Reactions to Pain

Remember the last time you stubbed your toe really hard?  What was your first reaction?  If you were me at that moment, you woofed out some air and then bent over, not breathing, trying to wait out the blinding surge of pain.

If you were me, you used that moment of breathlessness to blame yourself or whatever was around you.  You spent some quality time of that breathlessness wondering how bad the toe was broken and whether there was blood.  There may or may not have been whispered cursing involved.

If you were me, you tried as hard as you could to not actually think about the toe itself.  Everything peripheral to the toe was safe to think about and lash out at, but not the toe itself.  Because thinking about the toe might make it fall off, feeling the pain might make you do something embarrassing like cry.  If you were me.

It still amazes me that this is my reaction to physical pain, big or small.  I mean, I treat physical injury for a living for heaven’s sake!  And BIG physical injury to boot – abdominal adhesions, post-surgical pain, etc.  And in my work, when I feel a client battening down the hatches, as it were, I encourage them to soften up a little and move straight into the pain they are experiencing, to find the center of the pain and keep breathing.  I assure them that if they do this, the pain will fade faster, the injury will release faster and they will feel soooo much better, so much faster.  And it’s absolutely, one hundred percent true.

Pain has layers.  Those layers usually add up to pain, but not every layer is pain.

Occasionally, I remember to move directly into the pain of my own injuries, to accept that I just bashed the heck out of my toe and that that painful toe is, in fact, my toe.  My right big toe to be exact.

I bend over to poke it lovingly and apologize, but I keep breathing.  I inspect it for brokenness or blood and keep breathing.

I marvel that within a few seconds, I feel no pain.  I feel that my toe is kind of numb, that it’s a little uncomfortable to walk on, that it’s gonna’ be stiff for a while, but there is really almost no pain.  My whole leg is not throbbing and I don’t feel the need to blame anyone for what happened.

Sound familiar?  Yes!  Tina talks about this kind of thing all the time with emotional pain.  In my experience, emotional pain and physical pain are pretty much inextricable.  Which is great news because if you can be nice to yourself through emotional pain, then it’s pretty likely you’ll be able to be nice to yourself through physical pain and vice versa.

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