So today, I wanted to write about a topic that has shown up many, many times in my own life and seems to be a resonating theme in my client’s lives as well. The issue I want to unpack is pain, specifically physical and chronic manifestations of pain, which seem to be showing up more and more in our everyday lives. Now, I’m not just referring to the obvious type of pain like when you get a cut or stub your toe. I’m also referring to pain as those symptoms which we experience which deviate from our body’s preferred state of homeostasis. In other words, things like bloating after your meals, achy joints, cravings for sugar, low energy, weight gain, runny noses, cold extremities, racing hearts or depressive thoughts and hundreds of other ‘painful’ and often frustrating betrayals by the body which are signaling distress.
What I want to jump into today, is the notion that not only should we stop pushing these pains away by covering them up or wishing they’d disappear, but that we should actually invite them into our lives and ask them what it is they are trying to teach us. I am suggesting that we instead make friends with our pain and, from that platform, find out how to move forward into the true health and wellness we’ve been craving.
So let’s look a little deeper… Our bodies are amazing tools for living, but I probably don’t have to tell you that. Just focusing in on all the wonderful things our body is capable of should clue you in to just how special and remarkable this life beating inside us is. For example: when was the last time you thought about making your heart beat? Your lungs breath? Your brain compute? Your stomach digest? Probably not recently, if ever. This system of intelligence that keeps your body running smoothly is something I like to refer to as innate intelligence. It was the intelligence that existed in your body long before you knew you were you and is what formed your body as you lived in your mother’s womb. Call it what you want - God, universe, energy – but, the fact of the matter is, it’s miraculous and beautiful that we exist at all. Now, what’s even more amazing is that this same innate system, which is responsible for keeping us alive at any cost, has figured out ways to communicate with us so that we can always be working towards its highest good. When something is not working in your body, it will manifest as a symptom. It could be as small as dry skin and brittle nails or as large as breast cancer and autoimmunity. The longer you ignore the chatter, the more likely it is to turn into a full on tantrum – not unlike a toddler trying to get his mother’s attention.
Unfortunately, the problem we are facing these days is that we have the volume turned down so low we can’t actually hear the messages coming from ourselves. We don’t enjoy pain and we want it to go away. It doesn’t matter if a radio broadcaster screams at the top of his lungs if you have the volume turned down, or worse, completely off, right? So the question is, how do we turn the volume up and assimilate the information coming in so that it means something more to us than what meets the eye. How do we turn our pain into a language that we understand and see it for more than just a nuisance or the obstacle to our happiness?
Well, we begin by inviting it in to have a conversation. We stop running away from it and instead turn around to ask it what it wants. We make friends with our pain and get familiar with its needs. This, is how we understand it. This is how we calm it and let it go.
As a culture, we tend to think of pain as weakness and really value “toughing it out” over displaying emotions and feelings. We expect ourselves and others to be strong, stoic and positive about whatever it is we are experiencing. However, fortunately or unfortunately, the body is pretty persistent. Much like an annoying door-to-door salesman, our pain will continue to come back, sometimes increasingly, until we finally open up the door for a chat. So being strong and tough will only work for a period of time until the tantrum becomes to loud to ignore.
So you may be thinking, that sounds great, but what do I DO? I invite you to do an exercise and get real with yourself and whatever pain, irritation or chronic symptom keeps popping up for you. You’re going to need a pen and a piece of paper or journal for this and some time and space alone so you can really tune in. In this exercise, you’re going to write yourself a letter from your pain, that innate intelligence, as if it could communicate to you through words. It might sound odd at first, but give it a shot. What would your pain tell you if it could? Try not to get caught up in the intellectual side of this – which is easy to do, don’t worry – and instead just listen for the ideas and thoughts that effortlessly come into your brain. Also to be noted: You will want to argue with your pain. Try to avoid doing this if possible. There is plenty of time later to talk yourself out of the changes your body would like you to make J For now, just listen. You can choose to take action or you can choose to ignore it, the point is simply to tune in and turn up the volume. Don’t let the fear of what may surface keep you from hearing the message at all.
So, that’s all for today my friends. Our pain can be our biggest ally if we let it and learning to utilize it can help us to feel much more content and confident in taking back our health. The next time you start to feel a little yucky, try a quick version of this exercise in your head and see if you can’t shift yourself out of pain and into whatever it is that you need. Til next time!