Moving away from pain
Much of how we operate, move, behave, perceive, think, feel and sense is learned and habitual. We develop strategies, patterns and ways of being through our experiences. We learn to perceive and move about our world based on internal and external cues. If we do the same thing over and over, or see something the same way over and over, we learn to create wiring or neurological patterning in our nervous system based on our perceptions or behaviors. If we repeat the same thing enough times then the way we perceive something or how we move about becomes automatic or habitual. This means that there is very little “registering” or conscious awareness that happens as we engage with life. Life is simply a series of habits and reactions, that is unless we create novelty inside of our perceptions.
If something hurts we instinctually move away from it and if it feels good we move towards it. Hurt can be physical such as if we place our hand on a hot stove, or it can be emotional or mental such as feeling rejection or like we aren’t good enough. Regardless of where the hurt hits us we learn early on how to protect ourselves from the pain of feeling it. We might flee or run in order to move away from it. We might fight back in order to push something away from us. We also might freeze in place or go numb in attempt to avoid the hurt or pain. On a neurological level there is a response to this avoidance of pain, which is commonly known as the stress response. Most people are quite familiar with the terminology “stress response” yet most people don’t really get what it means for how they experience their life on a day to day basis.
When we are in protection (i.e. avoidance) mode our nervous system wires and fires pathways that create various messages throughout the body. These messages gear us up for fighting until we eventually burnout and the effect of this is what we call adrenal fatigue. These messages also put us on alert, or in a hyper-vigilant state. They get us to focus on what’s wrong or what might be out to harm us. They create tension in the body so that we don’t feel the impact of harm or pain. They effect our sleep cycles making it hard to feel rested or get good sleep. They make it harder to digest our food, and they move energy out of self-healing and into self-protection. This state of being is called neurological defense. At any point in our life we can have experiences that don’t feel good to us and we activate these patterns of defense rather than feel the impact of pain or harm or potential pain/harm. There is intelligence in these defensive patterns, however they greatly limit our experience of life. We cannot move into healing and neurological openness unless we are willing to move towards that which we avoid feeling.
Moving towards life
While there is intelligence to our defensive reactions and patterns in the body they also create great limitation in our experience of life. They allow us to experience only a limited range of feelings, sensations, and thoughts. They limit our behaviors, perceptions, and our relationships with self and others. They cap the amount of energy we have access to receiving, giving and sharing. They keep our bodies running in suboptimal energy conditions effecting our health and overall well-being. They keep us from fully experiencing the range of our hearts and the hearts of others. There is great cost to our avoidance of feeling pain.
When we stop avoiding pain and allow ourselves to feel and be with it, some pretty amazing things happen. First is that you can no longer be angry. Feeling the pain we’ve experienced softens us. Some people don’t even know just how angry they are because they’ve adopted other strategies of self-protection such as always being positive, people pleasing, or the more quiet version of anger which is self-hatred. This can manifest very subtly as negative self-talk or simply not feeling yourself to be great. If you don’t unequivocally know that you are fucking amazing then you probably have some work to do here. Second is that your neurological, and thus physiological state, shifts. All those messages that your nervous system sends out change in nature when you move towards life experiences. Rather than messages gearing you up to fight, flight or freeze, it sends messages of relaxation and ease. Food can then be digested, sleep happens naturally, and the self-healing mechanism occurs unimpeded. Muscles relax, the posture becomes more upright and open, and your focus shifts onto what is here, what’s working, and on how life is supporting you. Nothing is out to get you anymore. You look for invitations and openings. More opportunities seem to be available to you. You feel more confident in yourself. This is what I call neurological openness.
In neurological openness we participate more fully with life. We perceive things that we didn’t perceive before, and we sense, feel and think differently because we are more open to life rather than in protection from it. We become more awake or aware of our impact on life, others and ourselves. We recognize more and more that we have choice. This recognition of choice is the beginning place of novelty. We start trying on new feelings, thoughts, behaviors and perceptions, which create and lay down new patterns in our neurology. We become different and therefore experience life differently.
The more we lay down the patterns of openness in our nervous system the more we move into the field of our heart. The yummy bliss of yes. Beyond participation with life we move into oneness with it. We see that nothing in not us therefore there has never been anything to protect from. This is the awakened stage of the healing journey. From separation and self-protection into unification and love. It is all available to you as you are ready for it.
Dr. Amanda Love, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado