What does pain do for us?
Pain lets us know something is wrong with us. It signals us that the stove we are touching is hot and to move our hand or risk a serious burn. It lets us know when to stop lifting or exerting ourselves physically. It tells us we have hit out limits. It also tells us that we have damaged tissues as in breaks, tears, nerve problems, sprains or strains. It lets us be aware of our body and to pay attention to a certain area. It helps us to not reinjure an area before it has healed. It can also alert us to more serious issues like cancer, non-malignant tumors, tissue damage, and other underlying issues that can cause bigger problems if not addressed. So since pain clearly lets us see that something is wrong with us physically, so does it point to what is wrong emotionally. The good news is the solution to your pain, comes with what is your pain providing you? What is it calling your attention to? What is it trying to let you know is WRONG? What is it alerting you to?
Pain doesn't always have a physical cause, of course. Allopathic pain is pain that has no obvious physical cause for the pain. The tissue is healthy and functioning, yet pain is still very real and can also be disabling. In both cases, what the pain is providing you is still a vaer valid question and the answers are very valuable and can help you get yourself out of pain.
Now, I know that this concept, that pain does something for us, can be hard to accept if you are currently in a lot of pain. So let me just say, I know, I've been there. 8 years ago if someone had told me that my pain had a purpose, a gift or reason for being here, I likely would have said then it must be here to punish me. I must have been a bad person in another life or must be so rotten on the inside that I am being punished properly by hurting. That statement in itself is actually holding the key to my pain, in fact. You see I was punishing myself for all the ways I felt I was not good enough. At the time I could not have seen it, but now I know that these feelings still help me to get out of pain when it sneaks in.
Let me explain more clearly, by sharing my pain and what it was doing for me. I used to be in nearly constant pain from my waist down. My low back often spasmed and I had sciatica down both legs. My legs ached and my bones hurt. My low back had more stabbing pain that would often shoot down my legs changing the dull ache to temporary excruciatingly intense pain to my feet. Or it would shoot upward into my middle back and cause me to barely be able to move. Now physically, I had my diagnosis and the "cause of my pain". The MRI "proved" it. I have scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) in both my upper and lower back. Scoliosis has caused Degenerative Disc Disease. This means that chronic misalignment of my spine is causing my discs to deteriorate and not provide the cushioning they once had. In addition to these two issues, I also have multiple discs that are herniated or bulging. I had proof and physical cause, it was all I needed, right! I was a victim to my body and there was, as my doctors explained it, no hope for recovery or a life without pain. I was told to learn to manage the pain the best I could and that the faster I accepted this truth the easier it would be. That learning to manage my psychological state and not get depressed was my best option. Just give in and accept.
Well, thank goodness I didn't, because in 2013, after 7 years of being a chronic pain patient and having a handicapped placard, I did not renew my placard. I was able to take my kids trick or treating and didn't need my pain pills or muscle relaxers or the alcohol that often was needed for long walks. I had gotten myself out of pain and was completely chemical-free! It felt like a miracle.
So, what did my pain provide me? And how did knowing the answer help me get myself out of pain? Mostly, it offered me a chance to ask for help. A chance to not do "everything" on my own. It allowed me to be, and to slow down and take care of myself. Without my pain, I would have never slowed down, never asked for help and continued to take on more and more. I would have continued to put myself last, and made everyone else more important than me. I would have enabled my children to feel incapable and invaluable as a member of our family, as I was doing everything for them. My husband could have continued to not participate and to behave like a teenager and not the man he could be. Keeping him feeling inadequate, helpless, and unable to provide anything for me or the kids. My pain was providing a LOT for me and my family.
Part of my healing process was to learn to get the things I truly needed in respectful, responsible adult ways. I began asking for help from my husband. Inviting him to cook dinner once or twice a week, which he is perfectly capable of doing and even finds he enjoys. I began asking for his help around the house, which created respect and understanding and helped him to feel like he had something to contribute besides just an income. I began creating chore charts for the kids and putting them in charge of age-appropriate chores, helping them feel valued, capable and proud of their efforts.
I also began taking time for myself, which allowed me to turn down my intensity and feel less bitter and resentful towards my entire family. Even if it was a 30-minute bath with Epsom salts and essential oils, it was for me. Tiem for me to make me the most important person in the whole world. What a concept that was! I also began saying "no" to things I didn't REALLY want to do and say "yes" to things I wanted, even when no else gained anything accept me. When I learned to say "no", it allowed me to stop needing my pain to help me say "no", to stop using it as an excuse for not being able, when really I didn't want to.
Now, pain doesn't always have to do with other people. As I mentioned above, I felt like I was being punished by my pain. I even caught myself thinking, "that'll teach you" one day after I had lost my temper with my kids and spanked one of them out of anger and basically temporary insanity. I realized that I did believe I was bad and needed a good punishment to "teach me a lesson". And omg, I had just done the same thing to my poor child. Once I heard this limiting belief in my head, it became a common theme. If I didn't get the dishes done or dinner on the table at the perfect time, I would hurt and hear this familiar mantra in my head "that'll teach you".
Basically, I had an unrealistic expectation of what a mom and wife should look like, be and do and if I could live up to it, I deserved to be punished, so I was inviting pain to try to make me be better and more perfect. By allowing myself to feel ok with who I was and ok with what I could do and all I was good at, I was able to stop beating myself up for it.
There was one last thing my pain was providing me. It was providing me a chance to acknowledge my fears around money. As a child, our family was often financially stressed and I was very aware of this. My mother worried a lot about money for many different reasons and I had adopted her beliefs, fears, and general upset when it came to money. This was being manifested in my life as pain. When I would spend money on groceries or other needed household items and I was punishing myself for spending when we didn't have enough money to pay for it. The funny thing was I actually did have enough money. My husband had a well-paying job and was tenured. We were fine, but my mother's money issues had permeated me. As an adult, I had unconsciously chosen to feel fear when there was none and it was very painful. It turned out it was not the big heavy grocery cart in Costco that left me in tears walking to the car nearly every time I left, it was the big heavy bill at the end of the trip that did me in. When I realized this, Costco was no longer my nemesis!
You see, pain is providing us all with something. Maybe for you, it's time away from your job or to keep you from participating in a hobby with someone else for them. Maybe you too are punishing yourself for not being good enough. Maybe you feel like you can't provide for your family or will never be as good at your job as your coworker. Maybe you feel like your not a good enough parent or that you are inherently a bad person. Maybe you are carrying someone else's burdens or limiting beliefs. Whatever it is, looking at it and then learning to get those needs met in an alternative, healthy way, will likely leave you in less pain.
Written by Keslie Mack, Keslie Mack Healer & Hypnotherapist