When you least expect it, the pain body can jump right in the midst of your day…the moment you were just minding your business. The phone call may come in, the comment at the other end of the line, a person cuts in front of you on the street, the interaction with a loved one sparks the fire. I tried not to pay attention to the my reaction…”no big deal” I told myself. “I’m beyond these kind of things.” I’ve read numerous articles, even books on the subject of cognitive restructuring. This is the fancy term for reorganizing your negative thoughts into ones that are more realistic to the situation and applying them to replace the negative thoughts you have identified. “Who am I trying to fool? I’ll never be a success. I’m just not wired up the right way. What’s wrong with me anyway? Why can’t I be like ….? ” I felt the fire start to go from a spark to the kindling stage each time I noticed another negative thought – one just slipped in after the other; some slipping in between the ones I could catch. It wasn’t long before I felt the waves of emotion begin to impact my body.
Life as a therapist has allowed me many opportunities to practice what I preach so to speak…but this one was a big one. It involved one of my core issues…being good enough. This, of course is what the researchers call shame. Again, there are volumes out there; a recent body of research by Brene’ Brown, a social worker and researcher is making all the media headlines with her emphasis on vulnerability and shame and strategies to re-think and re-shape our attitudes and perceptions of these emotions within all of us humans. She slogged through many challenging times, learned some hard lessons and persevered all the way to the Super Soul Sunday with Oprah. She is all about realizing our inner gifts and being who we were meant to be. Sometimes just Being is plenty.
This is all well and good but today I slogged – The good news about slogging is that it does end. Once the pain body fire gets ignited and goes through it’s fire dance it gets played out and like a fire burns itself out where, according to Eckhart Tolle, the author of A New Earth, it goes into it’s quiet place until it’s re-ignited again. He states that an emotion can be a response to an actual situation or event, bit it does so through the filter of a mental interpretation, through mental concepts of good and bad, like and dislike, me and mine. For example, Tolle points out that you most likely will not feel emotion when you are told that someone’s car has been stolen, but if it is your car, the emotional impact will be felt. “It’s amazing how much emotion a little mental concept like “my” can generate. Our body’s intelligence is amazing in its ability to function but it has trouble discerning worrisome, fearful thoughts as just thoughts. It treats them as if they were reality. If we have past conditioning that have created unconscious belief such as “people cannot be trusted” or “There is never enough money” or ” I don’t deserve love” then these unconscious assumptions create emotions in the body which in turn generate mind activity and /or instant reactions. These negative emotions are connected to our egos and again cause all kinds of chaos and conflicts. The good news here is that with each new breath one takes there is another opportunity to move forward. Through practice I have learned to be more aware of my own pain bodies and can sometimes trace them back to their origins, whether that be in childhood or beyond. Sometimes we can inherit these pain bodies from our families where they take up residence on the emotional level and cause havoc when triggered.
What does a wave of emotion feel like? Pay attention to your reactions sometime and you will begin to experience your own unique expression although it usually involves the brain and the stomach, the 1st and 2nd brains according to the literature. I feel heaviness, mood changes, irritability, some back/neck aches and pains as well as anxiety symptoms; not the ideal way to spend a beautiful fall day in ND. There is much to learn about the power of these emotional pain bodies and no matter what stage of life we are in there is hope. I need to hear this again and again when my mind/body is in this state of agitation. So what did I do yesterday? I lived through it. I began to write which is a creative activity to counter negativity. Painting, singing, music and any number of mindful movements can help tame this lion. I would avoid any compulsive exercises where it is easy to numb out. There is a place pushing and working hard but this is not the time. I used my centering prayer ideas – to the best of my abilities and tried to be compassionate with myself. I’ve been following Pope Francis as he has traveled among the people in this country. I noticed the feeling of warmth and love whenever I would see him move throughout the different environments. I became curious about the lives of others, the role of the Jesuit, the special roles of each and every one of us. Everyone matters. The truth of this is overwhelming yet it connects with each and every pain body reaction that occurs. Pain gives us an opportunity to dive deep and look for what needs to change and accepted with that same base of Love and Truth. Here’s to encouragement and perseverance. Taming the pain body lion is an act of your own truth and a connection to the Universal one. I wish myself and the reader the tools of a compassionate Lion Tamer.