I’ve been thinking a lot about pain recently, with some research I’ve been doing into chronic pain and illness.
We all know that pain itself is not the enemy. It’s there for a really good reason. If we stick our hand into a fire, it hurts. That’s nature’s way of ensuring we get our hand out of that fire quickly, because it’s doing us damage. Pain tells us when something is wrong and needs to change. The worse the pain, the more important the need for immediate change.
When it comes to physical pain, however, humans do a stellar job of tolerating it, drugging it away or just disconnecting from the body so as to avoid feeling it altogether.
Don’t think you do this? Have you ever been so busy at work that you finally give in and go to the bathroom because you’re absolutely busting? You’ve been ignoring the mild need, then the intense need, then the pain of not going when you need to, till finally you feel like you will burst. This is your body telling you kindly, then more strongly, then forcefully and finally desperately, that you need to do something to stay healthy and pain-free.
Ever get to the end of the day and realise you’re absolutely starving because you didn’t eat all day? You’ve ignored the quiet signs of hunger through the day, leaving your body to have to get wildly loud in its hunger before you’ll listen.
Ever get into bed at the end of the day and only then realise how tired your feet are, or how achey your calves are, or your shoulders? You’ve been ignoring small and large signals from your body all day, telling you you’re going too hard, too fast, too solidly without a break.
While we carry the notion that pain is the annoying enemy we need to avoid, we do our bodies a disservice, risking more serious injury and illness, but we also shut off our sensitivity to hearing our internal guide in its attempts to steer us into a life we love living. Bodies are the mechanism our internal guide uses to communicate, and the best you get at ignoring and disconnecting from the body’s signals, the less you’ll hear the nuanced guidance that will allow you to find the life you long for.
So try this reconnection exercise now, and see how aware you are of what your body is feeling. Sit with your eyes closed, breath in deeply a few times and “sink” into your body – meaning, become aware of it. Feel your butt against the seat of the chair, your feet against the floor, the clothing against your skin.
Are you warm, cold or just right?
How do your eyes feel, with your lids closed?
Are they tired, stingy, neutral?
Is your jaw tense?
Are your shoulders pain free?
Are you thirsty?
Allow any sensations from your body to raise their awareness in your conscious mind.
Anything surprise you?
Chances are, you became aware of something you hadn’t been aware of before. This is disconnection.
If doing this exercise raised your awareness of a lot of pain, you’re very very good at disconnection. You may feel like running back to the bliss of disconnection! But stay with it. If you can do something to relieve the pain right now, like changing position or having some water, going to the bathroom or stretching out a part of the body, do so – the body guide you as to how much of that to do.
If there isn’t anything you can do right now to relieve the pain, then just tell the hurting part of your body that you’ve heard it, you know it’s hurting, you’re sorry it’s hurting and you’re now aware you need to address that pain in some way, when you can.
This is the start of reconnection and learning to make peace with pain. And making peace with pain is the start of healing it.