Thursday, February 14, 2008

When is Pain Good, and When is it a Pain? (Part 1 of 2)

Pain is designed to be compelling. A nerve ending that is dying will send pain signals in a final effort to keep itself alive. Pain stops you in your tracks and captures your attention like nothing else. It warns you that something is wrong, and we quickly learn to avoid dangerous situations from past experiences of pain. Indeed, pain is your body's ultimate messenger, almost always bringing you important information and showing you where to put your focus.

Yet we all seem to spend much of our time tolerating or tuning out painful body parts, painful memories, and painful emotions. Whether your preferred method is a dose of painkillers, a food binge, or just checking out of life, it seems to be a common human achievement to become expert at avoiding pain. So when healing requires you to feel more, including pain sometimes, resistance is certainly an understandable response!

Your nervous system is designed to respond to pain by first going into defense, by first activating your survival instincts. That response is automatic and occurs before your conscious mind can begin to understand what is happening. In fact, the higher brain is effectively taken off-line in those first moments of reaction, leaving the primitive brain to keep us alive. The key then to facing pain and receiving your body's important messages is being able to find and connect with safety. Only in safety, only in a state where you perceive a reasonable amount of certainty of survival, is your nervous system capable of engaging the parts of your brain that can listen, and find meaning, and gain perspective.

(Continued in Part 2 of 2)

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