My life coach, Iben, once told me that some people with chronic pain stay in that state to get nurturing and attention. I bristled at this comment because no one wants a pain condition to be discounted as manipulation. One has to be very careful in making these connections. The pain is real and usually many factors contribute to it.
I was only able to consider this possibility when she clarified that this is often a subconscious reaction rather than a conscious choice. It helped me move from judgement to compassion when I considered that these people are trying to fill a core void however they can. On a subconscious level, they are hurting themselves physically to avoid dying emotionally.
About four years into my pain condition, I was having blood drawn. As soon as I saw the needle, I noticed that my mind was somewhere else, leaving my body alone to deal with it. At that moment, I realized that this was a dominant pattern in my life; I automatically moved my awareness up and away whenever I sensed potential emotional or physical pain.
During my second Myofascial Release course, the instructor said that you can feel when someone “left their body”. This seemed a bit out there to me, but then I noticed that sometimes when I was working with someone in the course- his/her body would suddenly feel less animated and more dense. On a few occasions the person told me that at that time they had shut off the emotions or physical sensations they were experiencing at the time.
So as the needle was inserted, I made a conscious decision to stay present. I felt the pain and sent loving energy to my body. And in some subtle way, the whole experience was different.
Over the healing years, I got better at staying present, feeling my pain and loving myself through it. It became clear that, for me, staying present was a crucial part of healing.
photo by Mariane Gabriel
At the beginning of my illness, my doctor told me that I was strong and stoic and when I described my pain as a 4 on a scale of 1-10 she knew that many of her other patients would describe this same level of pain as a 10. This was curious to me because at the time, I thought I was weak and emotional. But over time I discovered that suppressing negative emotions had been my modus-operandi throughout life.
I was a good little soldier, and I got so good at hiding my emotions that I often tucked them inside before I felt anything. It took me years to recognize that there was an emotional component to my illness, and even longer to decide to look at what I was carrying.
I began to appreciate that I wasn’t weak; I had tried to stay strong for too long.