Dealing with Physical Pain

Do you reject the old rose in favour of a new rosebud?

I’ve been fortunate most of my life not to have much pain to deal with. But even a little pain calls my attention. Since I was in my mid-twenties, I’ve had chronic tension, which is sometimes painful, in my mid-back and neck.

If you deal with pain of any kind, I share some of the ways I’ve used The Work to help deal with this discomfort over the years.

Overcoming Denial

The first phase of questioning occurred before I ever knew The Work. I had a concept in mind that I had a perfect body. It was just an idea. Maybe it came from growing up with doctors for parents—I literally saw it as a failure to be sick or debilitated in any way (and I took pride in small things like not having any cavities in my teeth).

So, when back pain hit me in my twenties, it was a shock. And my first reaction was to deny it, minimize it, and not treat it. It took years of not taking care of the problem before my thinking slowly turned around for me and I could admit to myself that I don’t have a perfect body. 

That was the beginning of looking for support from professionals.

Resistance to Spending Money

Similarly, I held myself back from getting treatment because of the cost involved. Money became a new excuse not to seek out professional help. And because money was never a top priority for me, it put off getting help indefinitely… until someday when I had a surplus of it.

Questioning my thoughts about money using The Work, and learning to engage with it, slowly shifted this and I began to seek and get help.

Wanting Perfection

Another big area of stress related to treating tension and pain has been a desire to get back to the way I was before. I see the images of how pain-free I used to be in my youth and I don’t know how to get there. In fact, with this attitude, no matter what improvements I see, they are never good enough. 

This has to do with accepting the aging process and the limitations of having a human body. And it is really just another form of the denial I mentioned above. I have an image of perfection and I deny anything that messes with that image.

My Work Continues on This Level Today

Just last week, I got a crick in my back and lost a lot of mobility in my neck. The pain increased a lot and my stressful thoughts began to swarm again. Here are a few thoughts I collected to question:

I am not getting better.
I want my back to be perfectly healthy.
There’s something seriously wrong with me.
It should be easy to fix.
No practitioners care enough to get to the root of the problem.
It will never be healed.

As I’ve questioned most of these over the past few days, I notice more acceptance creeping in—an acceptance of the pain, an acceptance of aging. And I’m finding an appreciation for what my body is able to do to keep me healthy.

Another Layer to Unpeel

Acceptance of the pain is one side of it. And The Work helps a lot in questioning the thoughts that prevent me from accepting it. Another layer is questioning the thinking that may be causing the pain itself.

I don’t believe that all pain is caused by emotion. I think some of it has purely physical causes. But I do believe that some pain is caused by emotion and psychological tension or that it can be a contributing factor to any experience of pain.

And a way to work with emotion and physical tension is to question the thoughts that cause them. For example, I believe part of my pain was caused by shame in my twenties, part of it was caused by not feeling like I belonged, and part of today I think is caused by working too hard.

All of these things can easily be addressed with The Work by simply writing down the stressful thoughts and questioning them.

I Have Done This

And I continue to take this approach. When I first started doing The Work, my pain was much worse. Just questioning the issues in my life softened the tension in my back. I look forward to continuing to do The Work on any issues that may contribute to this tension. 

Who would I be if didn’t believe I had to work so hard?
Who would I be if I allowed myself to belong?
Who would I be if I didn’t look on past actions with a sense of shame?

I would be freer, more relaxed, and I would probably have less tension and pain in my back. For me, everything is connected. So doing The Work on anything can help. That’s why I love to do The Work as a daily practice, questioning whatever is coming up for me each day.

Autumn Virtual Retreat This Weekend

Join us this weekend for the Autumn Virtual Retreat, Sep 23-25. You will get a chance to do The Work on anything on your mind in a supportive and caring environment. 

Have a great week,

“Your body is not your business. If you need a doctor, go to one. That way, you get to be free. Your body is your doctor’s business. Your business is your thinking; and in the peace of that, you’re very clear about what to do. And then the body becomes a lot of fun, because you’re not invested in whether it lives or dies.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

Further reading: Dealing With The Mental/Emotional Component Of Back Pain

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.