Physical, emotional & mental pain
We’ve all experienced tension. Tension can live in our muscles, bones, ligaments, organs, glands, cells, or any tissue or part of our physical body. Tension can also live in our subtler (visually unseen) bodies such as our emotional, mental or soul bodies. We can be either conscious or unconscious of our tension. For example we might be aware of tension in our neck muscles, but unaware of tension say in our kidneys or bladder. Or we might be aware of tension in our belly, but unaware of tension in our spine. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to where tension shows up and whether or not we are aware of it.
Why is tension created? Tension is a mechanism created, ultimately by us, to protect us from feeling pain or other uncomfortable sensations, feelings or thoughts. For example say you are in a car accident. You will most likely create some physical muscle guarding (tension) in order to protect underlying organ structures and also to not feel such intensity of physical pain. This is the most obvious of expressions and easiest to be conscious of. The more awareness you develop of yourself the more you can tune into subtler and subtler levels of tension that exist in your less dense bodies such as your emotional and mental bodies. Say for example you are in a relationship and your partner does something that triggers you in some way. If you slow yourself down you will be able to track the tension in your emotional body that may or may not have a physical manifestation or expression. If you do this you will be able to notice what emotional pain you are attempting to avoid or lessen through creating tension. Same is true if you have a particular thought or thought pattern that is out of alignment with the truth. That thought will create tension in your mental body that again may or may not have an emotional or physical expression, but if you slow yourself down enough you will be able to track what mental pain you are attempting to decrease through creating tension.
When we create tension we essentially block or dampen part of our experience. This can be helpful in extreme physical or emotional situations where we don’t have the resources or awareness to integrate and process the experience that is happening as it is happening. What will often happen then is that we will develop a certain tension/holding pattern in our system that stays in place until we feel safe and/or ready to allow the experience to be felt. Sometimes unwinding happens naturally and organically once we are out of the intense situation. However other times it doesn’t happen naturally as we aren’t quite ready to feel or have the resources to process what occurred. So we stay in a more bound or closed state, also known as a tension/holding pattern, which again we may or may not be aware of.
Walking towards pain
Let’s face it, having a human experience is intense. Whether or not you’ve had some particularly intense experiences or you’ve lived more of a “normal” life, it is pretty much guaranteed that you have some degree of tension/holding patterns in your system just by the nature of having this human incarnation. Tension is not bad or wrong, it’s simply an effect of not desiring to feel something that doesn’t feel good. You could also term this resistance. Resistance is often not intentional, nor is the avoidance of pain necessarily evident to most. Many people are unaware of how much they avoid discomfort of any kind, in fact most create their lives specifically to avoid pain. Again none of this is fundamentally bad or wrong, instead it simply points to why we have the experiences, life and awareness that we have, which are frequently sprinkled or riddled with a sense of disconnection, limitation or blockage.
Tension creates an arbitrary sense of separation and inherent sense of limitation. Whether that separation or limitation is experienced physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually depends on the individual and what lessons they gave themselves to learn. You are of course unlimited, eternal beingness that has no edges, limits, or incapabilities, but telling that to someone who is having a human experience is kind of like telling a kid that play isn’t real. It just simply doesn’t compute. So while we are here in these bodies we must learn the lessons of separation/limitation in order to transcend our current perspectives of it. One of the ways to learn the lessons of limitation is through increasing your awareness of your tension patterns in both your physical & subtle bodies and walking towards pain rather away from it. What we avoid we can’t experience and therefore can’t unwind. If we can’t unwind the tension that was created than we stay stuck in a particular holding pattern in our physical and/or subtler bodies. This then gives us the perpetual experience of limitation or lack of full self-expression because how we hold ourselves relates to how we see the world and therefore the experiences that we have.
Say for example you really desire to experience blissful, ecstatic oneness with the the divine, yet simultaneously you have mental tension patterns (thoughts & beliefs) that tell you how unworthy you are. You can’t know yourself as infinite worth if you are constantly avoiding the thought/belief of unworthiness or if you don’t even know its there. The thought/belief unworthiness will create a tension pattern in your mental body that will feel like it blocks you from knowing yourself as infinite worth. That must be moved towards and unwound through feeling that which is untrue (i.e. unworthiness and the pain associated with that thought). For another example say you really want to be full self-expressed, but feel emotionally triggered for a good part of your days. Being emotionally triggered is another way of saying that you are avoiding feeling emotional pain, and you can’t be fully self-expressed if you are simultaneously avoiding a part of yourself and your experience. That would be a contradiction.
The key to sustainably unwinding the tension patterns in your system is through walking towards what’s been avoided, which is often uncomfortable and the last place we want to go. However freedom is through and not around those experiences. The other option is to know unequivocally that you are love and remove all self-doubt of this truth instantly. This is entirely possible, however not as probable as doing the work to increase awareness of yourself, your tensions, your avoidances and resistances, and then navigate right into them. Not to stay there for eternity, but to walk right on through them, fully experiencing what they have to offer, and coming out as free, open love on the other side.
Dr. Amanda Love, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado