Keeping the signals in our nervous system healthy to the extent we are able reduces/prevents pain and suffering. Cultivating well-being along these lines enhances our vitality, maintains harmonious Qi flow, and allows us to love and serve more effectively.
We remember that pain and suffering takes many forms both within our own vehicle (headaches, allergies, digestive disorders, back pain, etc.) as well as in our interpersonal relationships (fear of being excluded from the in-group, guilt about past betrayals, manipulation disguised as “love”, rigid expecations of others leading to harsh criticism, tendency to gossip, etc.)
Let’s recall that our thoughts and feelings are potent influences on what signals are generated in the nervous system. One category of signals in the nervous system gives rise to tension and inflammation that registers physically as pain. Another category of signals results in sensations of relaxation and well-being, and a notable absence of pain.
What nervous system signals are being generated as a result of our reaction to life experiences is entirely under our control–since our thoughts and feelings are under our control. Thus, the suffering we experience is largely the product of our own mental and emotional processes.
Understand me correctly–my position is not one of pain as something imaginary, but rather recognizing where one source of pain exists. If pain is like a fire alarm, then there must be a fire somewhere. Both fire and fire alarm are very real processes. If the fire is found and extinguished then the alarm signals are no longer generated.
Let’s also recall that we humans can be very skilled at keeping strongly charged emotions (frequently generated when life deals us a hand we really don’t want) bottled up as a means of not jeopardizing our position in the social fabric. Put another way, we become great at hiding our real feelings about a situation if deep down we believe we’ll face some negative repercussion for revealing the truth–one term to describe this hiding place is the shadow of our psyche.
Keeping raw emotional energies bottled up in the shadow for too long eventually becomes a source of our sickness, a thread in the weave of our pain story–in part because of the unhealthy circulation of tension-inflammation signals generated in the nervous system. This is like a fire in one area (mind-heart) that activates a fire alarm in another area (body).
Third, let’s also recall that we tend to ignore, turn away from what’s unpleasant and keep our attention fixed on subjects that are pleasant. This habit causes us to neglect the dark areas of our psyche where unresolved feelings dwell. Unattended, these dark areas grow and give rise to suffering, just like criminal activity increases in a place where the forces of justice have no access. Thus, one level of work in healing pain–modifying the signals generated in the nervous system–involves shining the light of awareness into our shadow.
Reducing (or preventing the generation of) tension-inflammation signals that result in acute or chronic physical pain requires us to recognize our shadow, start looking in our shadow, and uplift these afflicted levels of the psyche.
System depressurize is useful tool in this work, one that you may perhaps recognize under a different name.
In an ongoing pain condition, there are three levels to the experience we should recognize:
the first is the original wound (pain),
the second is the feelings about our wound (pain about our pain),
the third is the false appearance of positivity (pain about our pain about our pain).
And remember there is the background picture: stress about the bills, difficulties with spouse-kids-family, unskillful dietary habits, worrying about the war we’ve just entered into with ISIS, etc.–all of which contribute in their own way to nervous system tension-inflammation signals.
This exercise mainly involves working on the second level of pain. When pain appears in the body, and persists for longer than we want or have expected, negative feelings can begin to grow: Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. Fear. Annoyance. Irritation. Aggravation.
“Well, I wouldn’t feel this way if this f@cking pain wasn’t here!”, you counter. And you could probably find a dozen people to sympathize with this position. But in the final analysis, these bad feelings we harbor toward the afflicted areas of our body–our pain about our pain–are themselves sources of nervous system signals that keep us in the very discomfort we wish to be free of.
And herein lies a valuable key to walking in the direction of freedom–if we are willing to be accountable and stay with the work.
And herein is a good place to mention again our collective habit, our mass tendency: to mask our true dark feelings with the false appearance of light–false composure, false understanding, false patience. Recognize it in yourself, and recognize too the opportunities available for divesting ourselves of these deceptive habits.
