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There's nothing like a little physical pain to keep your mind off your emotional problems
Recently I have been experiencing significant back pain, which started while I was on holiday in Port Douglas. This has been a recurring problem which has worsened over time. When the back pain episodes started, I linked them to a physical cause such as strenuous exercise or lifting heavy weights. However it now recurs so often without a physical trigger, leading me to conclude the root cause is emotional.
In describing the dynamic at play here, I refer to an American doctor named John Sarno. Sarno notes people who are prone to back pain display common behaviors such as neuroticism and being over conscientious. Examples of what this can lead to include perfectionism, resulting in anger where nothing is up to your standard, or episodes of low self-esteem, resulting in anxiety over what others think of you. Often these patterns of behavior are deep rooted, resulting from learned behavior from childhood.
Sarno writes that back pain is the result of emotional reactions such as these being repressed. The mind resists their unpleasant discovery through pain which serves as a defense mechanism. Physical pain is useful for this purpose, as it consumes the attention and draws the mind away from emotions it wishes to avoid.
Sarno states that alleviating back pain is as simple as understanding the pattern at play, such that one no longer indulges it. Once the pain is seen for what it is, a charade, the defense no longer serves a meaningful purpose and the pain ceases.
I have had some success with Sarno’s method. I find that whenever the pain becomes debilitating, it is not really the pain that is the problem, but rather the fear of causing harm by moving the wrong way. This never materializes, but it is enough to immobilize me beyond what is really there. Twice now I have had to remind myself that the real cause is psychological, and that I am indulging a charade. This removes the excess pain caused by the pattern I’m indulging, however some level of pain still remains.
This leads me to believe there is more to the story, and for this I make reference to my previous writings about Jung. Jung states our natural mode of being involves a communion with our unconscious, where we are in touch with the emotions and motivations that originate from it. We reject this state of being however when something arises that we find unacceptable.
Our unconscious represents our truth, and even its rejection only serves to underline what it represents. My theory then is that back pain is the result from isolating ourself from our truth. This pain is the consequence when we fall away from communion and decide to go it alone.
There are several striking features to emotional pain that are easy to describe. Pain induces a physical response to either bear it or fight back. It has a persistent quality, meaning that our natural response to fight or bear it will never lead to overcoming it. Either way it induces fatigue, pulling attention from our natural mode of being and the adoption of a lesser mode of being. The end result is an emotional and physical inhibition, inducing worry, guilt and irritation as one becomes unable to participate fully in domestic life.
These features represent a basic structure of contraction, and is common to much of our experience beyond just pain. I’ll expand on this structure soon when I explore a mythological figure called the Demiurge, which will shed more light on this matter.