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Dealing With The Mental/Emotional Component of Back Pain

Last updated on June 15, 2021

In spite of it’s “terrible” posture, this chipmunk is pain-free. Maybe it’s the way it holds its mind. 🙂

Someone Sent Me An Interesting Article Last Week

An article by Dr. Mercola on how dealing with the mental/emotional part of back pain is one of the most effective ways to treat it: “Spine Surgeon Reveals Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain”

One of the main takeaways from the article is the idea that “anxiety or mental pain and physical pain are processed in the same part of the brain. They’re essentially the same thing.”

If you’ve been doing The Work for a while, you may recognize the connection between thinking stressful thoughts and physical pain.

I Find It When I Answer Question Three of The Work

Question 3 is “How do you react, what happens, when you think that thought?” One of the common ways I react to any stressful thought is that I feel tension. Sometimes in my back. Sometimes in different parts of my body. Generally, it’s a feeling of constriction.

This is my body’s reaction to what the mind is thinking. Byron Katie calls it “internal cause and effect.” This is how powerful just one stressful thought can be on the whole system.

And the converse is also true. Unraveling just one stressful thought can be a powerful way to regain ease in the body.

Interestingly, This Spine Surgeon Found Expressive Writing Useful

Expressive writing is simply “the act of writing down your negative thoughts and emotions.” Dr. Mercola says, “there are over 200 research papers published since 1982 documenting the effectiveness of expressive writing.

The spine surgeon, his name is Dr. Hanscom, writes, “The research began with expressive writing around prior traumas and many different formats have been studied. The most straightforward method is ‘negative writing.’

This is where you’re simply writing down your current negative thoughts – the darker, the better – and you’re destroying them instantly. You’re not writing positive thoughts; you’re writing down your negative thoughts.

You are not destroying them to get rid of the thoughts. They are permanently etched into your brain. You are allowing yourself to write with complete freedom, so the exercise separates you from your thoughts. Again, when you try not to think about something, you think about it more. None of us like unpleasant thoughts, so we keep tossing them aside. Dr. Daniel Wegner out of Harvard pointed out that by simply writing down the thoughts you’re trying to suppress, it breaks the cycle.”

And this has become one of Dr. Hanscom’s key tools for helping patients get rid of back pain.

This Is A Big Part Of Doing The Work of Byron Katie

There are two parts to doing The Work: 1) identifying stressful thoughts 2) questioning those thoughts.

Part 1 is exactly what the Dr Hanscom is using to treat pain: identifying the stressful thoughts. It’s basically coming out of denial. Bringing awareness to what was pushed down.

That alone is huge. Transformative. Because once the mind sees what it has been thinking on paper, the process of letting go of those stressful thoughts often starts spontaneously.

But The Work Doesn’t Stop There

The Work of Byron Katie goes far beyond just writing the stressful thoughts. The Work is a way to question the thoughts you wrote and turn them around.

Those same stressful thoughts can provide a clear path out of the suffering when questioned and turned around.

As so many people doing The Work have reported, this process of questioning and finding turnarounds can neutralize the stressful thought, leaving it completely impotent to cause more harm.

So There You Have It

You have access to a turbo-charged version of what Dr. Hanscom is already using to successfully treat back pain.

I know it works for me. When I started The Work of Byron Katie in 2007, I had strong mid-back pain. Over time it lessened and went away by simply questioning my stressful thoughts.

Have a great weekend,

“This is not about getting rid of thoughts or about overcoming, improving, or surrendering them. None of that. This is about realizing for yourself internal cause and effect.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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About the author

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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