Learning to befriend your body when you are in pain allows you to tap inner resources for healing.
Moving away from pain helps us to survive – like pulling back your hand when you touch a hot stove. But when we consistently and unconsciously pull away from emotional pain, we end up moving away from ourselves, disconnecting ourselves from our bodies and emotions. This separation is hard, especially when a person becomes pushy or angry with themselves. Think about a friend with whom you feel frustration or anger. Your feelings can make your relationship difficult and increase tension between you. If you can find a way to talk through the dilemma, it is possible to be comfortable again. If not, you may lose the friendship. Similarly, if a person is frustrated and pushes their body without listening to increasing discomfort, further injury can occur. If you hear a fire alarm, it is telling you to stop whatever you are doing so you can keep yourself safe. Listen to the alarm. Respond to your body when you hear it talking to you.
Since the body speaks through physical symptoms, keeping the lines of communication open will increase overall well-being — both physical and emotional. If this at all sounds like your experience, reassuring your spirit is vital for emotional and physical healing. Your body does not want to hurt you – it is only doing what it can to survive.
Learning to talk with your body in a soothing way opens you to healing and can reduce pain. Somatic Psychotherapy can help move this process along by reuniting you and your body in a resourceful way. Clinical Hypnosis also can help by giving you a soothing respite.
The root of Somatic Psychotherapy and Clinical Hypnosis is enjoying the relaxation response for healing.
Calmness and relaxation engage the parasympathetic nervous system so that you can release tension, and find equilibrium when you are threatened. Potential threat includes physical and emotional pain. Fighting and fleeing activate the sympathetic nervous system so that we can take care of ourselves, and survive.
Learning more about pain will help you understand how vital it is to care for yourself in a soothing way.
First, let’s look at physical pain and how it helps us to survive as a species and as individuals. When you experience unpleasant physical sensations like touching a hot stove, you can quickly prevent further injury by pulling your hand away. You don’t have to think about it. You just automatically do it. This reaction to a painful stimulus is reflexive – how we come into the world hard-wired for survival. In fact, people who are born without pain-sensing nerves tend to die prematurely because they cannot protect themselves when injured.
The science of pain recognizes two main forms of discomfort. Both activate the sympathetic nervous system for survival. The most common form is sensing of disturbance, or “nociception” that occurs when tissue is directly affected by an impact to the body. Examples include when a bone breaks from a fall (injury), when skin burns from caustic fluid (chemical exposure), and when joints swell from an arthritis flare-up (inflammation). Nociception activates peripheral nerve fibers located within organs and muscles, or within the skin; quickly sending messages to the brain for interpretation. Then motor neurons come in to play, allowing you to move, change position or shift weight for relief. Thus “motion is lotion”; a salve for relieving this kind of pain. Taking a deep breath is another kind of salve that relieves pain by releasing tension.
The second and less common form of physical pain is direct damage to the nervous system or “neuropathic” that occurs when the nervous system itself is impacted. Examples include when a broken bone severs a nerve (injury) when joints tighten around a nerve (pinching), or when nerve fibers are affected (disease).
Both forms of pain activate the sympathetic nervous system, heating up the body for action to ensure survival. We can fight or flee because beneficial chemicals like adrenalin pump into our bloodstream when we are under threat.
Next, let’s look at how emotional pain is similar to physical pain in how it protects us.
Yes, emotional pain is unpleasant, but the very nature of that can protect us, just as physical pain does. Feeling emotional pain when separated helps us to stick together – greatly enhancing our survival as a species. In ancient times, we found that working together helped us raise our young and gather food safely.
In our modern world, we feel the pain of empathy and emotional separation across many social contexts: within the planet as a whole, within large social groups like countries, cities, and neighborhoods, within smaller social groups like families and couples, and even within individuals.
Because emotional pain affects us so deeply, we often feel compelled to do whatever it takes to stay in relationships even when there is suffering. Sometimes, this involves emotional and physical symptoms. If you do separate, your heart can feel as though it is breaking. That emotional pain can echo in the physical heart through pain, or “angina”. So, emotional and physical sensations beat together in a painful way.
Let’s see how we can change the tempo to a softer beat. With my help, you can tap the relaxation response in somatic psychotherapy and/or clinical hypnosis. Relaxing soothes physical pain and emotional tension, opening space for you to heal. Call me – your body is waiting for relief.