Pain as language, and other conversations

Thoughts tonight on learning the language of the body as a person with chronic pain and autoimmune issues arising from childhood adversity:

The body doesn’t have thoughts, it has sensations. The thing is, emotions are these complex things that often really start with sensations in the body to which we ascribe meaning, and many of those sensations can actually be identical across radically different situations and emotional experiences. So when we are listening to our bodies, we are listening to our sensations. This is their language.

Hmmm… An example. Let’s say there’s a certain person, someone you always get migraines when you see or maybe fatigue or that buzzy irritated feeling like when there’s a fly in the room you can hear but not see and you’re wondering why the damn dog isn’t eating the sky raisin like any reasonable pup obviously would. Think about seeing that person, or when you happen to be with them, just pause and notice your body. No need to judge or add in those messy layers that come with deciding what your response *should* be. This is about what your response *is* and whatever that is is ok. So just notice. Do you tense as though stopping yourself from pulling away? Do you cringe in digust or shame? Do you want to shove them away or run? Do you soften in invitation for a hug? Do you reach out to meet them halfway without conscious thought? Do you moisten in arousal? Some combination of several of them?

This is your body speaking. It’s something I struggle with because I live in my head; it’s a much safer place to be. But when you read the literature on the ways that stress and trauma and chronic adversity live in our bodies, much of the work that can help heal that, and thus the complex physical symptoms like chronic pain and fatigue that can arise from it, is to hear these sensations and responses in our bodies and allow ourselves to complete or enact them. Sometimes this is even quite literal; when working through the trauma of a car crash, we may listen to those sensations and then to throw our hands up to protect ourself even though we couldn’t in the moment. Sometimes it’s less concrete than that, like recognizing we want to shove them away and realizing this is our body telling us that there is something in the relationship that crosses a boundary or is harmful. Sometimes we can’t quite hear it until we turn up the volume, lean into it, tense that tight spot or grit our teeth just that much more. But always our body is speaking to us in those sensations and the gut level reactions or movements we want to make in response.

It call be deeply unsettling, even frightening, to listen. Perhaps we simply need to stay with the more pleasant things, the unfurling of lightness in our chest when we watch a sunset or the softening we feel with our favorite tea and a warm blanket. If it ever feels too much, it’s ok to just gently redirect our attention back to these safe sensations, or to something else entirely. Or maybe we need to start doing this with a trusted loved one or a therapist who can hold space for that kind of work (and play!), and help us access the curiosity that is at the root of building new relationships. That’s what this is, after all… Meeting ourselves as though bumping into a stranger in the hallway of our own home and saying simply “hello, come in, have some tea” and in the doing of it finding out they were our own self, knit close as our shadow, woven into our story and our skin, all along.  Whatever way we listen, whatever stories our bodies tell, is human, deeply flawed and ridiculously glorious, and perfectly ok. I invite you to hear yours, to be curious and even playful, in whatever way, to whatever extent, is best for you and your relationship with this aspect of yourself.

May you be well. 💚

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