When you see the word ‘pain’ what springs to mind? Bad memories? Negative associations? Something you’d rather be rid of straight away?
What if we turned that response on its head and instead greeted pain with gratitude and curiosity? What might that bring?
Changing our perspective and relationship with pain can allow us to be happier, healthier and more comfortable in our bodies and minds.
Pain is an in-inbuilt protection system, our body’s way of letting us know that something’s not quite right. When we become aware of pain, or more able to tune into it, it presents us with an opportunity to listen, learn, adapt and change.
Adaptation and change can be as simple as taking a fresh look at your work station. Do you need to change your desk around? Are you looking straight ahead or slouching? Perhaps you could invest in a physio ball to keep your core moving and support your lower back while you work?
Pushing pain away
Our busy lives and minds often override this ability to tune in. Things like deadlines, entrenched habits or even workplace cultures can result in us ignoring our pain, maybe by taking painkillers or otherwise pushing it away into the background of our lives.
We can become so accustomed to pain that we carry it for years and stop listening to what it’s trying to tell us. This is a missed opportunity.
When we bring an awareness to bodily discomfort and allow ourselves to experience and understand rather than block and push away those sensations, we empower ourselves to take more control over our minds, our bodies and therefore our lives. This in turn makes it easier to let challenging things come and go without stress.
The same can be said of emotional pain, which is just as difficult to deal with and just as important to acknowledge.
In fact, emotional can pain can be even more difficult to manage than physical pain because of the distinction our society makes between the two (although things have improved, taking six weeks off work with a broken leg is still more socially acceptable than taking a month off for depression).
By practising being with physical pain we strengthen our ability to be with emotional pain, and that can only be a good thing.
On the couch
Pain also signposts areas of the body which are asking for attention. As a Holistic Massage Therapist I’m trained to take note of these signposts. Knots – caused by the waste products of our hard-working muscles – are probably the most common example.
Knots build up in muscle fibres and clog the communication channels which run between the body and the brain via the nervous system. They can lead to feelings of numbness and general disconnection.
Working on these areas can be painful but if the body welcomes it it’s more of a ‘good pain’, a sensation of release. ‘Bad pain’ makes the muscles tense up and says, Please don’t go there.
‘Good pain’ can be a sign that an area is crying out for nurturing touch. By working slowly and always checking in with my clients, I can make that distinction and they can have total control over which pains to investigate and which to avoid.
The power of acceptance
There is also an emotional freedom which comes from paying closer attention to pain.
When we fear or resent pain we run the risk of creating a space inside us which is bigger than the pain itself. These negative feelings can make us hold on to and feel victim to our pain.
On the other hand, practising things like mindfulness can help us to become more aware of the pain in our bodies, to witness it, acknowledge it and ultimately let it pass.
When we do this we see that pain, like all bodily sensations, moves, shifts and ultimately drifts away with time, like clouds rolling across an ever-changing sky.
Let’s get curious
Approaching pain with curiosity and compassion can reap significant rewards. When you wake up in the morning ask yourself, What does my body want today? Regardless of my normal routine, what’s the best thing for me right now, in this moment? You may be surprised by the result.
If you’d like to explore your aches and pains through holistic massage then please feel free to get in touch. Let’s get curious together and see what we can find.