Recently, I had an injury. It caught me out of the blue, like injuries do, and led me to reflect, like I do.
I was thinking about the times I’ve had physical pain and the mental pain that can accompany it.
The opposite can be true, too. We might experience mental/emotional pain that seems like it should rip us apart physically yet somehow doesn’t.
I decided to read about the mind body connection, how sometimes emotional pain can be expressed through physical symptoms.
And…of course…then I found information where people think the concept of physical expression of pain from emotions is a bunch of rubbish.
I found the conversations expressed by medical professionals and other non-medical people to be intriguing.
Considering it from my “less stress, more fun” lens, I had to wonder…
Are some types of pain considered more socially valid and/or valuable?
If so, why?
People seem to think that offering solutions is valuable. It seems dismissive in a way, yet I think it’s generally motivated by either trying to be helpful or avoid the discomfort of listening to someone in pain, whatever the “source.”
Here’s what I hear often:
- Expressed as: pain in the core or extremities, soreness, sharpness, etc.
- Typical suggestion: Get a medical solution.
- Expressed as: sadness, grief, anger, loneliness, etc.
- Typical suggestion: You are responsible for figuring out how to make it go away. If you can’t do it yourself, get therapy…but don’t tell anyone.
- Expressed as: stress, confusion, analysis paralysis, etc.
- Typical suggestion: Figure out the right solution. Do more self-care. If that doesn’t work, see a doctor or therapist. And, seriously, don’t tell anyone.
Bottom line, the primary social messaging is that all pain must be alleviated as soon as possible. Pain of any sort is rarely seen as normal, neutral, or healthy.
Physical pain can and should be fixed by medicine and/or other scientific disciplines. If at first you don’t succeed, keep pursuing a fix. Emotional and mental pain should be fixed and, preferably, it should be done privately.
There’s a lot of social pressure to make pain go away at all costs. Find the solution. Take something. See someone.
It seems there’s a lot of compartmentalization of pain. It seems quite rare to get professional help for pain of any sort and have it evaluated holistically as an expression from mind/brain and body combined.
I also observe, especially in the workplace setting, that physical pains/problems are taken more seriously than emotional or mental pain. Physical pain is considered to be valid – real – in a way that emotional and/or mental pain are not.
Get curious about your own beliefs about pain. Where do your beliefs come from? What are the beliefs in your family of origin plus your community or culture at large?
For me, I approached my injury from an integrated point of view. I considered it possible that my pain was an expression of emotions and responded accordingly, while also addressing nutrition, the mechanics of my sitting, sleeping and moving. I listened to my mind and body together as if I were soliciting feedback from a panel of experts.
I learned a lot about myself during the months I was recovering. Now, looking at the situation with the eyes of a master coach, I see how I was able to detect patterns of thinking and believing that I was able to address. This led me to have less suffering while my body healed. When I removed the social construct that body pain is okay but mind pain is not, I was able to travel a much more self-compassionate, well rounded healing journey.
And that made all the difference. P.S. I invite you to fall in love with the “Less Stress, More Fun” podcast. Subscribe today! Each week’s episodes offer smart, fun ideas to reduce stress and boost your sense of playfulness.