Tips from a chronic pain recovery therapist
You have the power to free yourself from suffering. And… that does NOT mean you are the cause of your own suffering!
Most suffering (like chronic pain, anxiety or depression) starts with a wound. And wounds are an unavoidable part of life.
Common types of wounds include:
🔹injuries (both physical and emotional)
🔹losses (of people, places, things)
🔹abuse, oppression and subtler forms of control
Wounds happen to us. It’s not imagined or self-created. And it’s not your fault.
When we experience a wound, our nervous system devises coping strategies to get us through it and to protect us from further harm.
Common coping strategies include:
🔹numbing our feelings
🔹hiding from the world
🔹holding a mistrustful or combative stance
These coping strategies are our nervous system’s brilliant way of getting us through wounding experiences and protecting us from further harm. These are strategies that help us survive!
Suffering happens when these strategies go into over-functioning mode and get generalized to situations where they hinder us from thriving instead of keeping us safe.
👉 When you get wounded in an unsafe relationship, protective strategies can help you escape to safety. But when these strategies get generalized to ALL relationships, they can hinder you from connection and closeness.
👉 When you get wounded in an unsafe event, your nervous system may code everything it notices during that event as dangerous — including benign things like smells, tastes, colors, words, etc. Your nervous system is just trying to help you avoid a similar unsafe event in the future — but coding common, benign stimuli as “dangerous” can make everyday life feel like a minefield of triggers that bring on flares of symptoms like chronic pain.
So what can you do about it?
When safety strategies go into over-functioning mode — when they start to hinder your wellbeing instead of protecting you — here is an approach you can take:
You can turn toward yourself with love and compassion, acknowledge the unavoidable wounds that you’ve survived (nobody has a 100% wound-free life) and the valiant strategies that your nervous system has used to protect you, and remember that it’s totally common for coping strategies to shift into over-functioning mode. It’s not your fault — it’s just your nervous system being an enthusiastic protector.
Then, decide to do the inner work of releasing those over-functioning strategies, now that their original mission is no longer functioning the way it was intended to.
You might think of it as throwing your coping strategies a graduation party! 🎈🎊❤️.
If this idea appeals to you, here’s a journaling ✍️ experiment you could try:
👉 “Dear part that has protected me by doing ________ [name your coping strategies], thank you for getting us through _______ [name the wounding experiences they got you through.] I’m so proud of you! You are now graduating. Looking toward your bright future, how do you see your role transforming?”
👉 Let your part answer and see what flows onto the page 📄.
Thoughts 💭 or questions? I’d love to hear!
With loads of warmth and unconditional permission-giving,
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