to believe that it goes BEYOND the physical. When I ask the questions above to clients in interviews about pain, I get some blank stares, some slow head nods, and every once in a while I can see the light bulb turn on and shine bright. It is the latter that excites me the most. I know that this realization will begin to allow compassion and healing to occur.
So if you are in the blank stare or slow head nod category right now, let me help clarify the need to goBEYOND the physical. I give you an example of own neck pain. I thought I was getting a handle on it but it has really been bothering me for the last several months. Here’s how it starts:
I feel a sting behind my eyes. I hold back tears or even sometimes let them flow a little. My jaw clenches. I feel sadness and a heavy heart. The base of my head and neck now hurt. I am reminded of losing my Mom. And it happens every day.
I can work through it 2 ways:
1. Resist, Resist, and Hold Back the Tears. Not in front of other people. Not in front of the kids. Raging headache and neck pain by the end of the day.
2. Breathe, Breathe, Breathe. Allow myself to feel the sadness. Allow myself to cry. Remember that the sadness is because she brought so much love and joy to my life and to my family. Share a memory of my Mom with the kids or even with a stranger! Remind myself that these are expected emotions and that I am allowed to feel them. As I really allow myself to feel the sadness then the neck pain diminishes a little. Headache avoided.
So this is a big, glaring example. But I had neck pain before this trauma. The pain I had then was caused by little traumas like this or even more so “dramas” in my head. Creating stories to keep myself from feeling. Being tough and not allowing myself to feel fear, disappointment, guilt, etc. I heard Brene Brown say on a Super Soul Sunday interview with Oprah, “the body keeps score, and it always wins”. Every time I denied an emotion, i.e. stuffed it down, my body kept score. And it lets me know it is winning with back pain and neck pain.
We cannot separate emotional from physical pain, especially when it is chronic. But we can recognize and acknowledge the relationship. My emotional pain is on the surface, but I’m sure I have some buried too. I may need to dig deeper to find the source of other aches and pains. It may not be easy, but I know it will be worth it.