There is no doubt about it that pain is a very uncomfortable experience. I do not know anyone who seeks out pain… well maybe I do, but that is an entirely different topic of discussion. I am sure you are not one of those people that seek out pain.
In fact, if you have been in chronic pain for a long time I am sure you have gotten good at tuning it out. You have to ignore the pain to be able to get things in your life done right? If you do not then the pain may paralyze you and leave you lost and helpless, unable to contribute and participate in things that are important.
It is great that you have gotten good at tuning out your pain; however, in the process of tuning out pain how much else are you tuning out as well? What happens many times is that not only are you tuning out the pain but you are tuning out other sensations and feelings in your body as well. This negatively affects your awareness of your own body and maybe it feels like you are a robot going through the motions of life.
There are tricks to get in touch with your body again and I am going to share one with you today. First, lets get an understanding of why this is important. Aside from feeling like a robot going through life, why would you want to start feeling your body again?
One good reason to improve your body awareness is that you have to live with your body every second of every minute of every day. If you cannot listen to your body, then how can you listen to and understand others.
How can you even understand yourself if you shut such an important part of your life out of your awareness? Your body is an important part of your life experience so lets see how you can improve your communication and understanding of this important vehicle in your life.
Lets do a body awareness exercise where you start feeling into your different body parts. Do not worry, you can start with body parts that feel neutral and non-painful such as your ankles, feet, hands and elbows.
The exercise needs to be done in a quiet space where you can focus on yourself. You may want to keep a journal or notes through this exercise so you can reference it later. If you feel comfortable, the exercise can also be done in pairs, with one person taking notes for the other.
Allow your body to relax and shut your eyes. Allow yourself to feel your body. Begin with a non-threatening, relatively comfortable body part. Imagine you are that body part and that body part has an experience and a personality. As an example I will start with the feet. Say out loud “I am my feet and I…” ending the statement with a statement of the experience in the feet. For example “I am my feet and I feel heavy and lost. I am tired of the drudgery of life and I do not know where to go next”. Another example is “I am my feet and I feel ignored and uncared for” or “I am tired of carrying all this weight all the time”.
In your journal or your notes write the body part on the left margin and the statement on the right. Continue this throughout the body addressing different body parts including (as you feel comfortable and safe to do) the ankles, calves, knees, thighs, buttocks, hips, genitals, belly, low back, stomach, mid back, chest, breasts, shoulders, arms, neck, face, mouth, lips, eyes, ears, head. Do the same thing for each part; pretending you are these parts. Give each body part a voice and write it down.
Try not to censor whatever comes to you first. However, try and stick with experiential statements rather than those involving judgement. For example. I am the stomach and I need to be big enough to nourish my person” rather than “I am the stomach and I am too fat”. If you cannot seem to avoid the judgement then go ahead and write it down but notice the areas that the judgement is stronger than the experience.
Once you finish, read back over the statements ignoring the body parts in the margin. Allow the statements to run together and see what the statements have to say about you.
Here is an example
- Feet: I am achey and tired. I run around a lot.
- Ankles I feel bound and stiff like I am shackled to something.
- Calves I don’t ever think of myself. I hardly exist.
- Knees I feel creaky but I want to run and jump.
- Thighs I feel strong and capable.
- Hips I feel heavy. It is hard to move.
- Buttocks I feel numb. I just want to go away.
- Genitals I feel desiccated and forgotten. I want to feel excitement again.
- Belly I feel full and overwhelmed. I feel like I am full of butterflies alot.
- Low back I feel broken and painful and confused. I just want to stop hurting.
- Stomach I do not even know how I feel. I guess I am ok.
- mid back I feel stiff and restricted like something is holding me down.
- chest I feel full and helpful. I am responsible for taking in life giving air.
- Breasts I feel scared. I do not like to be seen.
- Shoulders I feel tired. There is so much weight on me it is hard to move.
- Arms I feel free but sometimes I get frustrated and want to flail around.
- Neck I feel like it is hard to look around. I hold myself back.
- Face I feel like tingly and uncertain what I want to show the world.
- Mouth I feel like I have to hold back my words alot. It is hard to say what I want.
- Lips I feel like smiling because when I smile then others smile back at me.
- Eyes I feel like I want to close and rest.
- Ears I feel like I can sense everything and keep tabs on my surroundings
- Head I feel full and lumpy but I do not know why.
Once you go through the entire body you may see patterns emerging. Your lower body may not have much to say but maybe your upper body wants to say a paragraph per part. Maybe your lower body carries your pain and your upper body feels great and wants to move forward.
Chances are good you had difficulty coming up with any statements at all because you have been tuning your pain and your body out for so long. All of these statements bring you information about your body’s experience in the world and thus YOUR experience in the world.
As you assess these statements, what have you learned about yourself? What areas have you numbed out and what areas have more to say than you are willing to write? What areas do you feel pleased with? How can you utilize these strengths? On a scale from 0-10 how much are you able to acknowledge yourself and your body?
I would like to hear about your experience with this exercise and would be honored if you would share with me how this has helped you. I am offering 20 minutes of my time because I want to learn more about you and I can also give you any insight for the next steps you could take to resolve your pain. Register for a time by clicking here.
I look forward to hearing from you soon!