Athletic Therapy, Chronic Pain, health, Self-Development, Wellness

Why You Can’t Escape Your Pain

We all know the value of communication. We’re taught it on some level from the day we’re old enough to consciously communicate verbally all the way through school and in early job positions. Some of us excel at different forms of communication (verbal, written, creative expression, whatever)- and some of us struggle to effectively communicate for various reasons.. but in the end, still appreciate when communication is effective and open.
Quality communication creates a pathway forwards in any situation, and I think all of us can say that we’ve been in situations where either the communication tactics saved the day, or the lack there of made what should have been a simply solved problem into a Everest sized issue.
In our exterior world.. all this is common sense. So why do we continuously shut down and condemn the communications we all receive, moment to moment, within our own physical bodies?
Pain has gotten a bad rap somewhere along the lines. At one point we stopped respecting the message it had for us, and began muting it in desperation. Was this because the collective pain (emotional, physical, etc) became so overwhelming that we developed all these quick methods to “take it away”?
Pain, at it’s core, is a reaction to a perceived threat. It will have personal biases related to emotional/mental stress, as well as physical stress unique to each individual. Pain perception is almost impossible to measure from person to person, and tolerance will be equally as unique.
We’ve been taught to fear and dread pain as a society. Which, when you put pain under the frame of communication seems counterintuitive to the good practices a mature individual aims to adhere to in modern day operations.
As an experiment.. imagine a common pain for you as another human being, sitting across a table from you. This other person, who is an integral part of your operational team in life, called a meeting with you. Fairly calmly they begin to relay to you an important message (lets say from your lower spine). They calmly state that the amount that you’ve been sitting, combined with the increasing amount of caffeine you’ve been intaking are causing increased immobility combined with heightened nervous system stimulus in a vulnerable area. They are speaking in an inside voice, with a even tempered demeanor.
You respond by pretending they aren’t there.
They begin increasing the urgency in their voice, just as anyone would having recognized that you obviously aren’t hearing their message.
You, again, respond by shushing them and then resume playing ignorant to their presence.
This causes them to have to begin yelling, maybe using exaggerated gestures, in an attempt to get your attention.
This increase in intensity on their part elicits a more dramatic response from you.. you now put ear plugs in and attempt to change tables. Eventually maybe you attempt to remove them from the equation, putting duct tape over their mouth in an attempt to hush them and having some goons remove them from your vicinity.
Now.. this might seem like a dramatic way to handle a interaction.. however, I think we can all relate to at least once or twice where we put the ear plugs in regarding our pain (via the use of medications, pushing through, the endless search of quick fix/relief vs understanding).
As a therapist I routinely meet people who are so completely disconnected from their bodies that pain (or any discomfort for the matter) is something to be avoided at all costs. Yet, at the same time – they have an attachment to their suffering so strong it has become a part of their identity.
This stems from our nervous system. Our nervous system is primed for our survival. Which means whatever pattern it takes on to survive, it will protect at all costs. It’s not too far fetched to say that at a certain point, especially in cases of chronic pain, the nervous system will actually make it more uncomfortable for us to move into a new way of living life (even if this new way is pain free) out of a perceived need to protect our set patterning.
Yes, you read that right. Your nervous system and brain will push to keep you in pain because pain has become your normal.
Which means- in order to begin shifting how pain/messages from the body are received, we need to develop a strong awareness for what our nervous system is saying to us before moving forwards. If we have good communication with ourselves, that phase of perceived increase discomfort becomes an integral part of the process instead of a fear ridden, panic inducing, run away type moment for our bodies and minds. We are much more likely to continue moving forwards if we are able to communicate effectively with our bodies and minds in this case with that budding self awareness.
I have come to think of healing as another term for getting to know ourselves. True healing requires us to look within to listen, feel, and acknowledge what is truly causing our bodies and minds to call to us. The uprising of research in Epigenetics is now confirming that much of our pain (emotional, physical, and spiritual) has been passed down from generations before- and with this in mind, it can be valuable to first look within but also to look at what your predecessors were dealing with. Our genetic histories (how our ancestors struggled, what they were dealing with physically, emotionally, and spiritually, etc) can often provide us a map as to why certain pains or ways of experiencing life have been so steadfast in our lives. This means what has been passed down to us not only has biological inputs and can make us more prone to certain diseases, it also effects us in terms of mental/emotional processing, psychosomatic body memories and sensations, and patterns that control (or guide, depending on how you look at it) our perception of existence.
Most of us, unfortunately, have been raised in a society that is extremely disconnected from the body and mind. Which means we are having to relearn something that should be second nature (or our entire nature) later in life. We know the power of those gut feelings that often guide us in moments of questioning, and we’ve all second guessed or ignored those gut instincts at one time or another- usually to regret it later. That’s where developing that internal listening/observing ability begins. To build awareness we need to have the patience to be with ourselves, through good and bad, to listen, observe, and FEEL it all. The spidey senses will become more attuned from there. Then that pain becomes less of a nag, and more of a nudge along the path. Our perception of discomfort changes, slowly but surely, until we are able to make a change in collaboration with our bodies instead of warring with ourselves in a state of fear and repression. The image of us developing a relationship to a child version of ourselves comes to mind.. where it can be amazingly insightful to communicate with yourself as you would communicate with a small child. This may in itself elicit some areas where your self-communication could be improved.
It takes practice. It takes dedication. However, the benefits far outweigh the cost, in my opinion. We will not gain the ability to truly feel content in our bodies until we have the ability to feel (and stick with) discomfort in our bodies. You cannot look in the mirror and feel love for yourself until you’ve also loved the painful, uncomfortable, unexpected, and often dark parts. You will struggle to adhere to the necessary exercises, lifestyle changes, and inner shifts that await until you turn inwards to listen and respond. Its all our nothing when it comes to our health; especially since our human existence is one that is ever changing. Moment to moment we will experience different things on the spectrum of wellness, and it is our job to be able to fully experience it all. Escaping ourselves is not serving anyone. We can see examples of this in how desperate our global situations are getting in terms of healthcare, and what this is indicating for our economy and society’s wellbeing as a whole.
The cure starts with you. Healing means stepping away from our search for a cure all, and stepping towards truly experiencing ourselves. The journey through healing, through pain, through all emotions is what will heal us, not something that takes the pain away.