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October 21, 2013 / Karen R Adams

emotions and pain

emo pain chartSomeone posted this picture on Facebook the other day, and I find it utterly fascinating.  It is a representation of body pains, and the emotions associated with them.  The Chinese classics not only teach that you cannot separate body, mind and spirit, but that injury to the spirit has been around a while by the time things begin to show up physically.  Since emotions are the expressions of spirit, it makes sense that they will be connected to physical pain.

A large part of my practice in the community clinic is made up of people seeking relief from pain.  I look for chances to talk to my patients about what that pain may be telling them, what opportunities may be offered because their elbow hurts or they have chronic lower back pain.

I have no opinion on what is going on for an individual, how can I?  I only see them in the clinic, when they are seeking help in resolving something they can’t fix themselves.  I don’t see the wondrous entirety of their lives.  Sometimes it’s even difficult to find out what is going well for them.  I’m not, then, trying to guess what deep disturbances have worked their way to the muscles or bones.  I’m just tossing out ideas from my knowledge of my medicine that may resonate with them just enough to get them thinking.

So I’ll say things like: ‘Think about what this hip/knee/elbow does for you, and then start asking yourself why you might be finding it difficult to do this thing.’

For instance, your hip/lower back, ruled by the Kidney which are the home of the Will, is your motor.  Your legs may carry you through your day, but your lower back provides the power, the impetus.  Lower back pain restricts your ability to step out into your life – which is the definition of Will.  Is there somewhere you feel you have to go and you are resisting?  Or maybe you feel there is nowhere for you to go, and that has you frozen with fear.

There are lots of possibilities, and often I’ll just natter along, watching to see when something I say begins to resonate with my patient.  Then I give it a rest, trusting that they will use my statement as a springboard to go deeper in their healing.

We don’t tend to our bodies very well.  In fact, we’re pretty disconnected from them, which is a problem, because they are our personal canaries in the mine.  An imbalance that shows up in your shoulder is an opportunity to look deeply into your life and tweak something, so that you can live more fully.

The last thing I suggest to my patients before they leave is to explore what we talked about, and explore gently, lightly, lovingly.  Do not go digging into your past, excavating every little hurt that might have led you to this place. In other words, don’t struggle for an answer.  Just… quiet your mind and ask.  You might be interested to see what you learn.

PS (If you can’t fully see the picture, just click on the picture – it should enlarge.)

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One Comment

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  1. Melody / Oct 22 2013 10:51 am

    hi karen, thanks for this post. i just love the PS and think it works metaphorically…not just as directions about the pic! xo, melody

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