I'm out of the Pain Management Game

Years ago, an intuitive healer said to me, "There's a good chance that you'll get caught up in a cult, but you'll see the truth and find your way out of it." I was shocked and afraid because those are not reassuring words to hear from someone who is intimately clearing your chakras. For a long time after that, I looked at very nice, enthusiastic people offering help or new-age solutions with a little extra suspicion because I figured that's how they would get me.

The insight had been mostly had forgotten about until recently, when after an experience during a bodywork trade, I saw the prediction had come true.  I was already indoctrinated and had been worshiping for years with blind devotion. My cult was the pain management paradigm founded on shame and disempowerment and I had just been deprogrammed. 

The pain management paradigm is an approach to healing which teaches that pain and illness: 

  1. Always have a physical cause and are usually a result of poor choices or bad circumstances.

  2. Requires specialized and expert knowledge from a trained professional to resolve/heal/treat the problem.

  3. Symptoms are inconvenient and should be treated, solved, fixed or ruminated on.

  4. The more symptoms you have the less healthy you are.

As a massage therapist, this is how I was trained. The programming was subtle and deceptive, and even survived my training and practice as a biodynamic craniosacral therapist, which was all about wholeness and health. It lived just under the surface of my approach to healing for myself and my clients for years.

First, a little personal history. Living in this body isn't always pleasant. Like so many healers and caregivers, I've survived my own trauma. Add the stress of managing a bodywork practice and wellness center while teaching and parenting made me too familiar with chronic pain, adrenal fatigue and autoimmune disease. I know that’s part of the reason why I always so desperately wanted to help my clients live with less pain or pain free. It’s also the reason that I was so quietly disappointed when I couldn’t resolve it for them.

And then, unexpectedly, my view on pain and healing changed. There was a moment, while receiving bodywork in a recent seminar, where I felt myself floating on the table, pain free, outside of linear time, with a real awareness of my body coming into a new alignment. As I got off of the table and stood up, I felt that some of my pain was still there, but it had been uncoupled from the emotional charge of exhaustion, of feeling ill and overworked. It was no longer a reminder of my aging body, of my neglect, of not being healthy enough or doing enough to take care of myself. The pain was just part of another experience. Surrounding it, there was so much more that felt OK, whole, relaxed, soft, light and clear - there was health.

In that moment and in the days after, my perspective totally changed.  I knew that my body was always doing it's best. I saw clearly that current models for both allopathic and alternative medicine are based on finding out what’s wrong with you and then fixing it with a scripted approach. Of course there are practitioners that work outside of that model, giving their patients choice and voice in their own care and healing.  However, the overarching paradigm subconsciously reinforces the idea that you’re not enough. Not relaxed enough, not healthy enough, not doing enough self-care or time management or exercise, that your body isn’t strong enough and the way you eat isn’t healthy enough and you should really try to do better.

When we are constantly striving to be better, there’s no time to accept ourselves exactly as we are. When we look for outward transformation or the elimination of difficult symptoms without being grounded in the full acceptance of our current state, we stop listening to what's really needed and what we create manifests as empty and fragile. New routines and resolutions fall by the wayside whenever life becomes too intense or overwhelming only to be remembered with passing guilt or shame. Symptoms lessen or disappear temporarily,  sometimes returning worse than before.

As all of that became clear, I was able to embody a concept that I've read about and claimed to understand for years -  I am enough and my body is intelligent enough to know what it needs to heal. This body doesn't need to be fixed or cured, it needs to be listened to, tended to and nourished. I am more than the sum of my symptoms.

As a practitioner, I recognized that if I shift from wanting to fix to trying to listen, I move from telling my clients they aren’t enough to empowering them. And it’s that empowerment that goes hand in hand with deeper embodiment which allows each of us to heal old wounds, reclaim our health and fulfill our greatest potential.

So, my dear clients, I’m out of the pain management game. I will no longer try to fix your pain or lessen your symptoms but I AM available to be a witness and a guide to support your health. I can hold space and interpret the language of your body, but the work of it, the healing and the transformation are all yours to do -  because you are enough.