On Pain as a Messenger - Part 2
Imagine a river. You’re standing at a bend, your feet bare on cool earth, dappled sunlight making patterns on the ground from overhead. It’s a narrow river and when you lift up your eyes, you can see to the other side. Over there, trees are growing, and there are smooth river rocks lining both sides of the bank.
The river is making lots of noise, gurgling and slurping, and when you peer down, you see that the water isn’t flowing. Instead, there are rocks and sticks, even a whole tree trunk jammed into the bend, and the water is trying to force it’s way through. There is foam gathering in the eddies, yellowy brown and going crusty at the edges.
The river is doing it’s best to use force to push through the blockage, but the build up is too intense to be easily cleared. So what needs to happen? More water could be pushed down the river to try and force the blockage to clear. Or, smaller rocks and sticks could be cleared out of the way from the sides working inwards, until enough have been cleared that the river can flow easily and free.
Imagine that your pain is this blockage in the river, because in a way it is. A blockage in the flow of energy, of nerve impulses, of nutrients getting in to cells and waste products being cleared out. A blockage of your body forgetting how to relax, how to not get stuck in a pain cycle, how to choose pleasure.
Somewhere in your body, at some point in your life, the first little pebbles and sticks began to gather at a bend. There are so many reasons that this could have happened. Maybe it was physical trauma. Maybe you were told something about yourself that didn’t feel true but you didn’t know how to deal with, so you pushed it down into your body and it collected as sticks and rocks. Maybe your body was asking something of you, and instead of listening, you pushed through or forced yourself to be something you aren’t, and a little more foam collected.
So now what?
Modern treatments often suggest using force to push through the blockages, to force your body to stop doing an action that creates pain. To force it to stretch open, to stop the natural action of your nerves and tissues.
But, there are a couple of issues with this approach.
First, what if the pain is there because of a life time of not listening to what you body was asking of you, and instead forcing it to do or be something that it wasn’t ready for? Or because of a trauma that was forced upon you? Taking the approach of using force to push through the blockages can mirror the situation that has you in a pain response in the first place. Even though there may be some relief or body response to that sort of approach, it is not addressing what caused it in the first place, not getting to the deep places where true healing is possible.
Secondly, this approach may not be addressing the underlying issues that are creating a situation in your body where chronic pain is your reality. Trying to force your body to relax when, for example, the muscle cells don’t have the nutrients that they need in order to relax may not be effective in the long term.
Your body would respond more quickly, more effectively and more permanently to an approach that removes the rocks and sticks and crusty foam that are blocking your flow, as slowly as your body needs to move, while creating lasting change and a life long relationship with your own body.
And, it is possible that the healing itself is going to be a source of pleasure for you, that the cure for the pain is in the pain – and that it actually feels good.
True, deep healing is possible. But it may look slower and less spectacular then a method that forces change on your body. But it will feel good to give it a try!
Check in next week for Part 3 of On Physical Pain as a Messenger, including a short practice to begin the process of really listening to your body, so that you can discover what might become the first stick you clear out of your river jam.