When I’m working with some of you in the office I will sometimes ask “what are you noticing right now?”
And your response is often either “I feel pain” or some related answer such as “I’m not feeling any pain” or “I feel some tension” or “I don’t feel much at all” or “I’m trying to let go”.
Often I catch you thinking about your to do list or replaying the day rather than being present. And sometimes you don’t like that:).
This exchange gives me lots of information though. It tells me that you are not connected to your body at that moment, otherwise you would be telling me more.
Perceptually I could say that you have blinders on. This typically occurs because your sympathetic fight/flight system is more active.
We often get into a rut of perceiving only pain or the absence of it. That is mostly what our experience of our body can become.
‘Do I have pain?’ If yes, then focus on it, try to get rid of it, wonder why it’s there.
If no, then continue with whatever you were thinking about.
Pain is disturbing to us. It can disturb us physically, emotionally and mentally. Like a noisy bird or squirrel early in the morning waking us up out of a deep sleep, pain can also wake us out of our stupor.
One thing most of us don’t realize when we do experience pain is that that is what’s happening in the moment. Pain is disturbing the status quo.
The purpose of pain is to get our attention because we haven’t been paying attention. We’ve been on autopilot. So when a patient tells me that either they’re feeling pain or they’re not feeling much at all, I recognize that their self-awareness is limited in that moment to a binary, digital experience.
They might be thinking all kinds of things but what they’re experiencing is black or white.
This state of perception in the nervous system also extends out to a person’s life. There is a relationship between how we interact with our bodies and how we live our lives. If you only notice your body when you have pain or some similar disturbance, then you typically will also only pay attention to things in your life that disturb you. This habit leads to “putting out fires” and addressing problems only when they appear.
It also helps to create a monotone experience of life where the glasses you’re wearing are not rose-coloured but grey.
So if the only way to get your attention is to disturb you, then life will tend to do that. It will interrupt the status quo.
Is the house on fire? No, ok then let’s keep going. You don’t have to put the house on fire to make changes though. But what if you were to challenge your own status quo before life does it for you? What if you were proactive? Then when life throws you a curve ball, you can safely say, at least you saw it coming. And maybe more than that, you hit it out of the park!
This perceptual filter is also found in organizations. The allopathic approach tends to wait until there is a problem, in fact it has to wait until there is a name for a particular problem in order to be able to treat it. I’ve talked to quite a few government and private industry employees over the years, and there seems to be many examples of companies or departments only addressing something when it’s almost too late.
The pain or symptom (secondary condition) that you come to the office with, hoping that I will help you heal it, make it go away, so you don’t feel it is very valuable. This disturbance is actually a gift from the body telling you to pay attention, to look at how you’ve been treating your body and how you’ve been living your life. If you are able to come at it from this expanded perspective, you will find lasting solutions.