How Safety Affects Pain
If stress and fear cause tension then safety is essential if we are to relax and let our guard down. This seems pretty obvious, but safety is generally not a factor in our health system. In fact, just going to the doctor or hospital often causes a great deal of anxiety and stress.
Imagine a young infant lying on its back squirming about. Rarely (if ever) does an infant injure itself. An infant never attempts to stretch a limb or contort itself so extremely that they cause injury. Instead they tend to move where it feels good. Yes, their movement is jerky and random at first, but by moving within the boundaries of safety they become more and more coordinated. If they move in a way that causes pain they stop. Pain is a basic guideline to what is appropriate movement.
As adults, however, we are used to bulldozing our way through life. We throw safety out the window. If we have to twist ourselves into a knot to reach for something behind us, so be it. We have forgotten how to slow down and feel the small nuances of our body. And because of this we are constantly aggravating and staining ourselves.
Many things add to our sense of anxiety about pain.
- The pain itself is scary. It suggests that something is wrong and frequently out of our control.
- The diagnosis can be scary. When we’re told that something is wrong with our bodies it leaves us with a deep sense of uncertainty.
- The treatment options for our problems can be very scary.
– surgery, drugs, etc. What if there are complications? Will I become addicted to the medications? What are the side effects?
- If we’ve been treated for our problem and yet the pain still remains, this also is scary. It leaves us feeling that maybe something was missed or overlooked.
- It is scary if the source of our problem can’t be found. If you’ve had every test known and nothing was found, what does that mean?
- Being dismissed by our Doctors as if it were all in our head is not only scary but is also demeaning. This leaves us frustrated and angry.
- The financial ramifications of our problem can also be scary. If we are in so much pain that we can’t even work – well, what then?
- The added pressure on our family is also scary. No one wants to be a burden on those they love.
As you can see, pain affects our sense of safety in fundamental ways. It leaves us with a sense of anxiety that often times we don’t even realize. Unfortunately most of us suppress these uncomfortable feelings. As John Sarno, MD points out in his book Healing Back Pain, it is not acceptable in our culture to be afraid or angry. Instead we just suppress theses emotions, which, by the way, only make things worse.
So what are we to do?
First we need to discover what safety feels like and then learn how to reproduce that sensation. Usually feeling safe isn’t something we’re aware of. It is only when we are unsafe that it gets our attention. But there are many places and times that we do experience safety, such as in our homes or lying in bed.
These are situations that can be intentionally produced. And by doing so on a regular basis our body’s tendency to self-correct begins to reconnect with the feeling of safety. In the section on Exploring Solutions are several easy and gentle movements that are designed to foster the sensation of safety.
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