Upon reflection, it is I think very often when we suddenly have a pain or symptom (stuffy nose, itchy throat, fatigue etc.) that we immediately think “what’s wrong?” or “what did I do?”
I’ll often hear practice members going through a brief list of possible scenarios to explain their, for example, neck pain. “Maybe I slept wrong.”, “Maybe I overdid it the other day”, “Maybe I’m not speaking my truth”.
Maybe I ate something that didn’t agree with me.
Maybe I have arthritis.
Maybe it’s a disc problem.
The list of possible explanations is endless. The point is, maybe, the pain or symptom is not there to tell you that you did something wrong.
Maybe it’s there to tell you that you need to do something right.
Karen was in the other day for her regular visit. While she was on the table, I asked her what she was noticing. She said that she was feeling some pain and tension in her lower back. So I asked her what was she doing about the pain.
She said that she was “trying to relax the area”. I wanted to know more. I wondered how she was “trying to relax the area”. She replied “by thinking about the area and trying to envision the tissues relaxing.”
I then asked her to engage with the pain and tension differently. First I asked her to breath into it. Secondly, I asked her to stretch it, to move it around. Thirdly, I asked her to tighten it further; And to observe the differences that she felt with each strategy. She said that she felt an easing in her low back.
Rather than trying to relax it or hoping that it will go away, Karen changed how she was relating to her body and symptoms.
Afterwards, Karen said that she realized that because it hurt, she was afraid to move it or breathe into it or to engage with it at all, other than from the distance of her mind.
On the way out after her session, I told Karen that how we relate to our bodies is how we tend to relate to other things in our lives. So as a parting contemplative question, I said, if you’re afraid to feel the pain/tension, and you’re avoiding dealing with it, what else in your life do you have a fearful relationship with?
What other pain points are there that you keep trying to avoid, ignore or numb? By learning to engage with your body especially when it’s hurting or symptomatic, you can learn to face the pain points in your life. You can grow through the challenge of pain and other symptoms. Feel the fear and do it anyway.