“He’s a pain in the neck!” “She left me with a broken heart!” “I just can’t get a leg up these days.” “I can’t stand him!” “If I hear one more deprecating comment from that jerk my head will burst!” “This job is eating me alive!” “He’s a monkey on my back!” “She’s a thorn in my side!”

We’ve heard these sayings so many times that we don’t realize how powerful thoughts, feelings, and words can be. What’s worse, we can, over time, develop physical symptoms and not be able to correlate that those symptoms might have something to do with the beliefs that we have held for years without questioning how we are feeling and behaving emotionally.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to do some emotional housecleaning in life?

It might be acceptable for a person to have a migraine and then get the sympathy and care they have been craving. What if we were to dig into our deepest, darkest truths and possibly discover that once recognized and addressed we can avoid physical pain?

In her book The Meaning of Truth, Nicole Sachs asks one fundamental question, “How long do you want to suffer?” No one really wants to suffer; at least one would like to think that statement to be true. But, if it’s acceptable to get your emotional needs met by being sick, what might you subconsciously choose? Isn’t it time to live a conscious life? A life devoid of pain after months or years of suffering? A life that is joyous and purposeful and one some doctors might have never guessed possible – without pain?

The truth is we need to uncover our truths in order to wake up a sick body. It might be a pain in the butt to do so (pun intended), but what have you got to lose? When pain is an ever present phenomenon and no physical diagnosis is offered, it can leave one frustrated and feeling hopeless.

This article is to create an adjunct – not a replacement – to the medical profession. Physicians do their utmost to diagnose and treat the symptoms that are causing debilitating pain. If tests come back negative, or without exact pain indicators or structural indicators, doctors are left with little to offer other than the suggestion for pain management. The problem is that many patients are left in a pain management milieu rather than finding and treating more precise medical etiologies.

Here are some suggestions that, along with medical interventions, can open life to new and different possibilities for those suffering from chronic pain:

Look Inside

Begin questioning, exploring, and pondering the thoughts you think every day – the ‘oddly comfortable’ thoughts you believe without question and share with family and friends. There are two parts of us – the one we present to the world and the one that lives internally which no one can see. Try a little assignment. Take three sheets of paper. On the first page draw your face. It’s the face that you think the world sees. Remember, you don’t have to be a Picasso. Anything you draw is acceptable because it’s only for YOU. On the second sheet draw the face that exists just below the face you present to others. Put that paper under the first. Finally, draw the face that no one ever sees, the face that lives in the darkest, deepest part of you. Now, look at the drawings and try to interpret what you see. You might come up with some poignant insights. What might you be hiding or protecting? What part(s) of you are craving to be revealed in order to free you from pain?

Begin a Journal

Here’s a major part of this growth process. Begin journaling every day for twenty minutes. If you’ve never journaled before, remember to write like no one is watching over your shoulder and let it all out! Sachs advises to begin by dividing your paper into three sections. The first is labeled “childhood”; the second, “present life”; and the third, “personality.” Don’t be afraid to scream, get real, get raw, be vulnerable, go deep, be introspective, or show anger, resentment, or joy – whatever it takes to reach your deep, dark (and light) truths. This is a key to eventual emotional and physical release, healing, and wellness. And, yes, this is not a cure-all for many diagnosed medical issues.

Speak with Self

Have many heart-to-heart talks with yourself to determine what needs to be explored to provide a renewed sense of self that is free of resentments, wounds, and unresolved hurts. Question your need for perfectionism and holding grudges. Are you self destructive? Do you sabotage relationships or success? Question why you feel you need to be the perfect parent, spouse, employee. Are you choosing pain, despair, indignation, depression, anxiety, or obsession?

The most important thing is to live in wellness, with the normal challenges life brings, without mental, emotional, and physical pain. Get ready for the ride of your life if you become open and motivated. If you’ve read this far, I think you are ready.

Dr. Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC # 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.

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