Let’s Talk About Your Problems

This week I want to talk to you about your problems.

What was your #1 problem today?

  • Did your chronic pain piss you right off?
  • Did your stomach fall over your pants too much?
  • Was your bus driver too angry, or too happy, for you?
  • Did you feel like eating everything within a 1 mile radius of you?
  • Did your cat piss you off by shedding too much hair?
  • Did people ask too much of you?

If your problem involves some sort of complaint, worry, or self-critical thought or judgement, I assure you, that THAT is NOT your REAL problem.

Let me say that again.

Whatever your #1 problem was today, or any problems you had today, or yesterday, or the day before, that problem is NOT the real issue.

The real issue is almost always something much deeper.

The real issue is almost always an emotion that needs to be felt.

When we get lost in mental activities like worrying, ruminating, thinking about the past or future, obsessing about something, criticizing ourselves or others, etc. that is the ultimate sign that we are disconnected from ourselves. We subconsciously engage in this mental behavior to disconnect from our bodies when we are trying to avoid feeling an emotion. It’s like the mind’s way of protecting us from discomfort. Unfortunately, it is actually feeling the emotion rather than avoiding it that will  lead us closer to comfort within our body and our life. Because as you all know, avoiding emotions can lead to physical pain in your body, which sure ain’t comfy! And when you are more connected to your body and emotions you become much more comfortable in your own skin.

But don’t beat yourself up about engaging in this mental behavior! You most likely picked it up from a very young age when you learned that emotions like sadness, anger, frustration and fear were, in a nutshell, no good to feel. This avoidance behavior happens on such a sub-conscious level that you don’t even realize you are doing it, so you fall for your mind’s tricks by getting sucked in to those stories about your pain, your fat thighs or stomach, and your bus driver (or insert whatever frustration YOU have here), instead of dealing with the real issue, which is an emotion that needs to be felt and released.

Come on, did you really believe you were too fat or your cat was too hairy?

Here’s my challenge for you: every time you notice yourself worrying about something, like your pain, criticizing yourself or your cat (can you tell I’m speaking from experience here? “I mean come on, Mila (my cat)! Why the f&@# do you shed so much? Who do you think you are anyways?”), worrying about your future or ruminating about your past, or anything that really just ends up being mental clutter that serves no purpose, flip your attention away from that and go inward. Ask yourself what you are feeling emotionally. Ask yourself what feeling you might be trying to avoid in this moment. Answer with a one-word emotion: mad, sad, glad, frustrated, happy, etc.?

So before you open your mouth to complain about something, or before you get lost in that mental junkyard of yours, curiously see what emotion you might be avoiding instead. If you don’t know, just guess. The more you do this, the easier it will be to pinpoint what emotion you are feeling. Not only will you be more in tune with your body and emotions (which means pain relief!!!) you will also notice yourself worrying, complaining, and self-criticizing way less! Wahoo! You won’t need it to divert your attention anymore!

Hmm…anyone else feel the need to end this post in song and dance?

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The How and Why of Chronic Body Pain

If you’ve been reading my blogs and watching my videos you’re probably still wondering how one ends up with chronic body pain. I don’t think I’ve written specifically about the science behind it, so this week I thought I’d dive in and give you a very basic understanding of the how and why chronic body pain occurs.

Chronic body pain, like Interstitial Cystitis, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue, Migraines, general neck and back pain, just to name a few, is pain that we create in our own bodies without even knowing it. And the process begins with not feeling our emotions.

When you were younger, do you remember people saying these things to you:

“Stop being a cry baby”
“Toughen up”
“Just pretend it didn’t happen/just ignore it”

or another variation of those remarks? These comments teach us that there is something wrong with us if we feel a so-called “negative emotion”, and we end up pushing the emotion down so we appear strong and tough just like everyone wants us to be. We learn that expressing our emotions shows weakness, so every time we feel anger, hurt, or fear we stuff it down so we aren’t labelled a cry baby, or we appear as if “everything is ok” when in fact it is not. We get really good at doing this at a young age, so as we grow older we are able to continue to suppress our emotions without even knowing we are doing it.

Here is the catch. We actually have to tighten/clench a muscle in our body in order to avoid feeling an emotion. This muscle clenching takes our awareness off of the emotion because, instead, we are focused on muscle clenching. This is a defense mechanism to divert our attention away from feeling our emotions. Most people are not even aware that this is happening because they are so disconnected from their bodies. (I was included in that category, too!)

So if we are continually suppressing emotions that means we are constantly clenching a muscle in our body. Consistent clenching of a muscle will create chronic tension because we are restricting blood flow to that area. When we restrict blood flow to an area it gets less oxygen, which means it can’t function optimally as it isn’t getting all the nutrients it needs.

Everybody clenches different muscles when avoiding an emotion, which is why chronic pain can occur anywhere in the body. For example, people who tighten their pelvic floor muscles instead of feeling an emotion may end up with Interstitial Cystitis, and people who clench one or more muscles in their back may end up with chronic back pain. There are studies and theories that try to explain why people clench the muscles that they do, but nevertheless, SOME muscle in your body will clench/tighten every time you avoid an emotion. This is a survival habit to keep emotions at bay until it is a safe time to feel them. If you don’t take the time to feel them later on, you will have to keep re-clenching that muscle to keep stuffing it down, which can result in that muscle being clenched almost constantly, all day, every day, which means a huge reduction of blood flow and oxygen to that area. Of course the nerves in that area are going to end up frazzled and in pain! Just imagine, if you were to flex your biceps all day, how tired that muscle would get and how it couldn’t perform optimally anymore. Even lifting a light object would seem like a grueling task for that fatigued muscle!

If you are currently experiencing chronic body pain, I don’t want you to beat yourself up about how you could let this happen to yourself. How could you have known? We weren’t taught this in school. There was Math, Science, English, Gym, etc. but no Emotions 101 or Mind/Body Health class. Of course we are going to clench our muscles and not feel our emotions! We thought that was the easiest and safest thing to do up until now. We didn’t know that recognizing and feeling our emotions had so much to do with our health and the way our bodies would function!

When I found out that I was tightening my pelvic floor muscles almost constantly, I didn’t start scolding myself, I felt empowered by it, because now I knew exactly what was going on in my body when I was suppressing an emotion. I was now on to my own tricks! I invite you to embrace this the same way. Embrace this by getting curious about your body pain, whether it’s chronic or not in nature. Does that area feel tense? Is there any area in your body that feels tense? Could it be tense because there is something you are trying not to feel at this moment? Was there an emotion a week ago you think you may have avoided? Could you set an alarm on your phone every hour or so to remind you to check for tension in your body? If you feel tension, could you imagine and feel that tension melting away? Ask yourself lots of questions and try to investigate and get curious about what you are feeling without getting into the “story” about your pain (the “story” is something I will talk about in a few weeks).

Please Note: When you are consciously feeling tension and relaxing a tense area you will be allowing an emotion to release. It may take a while, but you will soon open the conduit for emotions to start flowing again if this is practiced regularly. I highly recommend working with a Mind-Body Coach or Therapist as you begin this journey, as it may feel overwhelming at first. Receiving support and guidance will increase your success in your healing journey.

E-mail me at meghan@meghancurrie.com for a 20 minute consult or to book a full session with me.