We often associate pain with tight muscles or aching joints. We can point to where it hurts, describe how it feels in great detail and list what activities make it better or worse. We become so intimate with our pain. But do we really know it? How well do we understand it? What if the pain in our life actually serves a deeper purpose?
Our society values a quick fix. “Just make it go away,” clients will plead. The goal of my work is to reduce the pain in the short term while uncovering and addressing the hidden, deeper causes of pain in the long term. Not everyone is ready to address the deeper issue, but this is where the real work and healing begins.
What’s the Purpose of Pain?
On the surface, pain is a request for change. It’s notifying you that something in your life is out of alignment. You can’t heal in the same environment that made you sick. That’s why it’s important to address the structural, physiological, emotional and spiritual aspects of pain. There can be a combination of factors.
We can address the structural such as body mechanics and how the nervous system perceives and communicates with our nerves, muscles, joints and ligaments. On the physiological level, pain can refer from organs, meridians and even food intolerances.
Pain can also be your limbic system’s response to a past experience or trauma and the purpose of pain is to keep you safe and out of danger. The emotional aspect also includes the stories we tell ourselves and our beliefs. If a stomach ache got us out of school or gained the attention of a parent, we may unconsciously experience these same symptoms as an adult.
On a spiritual level, pain can indicate that we’re living out of alignment in our life. If you’re not living your soul’s purpose, the body can remind you of this through aches and pains. Anything to inspire us into action. The problem is that we’re inclined to brush these symptoms aside, to take a pain reliever or to only address the superficial level by stretching or releasing tight tissue without investigating the underlying cause.
Sometimes pain can snap us back into the present moment. Have you ever been rushing or trying to do too many things at once and then you suddenly slam your toe into the edge of the coffee table or twist an ankle because you weren’t watching where you were walking? This can be a subtle nudge from your higher self to slow down, be more mindful and reassess what you may be ignoring in your life at that moment.
The Job of the Healer is Not to Heal your Pain
I’ve observed in my practice that one of the biggest differences between the clients who get lasting relief and those who don’t are the ones who take responsibility for their own healing seem to feel better in the long run. My job as your therapist isn’t to fix you. I’m here to help guide your body, to shine a light on things you may not be able to see, to encourage balance and to help you uncover and process any emotions related to past experiences that are keeping you stuck. My hands are a mirror, but you’re doing the work.
Taking ownership and responsibility is a vital part of the healing process. People need to see that they can heal themselves. That’s the brilliance of the human body.
How to Begin to Uncover the Hidden Aspects of your Pain
You have the power to heal yourself. Here are some ways to begin to get in touch with the source of your pain.
Pay attention to the stories you tell yourself. What beliefs are contributing to your pain?
Often we carry the beliefs of others, namely our parents, with us for our entire lives. Guess what? You don’t have to believe them. What messages have you received about pain or what it means to be sick? Beliefs about our bodies can also be formed by past gym teachers who told us to stretch to avoid injury or someone who told you your body will never be normal because of a scoliosis, flat feet or leg length discrepancy.
Make a list of all the thoughts and beliefs you have about your body and your pain. Then go through each one and ask yourself if that belief is actually true. If it doesn’t feel like a good thought or an empowering one, it’s probably not true. Find a thought that is true to replace it with and then carefully monitor your mind for when that original thought arises. When it does, replace it with the new one.
Honor Your Intuition
Your body is constantly providing messages and feedback. This is your intuition and it’s a powerful force. It’s a built-in life coach that’s always available. The key is learning how to listen. We’ll dig into this in a future post, but a great place to begin is to structure some quiet time into your day and through meditation and mindfulness practices.
One of the best ways to get in touch with your body is to journal. Sit quietly and allow yourself to feel into your body. Resist the urge to shift away from whatever’s painful. Explore these uncomfortable places by asking “What is this pain trying to tell me? If it could talk, what would it say? What purpose is this pain serving in my life?” Write down whatever pops into your head, even if it sounds ridiculous. This is your intuition.