Pain with Purpose
Being the extrovert that I am, I thought it would be fun to ask my massage therapist all sorts of questions during my “relaxing massage”. Do something for you the motherhood guru’s said. So there I laid, zoning my inner Pretty Women (when she gets pampered), but as she began all I could think was, whoa lady what did I do to you?
“Have you ever gotten a massage?” she asked.
I explained I had. Once before my wedding, but it was more of a relaxing type.
“Well,” she said, “if I’m pressing too hard, or you are in pain just let me know as I go.”
As she moved her way to my neck, the discomfort really set in.
“Oh WOW!” she said without hesitation, ” Your neck is probably where I will focus, its’ extremely knotted.”
I could feel myself trying to withdraw, tightening my muscles. Each time she proceeded to roll out what felt like a brick on my neck, I grimaced. Whatever it takes, I thought, so I began to breathe and relax, which allowed her to work easier. (She did inform me she didn’t want me to be in unbearable pain.) I asked her why massage therapy or deep tissue was so different than a ‘pamper honeymoon type massage’. She answered, it’s as if she is working to release stored pain in the body. Often we don’t even realize it’s there, except that our body is compensating for it, and we get used to simply living with the pain.
I knew the pain in my neck, from being a stomach sleeper and having carried two little ones for years, was an ache I was used to, my normal. I also, was intrigued that in order for her to release it from my body and work through it, some pain would be involved, or rather discomfort at times, but as I relaxed it wasn’t so bad after all. It really wasn’t unbearable but my body was certainly recognizing that the sensations I was feeling was not pleasant. Years of stored muscle aches wasn’t going to get fixed easily or in a day.
Physical pain is an unpleasant sensation coming into the body with the motor intention to withdraw. As I continued my nettlesome interviewing, it amused me that the more relaxed I was, ease would come for my therapist to reach the deeper layers, and the result would be healing of this muscle pain.
This may be obvious to many, but I really had no idea what massage therapy was for, other than for a ‘zen’ type self-love therapy I could not previously afford. I began to wonder if mental pain that entered the body also stored itself there, and do we just get used to living with it? Do we have a ‘motor withdrawal’ to opening up to emotional pain? If so, what are the effects, and is that too a process of healing and releasing emotional pain that would require some discomfort? I knew physical pain had great use, but could mental pain be useful as well?
If you have ever picked up something scorching hot, you know your instant reaction is to drop it. It’s a darn good thing too because pain is telling us something isn’t safe. It protects us. It’s not so black and white when it comes to the pain of our past, except that I think at some level we are putting up protective ‘walls or barriers’. Our history, our choices, things that have happened to us, or the pain we have caused others. I think it would be foolish to say we don’t store those things. But of course we do. We allow them into our heart and mind, and there they take root, effecting our mood, decisions, relationships, and much more. I’m no scientist or therapist but I have experienced this in my own life.
Just like lying there initially pulling away from the very thing that would be healing, I’ve also pulled away from my past, because working through it would simply be too painful. So I lived with it, and instead it slowly took over.
No one wants to admit to anxiety, or that maybe they need some help working through mental pains, and I certainly didn’t either. But one day, one massage, one explanation began to open my eyes to the thought that, safely working through the pain would allow me to heal from it, even when it seemed counter intuitive. I wanted so badly to begin healing, and walking through my emphatic mind, but I finally realized I’d actually have to venture back, if I truly wanted healing. This was really no different than the physical healing I was wanting. So, four months later (after many attempts of backing out,) I began therapy. Ouch saying it ‘out loud’ really means swallowing my pride, but I can say the discovery of this process has been one of the most wonderful tools for beginning the process of healing.
Maybe like me you said many things preventing you from taking the next step:
I want to let you in on something. I have an eternal hope. I know my savior. I know I’m forgiven, and I know I’m a child of God. I know I have a purpose, and serve a God who is in full control. So shouldn’t I focus on that and these truths and not junk from my past? After all I am made new.
“At this point, simply ask the Lord to give you the courage to be honest. Give Him permission to shine His Spirit’s light on your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You may be surprised by additional pain as you realize the extent of your wounds, but our experience of healing can only be as deep as our awareness of the need for it. This takes the power of God’s light. Ask Him to turn on the light.”
– Robert McGee (The Search for Significance.)
I was so caught up in go serve, love others, and Jesus (which is very vital) but I dismissed Jesus came to give me life to the fullest (John 10:10). He is for me. Somehow I believed that self-reflection, talking about it, taking time away to grow, and recognize how my current actions stemmed from childhood learned behaviors or thoughts would somehow make my faith less, and that I wasn’t trusting in God’s promise of making all things new. I wanted to grow and it was okay to ask for it, but even more so to let HIM in, show him my brokenness to truly let him do the work in my heart, and reach the deeply buried pain.
I had these thoughts, however, even before knowing Jesus, as I watched my parents, extended family, and friends go through tough times. My heart longs for people to see the importance of mental health, feeding and challenging our minds, and forever learning along the journey. Just as we work out, or go to the doctor, or feed our body well, we need to equally if not more take care of our minds.
Almost two years later, and I can say I wish I would have made the decision earlier to be vulnerable and honest. Life is messy, and hard, and often it doesn’t make sense. It is also beautiful, good, and worth fighting to make the most of. I can give you a hundred quotes on how diamonds come after years of pressure, or turn your pain into power, and they are all beautiful. The reality is that Jesus suffered, he suffered unto death on the cross, and it was most definitely painful, and God used it to give us eternal life. That to me is the sweetest thing about this journey. Not just that I get to be strengthened, grow, have a renewed confidence, and awareness of my many shortcomings, but that in any moment there is discomfort, I am pointed back to my Jesus, back to his suffering. He did not come to remove my temporary pain, but to relieve me from it for all eternity. So while he gives and takes away, and is the my most high counselor, I will praise him, for my pain is already healed. This is the power of Christ. Please don’t be afraid to reach out, and seek help. Know that unlocking door by door of your heart, allows healing to come in, and to re-write the lies stored inside into truth.
I would love to hear how your life has been changed by taking charge of your mental and emotional life? This doesn’t mean everything is perfect now, but only that you have taken a step forward. If you have not yet begun this journey, whats holding you back? What stops you? Do you want to?