A client recently said to me that she doesn't make a strong connection between feeling body tension and there being some sort of emotional root. "For me," she said, "tension often occurs because of lack of movement and stretching."
I have come to believe that our bodies never lie.
Physical sensations and suppressed emotions hold the key to a lot of our symptoms of dis-ease. That being said, often physical symptoms have a real medical cause, and it's important to treat those accordingly. And, sure, tension can be an acute response to the need for movement and stretching. But chronic pain not tied to a certain injury, or mysterious pain that seemingly floats to different areas of the body can often be the body's way of "screaming" at us to listen to the wisdom that we've been ignoring.
I've been researching Dr. John Sarno's work lately. He's a retired physician who has successfully treated thousands of people with pain-related illnesses including such notable patients as Howard Stern, Anne Bancroft, and John Stossel. While I can't say if the dozen plus illnesses with which I used to identify could have included the one he originated, called TMS (tension myositis syndrome), I can certainly attest to the fact that once I learned to face my emotions instead of stuff them the road to recovery became much smoother.
For years I lived with intermittent shoulder and neck tension (among many other pains). When I felt it come on I could find any number of remedies to help relieve the discomfort - an hour long yoga session or particular bodily contortion prescribed by my chiropractor or a ginger/lemon/turmeric shot from my local juice shop. The pain would dissipate for awhile and I could go about my day. But inevitably, it would always return. Whether an hour or a day later, the pain would resurface - pain that I couldn't ever seem to pin on a specific injury. It just loved to hang out there and sound it's alarm from time to time.
So, in my attempt to get rid of the pain I was essentially trying to put out the fire in a building by destroying the noisy, annoying fire alarm. I would find a way to shut off the blaring sound. Problem is, the building was still on fire even after the alarm had been destroyed. The pain wasn't the fire. The pain was the alarm. The fire was buried beneath the pain. And in many cases it was igniting deep within my discarded emotions.
Here's a real life example. Today I was driving home from taking my son to school when I noticed a bit of shoulder tension. I don't experience this much anymore so I was pretty intrigued. When a quick logical mental scan of what could have caused it left me without an answer I found myself picking up my cell phone at the next light. No real reason. I didn't have a call or text to attend to. I just wanted a distraction. I've found that my phone, with its ability to suddenly whisk me away to Facebook or Instagram land, makes it easy for me to withdraw from my own inner world in lieu of others' "experiences". This time, though, I caught myself and quickly put it back down. Instead, I decided to do a little inquiry. Did anything just happen that may have triggered this tension I was having? What thoughts were playing in my mind before I called upon my logic to give me the answer to my pain? As I sifted through my morning and the previous 24 hours, I realized that thoughts about an encounter with my younger son from the night before had been running through my mind without my conscious awareness. As I allowed myself a moment to feel the emotions associated with that encounter and to be kind to myself as I did so I began to notice a dissipation of the shoulder tension.
This is a practice. I don't always pick up on the stuffed emotions or unconscious thoughts so quickly. I've been doing this for quite sometime and it's gotten easier over the years. I invite you to consider creating this same kind of space for yourself. You may be surprised at what you uncover.
The fire was buried beneath the pain. And in many cases it was igniting deep within my discarded emotions.
THIS WEEK: Fibromyalgia or not, most of us have symptoms of pain from time to time. See if you can allow yourself to get curious and explore your pain with an open mind. Your feelings may be vague at first and that's okay. Maybe journal about what you discover. Breathe, close your eyes, and connect to yourself. Baby steps.
*While this type of mind-body-emotion work is something you can do on your own, or with the help of a health & wellness coach, emotional inquiry can become difficult. If you have a history of trauma, it is definitely worth finding a therapist who can help you explore deep-rooted emotional patterns.
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Until next time...
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