- Do you wallow in your pain, letting it shape your mindset and your choices?
- Do you seek out people, experiences or things to numb your pain and pretend it doesn't exist?
- Do you put up emotional walls to avoid pain?
- Do you allow yourself to feel pain and learn from it?
It feels like human nature is to either wallow in our pain, over-identify with it, or feel victimized by it. Or, to run from it and pretend the trauma never happened by overcompensating in other areas of our lives and settling for a "new normal", rather than doing the necessary healing work to thrive. But to actually sit with our pain, move through it, and try to grow from it seems overwhelming.
As a professional massage therapist and fitness professional that specializes in pain management, I witness this struggle in so many people. And one of my favorite bodywork experts, Tom Meyers, author of Myofascial Meridians, defines PAIN as a sensation accompanied by the motor intention to withdraw. While I definitely connect to this idea as a bodyworker that assesses and treats pain all the time, this resonated even deeper for me in an emotional context. I instantly remembered the pain of rejection, betrayal and heartbreak enter my body when my ex-husband asked for a divorce. It was a cavernous, aching feeling in my chest that begged to be filled with red wine, dark chocolate, Netflix or any form of escape that could either numb my pain or help me forget all the hurt. I withdrew from the pain by trying to create a new normal. On the surface, I looked like the poster child for "how to bounce back from divorce and never look back" even though my body, mind and spirit were still writhing in pain. I lived each day on automatic pilot harboring all those toxic feelings inside. Whenever they'd insidiously rise to the surface, I'd run away from the pain and towards another form of distraction.
Mr. Meyers described this as stored pain; the kind of pain you don't feel because your body makes adjustments in order to compensate for it. But stored pain manifests as fatigue, incapacity, or feelings of "I can't". And that's exactly what the pain of heartbreak felt like for me. On the surface it may have looked like I was moving forward in my life but I was emotionally stagnant. I was immobilized by low self-esteem and self-worth, limited vision, and no sense of purpose other than mere survival. And I built up thick walls of protection to avoid the possibility of vulnerability which I associated with more pain.
What I've experienced both physically and emotionally, though, is just how resilient we are. But we have to be willing to experience the feeling of pain leaving our body if we ever want to heal. If we want to move through life purposefully, confidently, fully engaged and self-aware, we need to create space for that type of growth.
One of the most effective tools for ushering pain out of my body has always been stream-of-consciousness writing in my Indie Girl Diary; letting my deepest, darkest truths spill from my veins. That kind of uncensored admission of my fears, insecurities, sadness and anger summons up the pain of old traumas that never healed. I feel that cavernous ache in my heart again and the tears flow uncontrollably. But once that festering energy is purged from my system there's space for clarity, a new mindset, and conscious choices. As I feel the pain leave my body I simultaneously feel capable of growth.
Indie Girl Diary: writing prompt
I'm still storing the pain of __________ because __________.
Indie Girl-Talk: let's chat!
How do you usher emotional pain out of your body? How do you feel afterwards?