Coloured portrait

Coloured portrait

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tame the Monsters in Your Pain

Using the mind to understand physical pain; using the body to heal the mind

Every single force in the Kosmos seek self-fulfillment, and part of fulfilling one’s raison d’ĂȘtre is self-expression – and such strength is behind this inherent drive to self-expression of each entity that, should anything try to stop it from expressing itself, the silenced force will necessarily find alternative ways to play out its nature, even if this means it that those ways are hidden from the naked eye of the self.

Such is the law of human psyche: every single drive, emotion, trait, urge and impulse seeks its own fulfillment and expression; understanding this matter is of utmost importance if one is to live life fully, giving it one’s one hundred percent. The ultimate meaning of life is not just to be present in the here and now, but to embody and express the full-spectrum of one’s being, without leaving any part behind, without disowning any aspect of one’s self.

When any aspect of the human psyche is disowned, and deemed to not be part of the subject “I” – “I am not like that” (I am not angry, greedy, scared, cruel, dishonest etc) this aspect continues to be part of the psyche – it doesn't just disappear in the void just because the self has declared it unacceptable, or “Not Me”; but it lingers as a split-off of a fragmented self, in the shadows of the unconscious mind, getting a life of its own. Once denied expression from the self’s conscious awareness, the disowned voices find alternative ways to express themselves, outside of the self’s volition and cognition: they simply turn dark.

Pain is very often none other than such expression of disowned parts of the psyche from the Shadow; since Shadow, by definition, cannot be known, it is impossible to uncover the disowned parts through self-inquiry.
One of the ways to uncover, recognize and integrate Shadow elements is through physical pain.

In his Focusing protocol, Eugene Gendlin starts a psychotherapy session by greeting the pain or body-felt sensation, as if greeting a friend: “Hello, I know you’re there”, which represents  a first step in acknowledging a previously disowned voice of one’s mind, and the beginning of its fulfillment. A next step could consist of having a conversation with the pain: “Who are you? What do you want, or need?” and an answer would lead to finding that long-lost voice (long-lost because most of the repressing and suppressing occurs during childhood). Gendlin continues with finding an attribute that best describes the pain / sensation (“tight”, “constricted”, “irritating”, “burning pressure” etc), and ensuring that the word fully resonates with the body-felt sensation. A few moments of silent focusing on the “tight” or “burning” etc. sensation gives the shadow element the very thing that will bring it out of the shadows: the self’s attention, which is the equivalent of flashing a light upon the disowned kids in the basement. The continuing dialogue is bound to bring an insight to the self, accompanied by a release of tension: “What makes you so “irritated”? What do you need me to change in order to stop being such a “burning pressure”?

At the point of identifying a sore spot on an individual’s body, Avi Grinberg, founder of the Grinberg method and author of “Pain, Fear and Other Friends”  explores the  individual’s agreement to feel that pain, and to allow the physical expression of the pain through body movement and breath.
The unconscious response to pain is to react to it, very often by avoiding it, using body movement and postures that keep us disconnected from the pain, such movement and postures becoming patterns that limit the persona and become the individual’s body-mind’s signature in the world. Re-connecting with the body, and the pain in it, is not the intuitive action one would think to take, but it is what it takes for the pain, and whatever part of the psyche that shows up as pain, needs in order to achieve self-expression. The body learns to move towards feeling the pain, instead of just moving away from it - body posture, movement, breath and voice becoming channels of expression for the pain and its underlying quality, emotion, trait, impulse etc. Taken to a maximum, to a climax, the pain has “done its thing” and the individual can let go, body and mind alike. The dark monsters from the shadow self showing up as pain, have been tamed, and a long-lost aspect of the self has been integrated.

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