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In my work, I have seen pain in its most myriad forms. Many people didn’t realise the commonalities of pain in our physical, emotional and mental existence. From my point of view, they all share a common ground, and it is resolving this common ground that we release the pain. The source of most pain is stress, and it is stressful because it matters to us and it has meaning for us.


“When we feel pain, it is a moment for us to pause and slow down. We need to start asking ourselves what message this pain is sending us.”


Emotional and Mental Pain. When I meet a client who is in huge emotional turmoil, wrecked with negative thoughts and beliefs about self, I see a client who is on the brink of being burnt out by stress. This stress probably lies in something that has importance to the client, because we won’t give others or something the power to influence us if they don’t matter. In a relationship breakdown, it is probably the trust that was promised; in depression, it is probably someone or something did not move the way we wanted and the anger got turned inwards, followed by dejection; in anxiety, it is probably the similar lack of control but the energy got directed into a flight state. In most cases, what I am really curious about when someone is suffering psychologically is knowing what matters for them in this process. Then really questioning, should it still matter at this point or should we let go? Or how is the best way for us to value this meaning in a more functional manner?

Physical Pain. For the context of this discussion, this physical pain refers to those stemming from voluntary actions, not mishaps or accidents. In my neuromuscular therapy work, clients coming in with physical strains and sprains usually demonstrates commitment to some form of activity they need or want to do. I tell them “if we have to eradicate pain for the long-term, what do you think this current pain would tell you?”. And they would reply along the lines of taking more rest and having varied movements and stretches throughout the day. Physical pain is a signal the body use to tell us that we have exhausted the body, only because we are doing something that is somehow meaningful for us. But, now it is inflamed and overused, and unsustainable for the long-term. The challenge right here is balance: being conscious of the status of our body and going about our lives and work.

When we feel pain, it is a moment for us to pause and slow down. We need to start asking ourselves what message this pain is sending us. It is only with this reflection can we begin to understand the structure of this pain experience and take effective steps to move past them. Physical and psychological pains are experienced very differently, but they all share a message that tells us what we are doing now is not working. Something needs to change, otherwise the pain will only get more acute or chronic.

Original writings by The Realist, inspired by encounters in professional work in life coaching, physical therapy and PhD research.

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