Pain is weird.
We often think that the cause of pain is due to something “wrong” with our bodies. We blew out that knee in a skiing accident in high school. We have “horrible posture” while we sit at our desks all day. My dad had a bad back; his dad had a bad back; I therefore have a bad back.
All these things could be true.
And they could all be contributing to the experience of pain in your knee, your shoulders, your back.
But what else could be true?
Could you have knee pain because when you went to the doctor back in high school, he told you, “Someday you’ll get arthritis in there”? Would you have pain if that thought seed had never been planted by a trusted authority figure?
Could it be true that you thinking all day, “Ugh, my posture is horrible. I really should sit up straight” is causing unnecessary tension in your traps and jaw and gut, thereby increasing your pain?
Could it be true that since your lineage is riddled with back pain, at the first twinge of something… interesting… in your back, you start to restrict your movements, start to baby your back, and start to become hyperaware of any possibly dangerous sensations in your back? You move less (and therefore lose out on the amazing benefits of exercise) and train your system to get really, really good at noticing pain.
Pain is weird!
I had a first-hand experience with how weird pain can be a couple of weeks ago. I am in a 3-year Somatic Experiencing Trauma Resolution training program, and as part of that program, I have to do several sessions with trained practitioner. During my last session, with a woman named Erin Diedling, I asked if we could work on the pain in my low back. As Erin helped me stay present with the sensations in that area, I noticed that while, at that exact moment, I wasn’t noticing anything in my back, I DID notice a slight area of discomfort at the tip of my tailbone. We spent some time noticing the sensation, describing it (it feel like brown sludge), and then Erin asked something like, “What do you hear, what message do you get when you focus on this sensation?”
Well, first of all, I had to tell her that when I work with therapists, I have this huge impulse to try to figure out what they WANT me to say. It’s SO hard to figure out how I really feel, what I really think. I just want to make the therapist happy and give them the RIGHT answer – the RIGHT answer about how I am feeling and what I am thinking. Yes, I know it sounds nuts, but well, that’s me. J
I told this to Erin and she assuaged my anxiety by telling me that wanting to please the therapist is actually a pretty common thing. She added (and I’m paraphrasing), “If you DID know the right answer (and you do). What would the answer be? And remember, whatever answer you give is perfect and is 100% correct.”
Well, that helped me dive under the shell of people-pleasing and become more open to what my body had to say. And the message I heard was “Get off your ass.”
We spent the next few minutes talking about how “getting off my ass” by excelling in school, by being the good girl, and by doing what I was told and making my parents and the authority figures in my congregation proud of me served me well as a youth, and how that action-orientation helped me differentiate myself from the beautiful and talented group of ladies I hung out with.
So, this Part of me served a vital purpose in my life – it got me attention and love. But do I still need it? Erin asked if I wanted to retire this part of me, and I noticed I was reluctant to let it go away completely. I decided to put it on the shelf, so I can bring it out again when needed – when I really need to get some Sh*t done!
And you know what?
At the end of the session my tailbone pain was gone.
I haven’t felt it again since that session on 6/8.
Pain is weird.
What is your pain trying to tell you? Why is it trying to get your attention? What stories are you telling yourself about your pain that might not be true? What would happen if you took a pause and opened a non-judgmental, open-hearted chat with your pain? You might find out something interesting!
Space to be Human Lab
- If you would like some help in figuring out what might be contributing to your pain, you can book a session with me here.
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