In a nutshell, depressurizing our system is letting ourselves feel the rawness of our emotions and creating the lane for toxic energies to exit our system. It is not an end in itself, but rather one important step in a greater process of healing. For once the system is depressurized, it will be seen that there are afflicted levels of the self in need of uplifting medicine–that which gave rise to these emotions in the first place, that which finds it acceptable to bottle up the feelings and neglect them, etc.. Failure to recognize the afflicted levels of self &/or failure administer the right medicine ultimately keeps the wheel of suffering a-turning. How? Because it will only be a matter of time before the tragic cycle of bottling up negative feelings plays out anew.
The first step in system depressurizing is to recognize where pressure (bottled-up emotional energy) is built up. No, we are not looking to create something out of nothing but rather learning to acknowledge something that’s already there but has historically remained neglected, suppressed, repressed, etc. The following is a method for sensing where these pressure pockets are:
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Bring your attention to a physical area in need of healing (PNH). Breathe goodwill into the experience. Align the mind with honest self-assessment. Align with walking in the direction of integrity and upliftment. Call upon your Higher Self, That Blessed Cosmic Wisdom Who Goes By Many Names, to guide the process. Honor yourself as a work in progress. Honor the experience as a teacher. Realize that the work we undertake in earnest to heal ourselves automatically has a beneficial effect on those around us without the need to say a word.
Look upon this PNH reflectively for a few moments and, while maintaining attention hereupon, ask yourself: how do I in my heart of hearts feel about this experience of ongoing pain? Have the courage to be honest. Muster the resolve to keep the attention focused and not wander off.
Again, the question: somewhere within your being, are you: angry…frustrated…disappointed…scared…annoyed…irritated…pissed off…aggravated ?
It sucks. Nah–y’know what?…It really fucking sucks. I fucking hate this shit! When is this goddam pain gonna go away already? Oh God, I’m so scared this will never go away.
Pause and reflect. In this moment, do any of these words consonate? That is, do the words ring true somewhere within your being? Turn the attention inward and listen.
We don’t want to create something out of nothing, but if this level of experience is there, then it’s there. Just admit it.
Perhaps what you sense is something only vaguely. And perhaps right now you don’t sense any negativity. This non-detection of negativity doesn’t automatically mean that it’s not there–it may be the case that more work is necessary to look more deeply within. This type of reflective exercise–of asking the right questions, of recognizing the truth of our feelings in relation to the experience of bodily pain–should be performed daily, being mindful enough to avoid the trap of self-centeredness.
Having the courage and humility to admit the existence of these darker feelings is a good first step. Recognizing the something within which says: you know what…it is true. Honestly speaking, there are these feelings within me. This act–bringing into clearer focus the emotional components of the condition–softens the walls of pride that keep us suffering.
The second step in system depressurizing involves shifting attention from the PNH to the now-identified emotional areas in need of healing (ENH).
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Begin now to enter more deeply into the ENH. This process may take some time–revisiting the matter on a daily basis and deepening the self-search, weakening the defensive barriers, penetrating the layers of experience. It also takes creating the appropriate space to work in (e.g., free of external distractions, free of urgent matters, internally aligned with cultivating honesty and integrity, generating the spirit of goodwill, cultivating the willingness to face squarely the unflattering truth about ourselves, etc.) . It is investigating a subject more deeply in the sincere desire for truth and integrity with the courage and faith-in-self to step into unknown territory.
Recollect the thought-words that describe your feelings about the PNH. Anger. Fear. Aggravation. Guilt. You know you’re heading in the right direction when you sense vulnerability within, like a hidden secret coming out or like an inner weakness starting to become exposed. It is important for you to maintain a supportive, compassionate environment. Within us all is the tendency to criticize and belittle–recognize that tendency and suspend it.
Give permission for any bottled up emotional energies ready to be expressed to come forth. A clear thought-form along the lines of I give permission for these bottled-up energies to come forth in the name of healing. Proceed patiently. It is ventilating non-rational energies such as aggression and deep-seated fear. Allowing the light of day to enter into this inner chamber. There will be a storm of varying intensity and duration. Your whole body will feel charged and alive as buried energies surface. Expect it. But it is only temporary.
