What do you do to help yourself when your body is in pain or when you physically hurt from emotion?
For many of us crying is often our most visceral, immediate response, and it is a good one because crying aids in releasing emotional tension. And, research points to crying as a way of getting rid of negative chemicals that are produced in the body when it is under stress.
Others take doctor prescribed medications to relieve pain and, for the most part, these are beneficial – particularly for those with chronic conditions. However, because the general population has access to many kinds of medications – OTC medications, alcohol, recreational drugs – there is a great deal of self-medication going on, which is masking our underlying issues. I make no judgment here; I am just pointing out what I observe in our society at this time.
I want to offer up another way to deal with pain – give it a voice. Let it have its say. You might be surprised by what it tells you.
Pain always has multiple components. When we are in emotional pain, it can manifest in the physical body – headache, neck and shoulder tension, stomach in knots, lower back pain. When we are in physical pain, it can manifest in our emotions – fear, anxiety, discouragement, anger, or depression.
We are whole beings. What affects one aspect of our being surely affects other aspects. It is a little like the old saying, “which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” In the end, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we give our pain place and find a way to honor what it is telling us.
Here’s how you can initiate a conversation with your pain:
- Get out your journal or a pad of paper along with your favorite pen.
- Allot yourself a bit of time – 15 or 20 minutes – and find a quiet, comfortable place to be alone.
- Open your journal, have your pen ready; close your eyes and breathe.
- Just follow your breath for a few minutes; then consider your pain.
- Where is it sitting in your body? Where is the tension? Ask your pain to speak to you.
- Pick up your pen and begin to write what comes into your mind. Do this without editing or judging what is flowing onto the page.
- Feel free to ask your pain questions: How can I help you get out of my body? Why did you choose to land here in my neck?
- Have a dialogue with your pain until it feels like the conversation is over for now.
A side note: If you are having trouble allowing yourself to get into this dialogue, try using your non-dominate hand to write your pain’s response. You are so occupied trying to actually “write” that your mind doesn’t get in the way of your thoughts as easily.
Close your journal or turn over the pad of paper and leave it. Don’t read it right away. Wait an hour or until the next day, then go back to your quiet place and read what was written. What you find might prompt you to initiate another conversation with your pain. Or, out of what you learn, you might discover that you can take some sort of tangible action to help your pain.
When we are in pain, we must choose to be in relationship with it in order to affect change. When I share this, people bristle at the idea because they just want the pain to be gone. They think that being in “relationship” means submitting or being a slave to it.
No, it means paying attention, listening, responding, caring – as we would do in any healthy relationship – rather than ignoring, raging, checking out.
I share this with you because I have experienced it myself, and it works.
Listen to your pain. It has come to you because it has something to tell you about You.