Your Body is Talking. Are You Listening?
If your friend came to you in pain–maybe they had had some kind of hurtful or traumatic experience–what sort of response would you offer?
You could tell them what they need to do to solve their problem, according to your point of view.
You could tell them to just get over it.
But I’m guessing you would do your best to deeply listen to them express what’s jumbled up inside. To create a safe space
where they can open themselves up and allow themselves to be seen and witnessed, and in the process, to do their own healing at their own rate.
Physical trauma isn’t so very different.
Take whiplash injuries to the neck for example. This is an area that’s vital to the body’s survival, and having it threatened tends to get a big response.
In any injury our natural response is to try and immobilize the area, or to draw inward. It’s a protective mechanism.
So, after an injury there is a lot of tension, which is there to help keep things from moving around too much.
The trouble with this is that when it goes on for a long time it leads to pain, degeneration and more injury, because the body needs to move. Movement is a joyful state of being alive and it’s essential for circulation, strength and sensory stimulation.
But the body can’t let that movement back in unless it feels safe.
So how do we create a sense of physical safety in an area where there has been trauma?
How do we encourage the body to open up again?
The same way you would for your friend.
You listen to her.
First, just recognizing that your body is longing for a greater sense of safety in movement helps you reframe the pain and relate to it and your body differently in every moment.
You can help the process.
Rather than trying to push your body (because you think you know best) to do something it’s trying to tell you it doesn’t want to do, you can practice just turning the spotlight of your attention inward, to the area in pain and trying your best to listen to it.
To do this, start in a position that’s comfortable for the affected part.
Then slowly begin to explore movement. It’s best to explore this movement in an unstructured and novel way. This helps to get rid of any agenda or expectations we might be bringing.
For instance, if we’re exploring the neck we can start by trying to hold the top of our head still while drawing circles with the area where the neck meets the shoulders. Or we can draw the alphabet with one of our ears.
Keep all your attention on the inside of the area you’re moving.
If some pain shows up while you’re moving, it will help to get your attention.
Watch how the body reacts when the pain shows up. Go very slowly and notice everything you can. Notice if the body wants to tighten something up.
Move away from the pain just a hair and see how that feels. Then move back toward it again. Experiment back and forth a few times.
See if you can help the body to see the moment when it begins to tense up. You can dialogue with it in your mind if you like. Try reassuring it and telling it that you’re listening, that you don’t need to go any further unless it feels safe. Give it time to reassess the situation.
You may be surprised at how much this can turn down the volume on the messages your body is trying to give you.