Last year I hurt my back. I was carrying buckets of water down the stairs, one in each hand. And something went 'Ping". I couldn't get my shoes on, get comfy in bed, or even sit on the loo. I went to see a Chiropractor, paid £40, and then had 7 sessions. The pain disappeared for a few hours, but returned. I went to see a healer. He did some muscle testing on me, and poked me fiercely, to 'activate' my muscles. I went away bruised and with a lighter wallet. But still, a pain in the back.
This was terrible. I couldn't dance, I didn't want to socialise. I was down in the dumps. A software engineer, who had suffered with a bad back for years gave me a book- Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection, by John E. Sarno. I checked the reviews on Amazon, and then read it. It's a little book. But it has a lot to say. About the Medical establishment, about the mind, and about back pain.
Dr John Sarno was Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, at New York University School of Medicine. According to him, “there's nothing like a little physical pain to keep your mind off your emotional problems.” He says that back pain is caused by suppressed emotion. The 2 most common suppressed emotions are fear and anger. Because strong emotions are uncomfortable the body diverts our attention with pain. So instead of acknowledging our frustration/sadness/exhaustion we get lost in a labyrinth of physical pain.
It is easier for us to bear physical pain than it is to face strong emotions, and make changes in our lives.
Dr. Brene Brown has researched shame and vulnerability for 15 years. Her research showed that many people only notice 3 emotions: fear, anger, happiness. Her work helps people develop an emotional vocabulary. So they can feel and name emotions. There are more than 30 common feelings. Getting to know yourself, and your emotions, is like shining a light in a big warehouse full of stuff. Previously we just bumped into things, and only recognised anger and fear when they bit us on the head. Celebrity chef, Lorraine Pascale recently said:
It's bizarre to me that you can say your leg hurts, but you can't say, 'My heart hurts. I feel terrible.'
It's easier for us to deal with physical pain, than with emotional distress. Look at the emotion wheel below. Where do you feel these emotions in your body? Notice feelings of heat, cold, tightness, pressure, itching. The body expresses emotion through sensation. Every emotion has physical sensations. Many of us don't notice them.
What does pain have to say?
I finished Dr. Sarno's back-pain book and stopped seeing my Chiropractor. Dr. Sarno recommends doing the activities you love, so I threw myself back into dancing and yoga. That was the easy part. Acknowledging anger from my difficult divorce/separation and a distressing change of career was harder. Acknowledging my anxiety, and worry about the future was challenging. Hardest of all was allowing myself to feel exhausted, and take necessary rest. I pushed myself too hard, and my back pain was a signal to slow down. My body said: "Stop. We're not doing this anymore. You're not listening." The pain was a signal to stop and listen.
5 ways to slow down and listen to the body.
I resisted making these changes, imagining I was too busy. My back pain helped me see that if I didn't make changes I would get ill. And then I would get nothing done. Keeping busy is false economy. Without proper rest, the body pays. But later.
1) Cut back on Social Media
2)Take a power nap or Siesta.
3)Sit under a tree and do nothing.
4)Swim in the sea.
5) Stop doing things you don't have to do. I cancelled an online business course with Clickbank. I withdrew from Netflix, and stopped punishing myself with Jazz guitar exercises.