Updated: Feb 29, 2020
Have you ever been through something so painful and didn’t think you would ever feel better? That was me about a year ago.
I had learned to manage my anxiety and depression with life coaching work, and I felt amazing. Then, soon after, I injured my lower back and was in so much pain and despair that I fell right back into the darkness of depression.
I was so angry. Hadn’t I suffered enough? Now this? FML.
I ran to every practitioner I knew to fix the problem for me: a chiropractor, physiotherapist, pelvic health therapist, massage therapist and osteopath, to name a few. They all provided me with relief, exercises, and some pep talks, but it wasn’t long before my pain returned.
Then, finally, after months of agony, I learned about the mind body connection, which was the turning point for my suffering.
I learned that our thoughts create our feelings, which affect our physiology.
The beliefs you have about yourself, the world and your memories all create your emotions. And our bodies are designed to respond to these emotions. Think about it: when you feel embarrassed, your face turns red, when you feel anxious, your stomach feels tight and when you’ve had a stressful day, you may get a headache.
Our bodies may even respond to feelings we don’t know are there because emotional information in our brain isn’t just from the present moment, it’s also from past experience.
And pain isn’t just a physical experience. Research shows that the physical part of pain is actually very small. Most of the pain that we experience is emotional. So, even in the absence of structural or tissue damage, the brain will create intense pain.
There are several reasons for this, but two that resonated with me the most:
The first one is that your experience of pain has a lot to do with what your brain makes it mean about you and the future. So, my thoughts “I don’t want to feel this, this is never going to go away, I can’t live like this” were causing even more tension and pain on top any structural issues that I had.
The second reason is that pain can be an expression of unprocessed emotions. I used to be so good at avoiding feeling my feelings, but unprocessed, they were affecting my physiology. Once I accepted the reality of my situation, I was able to access deeper thoughts that were causing intense anxiety and fear that I wasn’t willing to face. We were registering my son to start school and I was so afraid of all the terrible things that would happen to him in the “real world” where I couldn’t protect him. Deep down, I believed the world was not safe, and it was creating a lot of tension in my body.
There’s a Buddhist saying that “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” This means we can at least end our emotional suffering by changing our thoughts and beliefs about our pain and processing emotions that we haven’t been willing to feel.
There’s also a psychological concept known as locus of control. Someone with a strong internal locus of control has a strong belief in their ability to influence the outcomes of their life. And someone with a strong external locus of control views the results of their life as a result of luck or the actions of others. People with strong internal locus of control report lower pain intensities and less frequent pain.
I’m here to tell you that you have more control of the outcomes of your life, including your experience of pain, because they are the result of your thoughts and feelings. And you can decide what to think and feel, on purpose.
If you’re suffering from physical pain, seek out the right practitioners to help you and also do some introspection on the deeper thoughts and feelings that aren’t serving you.
Physical and emotional pain are just sensations in your body that are harmless. If you can experience these sensations without any language and just observe them without making it mean anything about you or the future, you will find a level of relief and peace that most people have never known.
Over time, I was able to transform thought patterns that weren’t serving me and release my anxiety and fear and feel so much better, mentally and physically. Now, it's a daily practice of paying attention to my mind and body, uncovering and releasing thoughts that are causing it tension and moving and nourishing it in ways that feel like love.
If you’d like to learn how to relieve your emotional suffering and feel peace so you can focus on what matters to you in life, sign up for a FREE SESSION today. I’d love to help.