And it’s a good sign. Potentially epic. A wound is becoming unbandaged–and the unbandaging of this internal wound can ultimately lead to reduction of physical pain.
The deep-seated ego defensive programming is highly resistant to letting any of these vulnerabilities become exposed. Recognize this inner resistance to revealing the truth. Radiate the light of goodwill, the energy of positive support to this inner defense system, and let it know that it is OK to soften the defenses and bring forth what’s vulnerable, because upliftment is the goal. Resist the tendency to “re-bandage the wound”. Remain firmly aligned and courageous enough to keep the ENH in the open. No one need know what’s going on except you and that All-Pervading Blessed Cosmic Wisdom. An outsider looking at you could see nothing amiss. This activity plays out within.
When you’ve entered deeply enough into the ENH (again, we are working on the second level of pain), you will find yourself in the presence of primal reaction energies, of neurotic aggression, of raw feeling.
Using the faculty of our creative imagination, visualize an energetic channel-like lane for toxic energies to move through your system and out of it, back into the Lifestream. Your intellect will ask “what is a Lifestream?”, your intuition senses the truth of it. Trust your intuition and invest in its development, dear friend.
To repeat: these raw, primal energies need to be safely discharged without hurting anyone else. This method calls for you to create an energetic lane using our innate ability to visualize its existence. The purpose of this lane is to accept toxicity that comes forth from within and harmlessly lead it back out into the Lifestream.
We should recognize the distinction between types of energy woven together here: the toxic negativity that we release, and the body’s own resources that had been invested in maintaining the holding pattern. The former makes its way out; the latter is freed up, reabsorbed, and is now available for other uses.
Something small comes forth and grows bigger. Let it get big. For in getting bigger it then gets smaller. It sounds paradoxical, but it isn’t. You will see that it actually makes perfect sense.
Having released a pocket of suppressed energies, having depressurized the system, a space is now created. What will you fill that space with? My suggestion is to breathe light from the higher planes into that space, and regularly call upon your Higher Self to guide you in the direction of upliftment. Have faith in yourself, empty your cup sufficiently, and let yourself be guided in real time.
If life is full with other responsibilities, then recognize that a particular healing experience may need to occur over a span of time. And exactly how long that will be can only be known in real-time. How long does it take to mop up a flooded basement? We do the work until the job is done. Our discernment lets us know when we’ve reached completion–for that particular project.
I understand that this exercise is not the easiest. The most worthwhile endeavors tend to fall into the “not-so-easy-and-often-downright-unpleasant” category. But this exercise, practiced consistently and with the right degree of self-honesty, helps you get where you want to go faster: back toward the freedom and empowerment that is our birthright.
This practice is an exercise in integrity. And ultimately, dedication to cultivating integrity can only result in richer health–though it may take some time. And doing this exercise just once is not enough. We have layers of bottled-up pain that go back to our earliest experiences–all rich fields of work that can accelerate our evolution. To get the most benefit–just like with any relationship–there must be an ongoing investment in the process.
At the end of the day, approaching pain with pain only results in more of the same. It can’t not be otherwise. Hating our present circumstances only keeps us cycling in suffering. We become a house divided against itself.
To recap: when we walk with a painful condition for longer than we want to, negativity about that pain develops. This second level of suffering keeps us in a vicious cycle. The solution involves bringing into the light of day the raw truth of these feelings, ventilating these energies using the method described above, and steadily exposing these inner wounds to the proper medicine.
Another level of the work involves parting ways with those habits which got us in trouble in the first place.
Healing, upliftment, evolution. An ongoing process. Hope this helps you in that process, J*
Justin Jaucian, MS, BA is a NJ licensed acupuncturist and 12-year practitioner of Chinese Medicine specializing in pain syndromes. He also offers preventive wellness programs based on Chinese medicine’s holistic principles and practices with a focus on maintaining the health of the spinal column.
Copyright (c) 2014, Justin Jaucian