What do you do? Where do you go? When symptoms are screaming at you and your usual solutions seem to have lost their healing power?
A few weeks ago I developed deep muscle tension in my back, hips and thighs. It felt like an iron rod was wrapped around my entire trunk and was being squeezed tighter and tighter. The pain was excruciating, but the mental irritation took the cake.
All I wanted was to lay down and rest but anytime I stopped moving, stretching, or massaging my muscles; my pain would increase.
Nothing helped. Homeopathy wasn't doing it, massage and movement helped in the moment but didn't last. Heat, ice, yoga...nothing. It was driving me nutty as I scrambled for solutions.
After a day of pain and a sleepless night, I finally thought to pull out my journal and talk to this pain.
I turned to the practice that I teach in Mind Body Reconnection that helps you uncover the lessons within your symptoms. It focuses on the Mind Body Connection and the perspective that symptoms are adaptations to help us survive in our environment.
While we're pretty aware of symptoms being adaptations in the physical sense (sweating when we're hot), sometimes (often) they are rooted in emotional and unconscious needs. For example, getting a migraine when you say yes to something you didn't want to do.
Pain really happens when our unconscious needs are incongruent with our conscious desires. Pain is the resistance.
Maybe one part of you says no, but your more conscious part says yes. Or you don't believe you can get a need met just by asking for it. Or you unconsciously believe you are not worthy of that need being met...so your body steps in and speaks for you.
As a collective, Humans have gotten really good at pretending that mind and body have no impact on each other. Yet they do. And the more this goes ignored, the more we end up in excruciating pain without solutions (or an opioid crisis).
Simply noticing these connections can sometimes be all it takes to heal them. I vividly remember Tyler dealing with what he thought was a broken thumb. Frantically we tried to figure out what was wrong...only to come together and have a conversation about what it might be meaning. He uncovered his need to be seen and the pattern that was created over his lifetime of that only happening when he was injured - the next morning his thumb had full range of motion and no pain. The power of noticing.
How did my journalling go?
By the end of my journalling (it was one page long, that's it), the lesson was loud and clear.
I didn't believe I was allowed to rest. In fact, a part of me believed that it was unsafe to rest, that everything would crumble if I did.
So when all I really needed was rest, my body said no. It said, "do something, fix this". It told me I couldn't possibly surrender to this moment. It told me it wasn't safe, so keep moving, stretching, working.
As I finished the journalling, I exhaled and noticed that I'd been sitting for about 30 minutes while I wrote. Still feeling the tension but not the panic.
I spent the next few hours before bed breathing deeply anytime the pain came up, telling myself (literally talking to myself):
"I am safe to rest"
I slept well that night and woke up 90% better.
If you're struggling with stubborn symptoms, write about this:
What is this symptom forcing you to do?
What is this symptom preventing you from doing?
If you could do that (#2), then what would happen? Who would you be?
Question 1 might tip you off to what your unconscious parts believe they need or want - it might be an old pattern. Does it serve you? Can you meet that need in a healthier, safer way today?
It's forcing me to move, stretch, do. To find solutions, to work hard, to fix things, to control.
Question 2 leads us to what you consciously desire.
It's preventing me from resting. Which is all that I want in this pain.
Question 3 brings them all together to help you explore the core belief or fear that is sustaining the symptoms.
If I rest, nothing will get done. If nothing gets done I won't make money. If I'm not working on things, I can't trust that they'll resolve. If I rest, I have to surrender, I have to trust that I'll be taken care of, I have to allow myself to be supported.
This practice is beneficial anytime you're feeling stuck with a symptom. In Mind Body Reconnection we go into more depth with more prompts to coax really stubborn symptoms out of their shell. You can use this alongside your favourite therapy - for pain, sickness, allergies, anything in between.
Sometimes the most potent medicine is simply noticing. So get curious, have a conversation, see what your body has to tell you.