In previous lessons, we have emphasized the importance of not fighting, resisting, or attempting to escape from pain. We noted that it is important to investigate pain and all its associated sensations, emotions, and thoughts. When doing your investigations, you may also want to inquire into any meaning that your body may be attempting to communicate through the pain. If you are comfortable with this, try pretending that your body is trying to say something to you. Ask yourself, "IF my body was trying to say something to me, what would it be?"  This may help you get a different perspective on the pain that will help you not struggle with it. In this issue, we are pleased to present a guest article by Dr. Marcia Christine Sherman, a distinguished psychologist, therapist, and educator. Dr. Sherman has extensively studied the Jungian and transpersonal schools of psychology, among others.  She has applied some key insights from these traditions to develop practical approaches for dealing with pain, painful emotions, and for improving health. Dr. Sherman can be reached at ================================================= Pain as Communication - A Transpersonal Discourse    by Dr. Marcia Christine Sherman I have this constant pain that runs down the side of my left forefinger.  It manifests in the bed of my nail all along the right side.  Sometimes it's a dull pain, sometimes it's sharp, and sometimes it gets so bad that I'm forced to seek help. I have a belief that the pain exists because I began chewing on my fingernails when I was four and my nail bed doesn't like the pressure of a healthy nail on it after all these years.  But that's a belief based upon the fact that, as many of my other nails grew out, I had the same pain.  However, it's been a few years now and all the other nails are happy.   So much for left-brain analysis. From the perspective of pressure points, the pain can be traced up through the back of my hand, the upper part of my forearm and into the left side of my neck where I hold lots of tension.  It also, I've been told, relates to my digestion, which has been the seat of most of my life's tensions. I don't like physical pain.  As a matter of fact, the thought of physical pain frightens me so much that I deliberately make decisions based upon whether the experience will or will not cause me pain. I stay away from surgeons as far as possible. Emotional pain is easy to deal with, for me.  I'm used to it. I suffer well. I grew up with emotional pain and, since I'm artistic, it goes with the territory; or so they say.  There's a saying, a myth actually, that suffering makes people more spiritual.  If that were true, there'd be a lot of saints walking around on the planet.  I haven't noticed many recently. But I endure this physical pain in my finger because I'm not sure what it's telling me. You see, I believe that pain is a form of communication; from my body, from my feelings, from my experiences, from my behavior and responses. For example, when I bought my car a few years ago, I developed a pain in my left arm and wrist that acted like carpal tunnel.  But I knew it wasn't carpal tunnel and I went to my Chiropractor instead of a surgeon.  Remember I run from surgeons. So, how did I know it wasn't carpal tunnel?  Because my body told me.  I listen to my body; because after all, it's the one that's sending me the information.  So my body directed me to investigate how I drove the car and I noticed that, while I held the steering wheel, I was resting my left elbow on the hard plastic armrest on the door.  I hired someone to cover the armrest with a soft cushion and the pain disappeared; permanently. When I was young, I didn't listen to my body or my instincts or intuition at all; but I've learned from painful experiences that my analytical left brain isn't as smart as it thinks it is.  Now that I'm older, I've gotten wiser; I've learned how to listen to these tools that are available to all of us.  It takes experience, commitment and practice to learn how to listen.  First, you have to eliminate all the noise in society; that's really difficult unless you're alone.  I've actually developed a workshop called, Sound Awareness, that teaches people how to listen and what they're listening to.  But, back to the main subject. It's important that, when we first feel pain, emotional or physical, we ask our body what it's attempting to communicate.  Unfortunately, the American culture doesn't like any form of discomfort, so its emphasis is on eliminating the symptom instead of discovering the cause.  From a Transpersonal perspective, pain is a symptom of a problem that needs to be healed; the pain is a consequence of the problem and will disappear when the cause is cured.  There are many sources of pain so it's important to have the ability to detect the cause.  Some people used to believe our nervous and emotional systems played a large part in physical illness.  However, since the scientific perspective has captivated the journalistic profession as purveyors of absolute truth and the scientists believe in nothing they can't replicate, like emotions, instincts or intuition, my beliefs aren't very popular these days.   There's no question the human body has imperfections and that it breaks down, especially as we get older.  But I don't have the AMA and Western medicine's belief that we're random victims of illness and pain.  I believe our minds, our emotions, our experiences and our beliefs have a lot to do with our bodies. Dr. Peter Levine in, Waking the Tiger (1), talks about emotional trauma.  Big T, trauma occurs from one severe negative experience, such as an accident, fire, rape, shooting or war.  Little t, trauma, occurs from secret and ongoing, personal abuse, such as constant criticism, neglect, physical, sexual, psychological degradation and takes much longer to heal.  Both can cause PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder): "Traumatic symptoms...stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not been resolved and discharged; this residue remains trapped in the nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and spirits." and again: "A threatened human...must discharge all the energy mobilized to negotiate that threat or it will become a victim of trauma.  This residual energy does not simply go away.  It persists in the body, and often forces the formation of a wide variety of symptoms e.g., anxiety, depression and psychosomatic and behavioral problems.  These symptoms are the organism's way of containing (or corralling) the undischarged residual energy.  "Animals in the wild instinctively discharge all their compressed energy and seldom develop adverse symptoms...When humans are unable to liberate these powerful forces, they become victims of trauma.  In our often- unsuccessful attempts to discharge these energies, we may be become fixated on them.  Like a moth drawn to a flame, we may unknowingly and repeatedly create situations in which the possibility to release ourselves from the trauma trap exists, but without the proper tools and resources most of us fail.  The result, sadly, is that many of us become riddled with fear and anxiety and are never fully able to feel at home with ourselves or our world."  In other words, past traumatic events get stuck in the human unconscious, which I believe, is the physical body.  These balls of foreign condensed energy can cause all sorts of physical pain and illness.  Finally, pain as a form of communication, changes the reason for its existence.  I hope my contribution to the subject has helped a little. (1)  Levine, Peter A.; Waking The Tiger, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA,  1997,  pp. 19, 20, 21. © 2016 by Dr. Ken Pfeiffer

Awarenes of Pain - Communication