Because Nobody Wants That Old Suitcase
Last month I shared a personal Pain Body moment with you that was truly cringe-worthy.
So ugly, in fact, I almost kept it out of the blog.
It’s embarrassing to admit to such unconscious behaviour.
And yet, several readers wrote in
to tell me that my story helped them in deeply personal ways.
Which brings a lump to my throat.
We’re all in this together, my sweet. NO ONE escapes childhood without some kind of emotional bruising.
The fact that we’re human (and equipped with a story-telling brain) guarantees we’ll experience a certain amount of insecurity and shame.
It just a matter of degrees.
If you’re one of those lucky few to be raised in a healthy, functioning family, congratulations!
Your Pain Body load will be significantly lighter than most.
You’ll be able to meet daily challenges as they come—zigging and zagging through the obstacle course of adulthood with relative ease.
I’m not saying you won’t feel the sting of disappointment and loss . . .
But you won’t be destroyed by it.
Self-esteem is your super power, my friend. It’s your protective shield from the slings and arrows of life. When heartache comes raining down, you’ll have the shelter of your own inner-connection to help you stand in the truth of your value and worth.
This is the way that it should be.
All children deserve to know how precious they are. To look into the eyes of love and see their beauty reflected back to them again and again.
Every single one of us deserves the confidence that grows from respect and appreciation and the freedom to be the unique person we are without shame.
This is our birthright.
But something happens, doesn’t it?
Not all babies are born to people who are emotionally healthy.
Most of us, in fact, were raised by people who were driven by the same issues and destructive beliefs of the generations before them.
Which means we're all lugging around some extra baggage.
That’s what the Pain Body is, you know.
It’s the energetic container for all your painful memories.
Every harsh word that ever hurt your spirit
Every act of cruelty
And not just your painful memories, but the painful memories of your family, your culture, your gender.
You know all those things that happened that were swept under the rug and never dealt with? All the things that your family couldn’t face, or didn’t want to feel?
That’s part of your baggage, my sweet.
And that’s why I’m here again, talking about this subject.
We’re not meant to cycle endlessly through the same problems, bringing the identical misery and unhealthy coping methods to our children.
We’re built for JOY, people!
And just imagine the amount we could have in our lives if we learned how to let go of our suffering.
That's why I hit send on that ugly moment last month.
If we’re going to heal the Pain Body, we need to understand it.
And if my own journey can help you with yours, then I’m willing to reveal every gory detail.
But let me be clear.
It’s not our victim stories that heal. Telling our sad tales again and again only feeds the circle of suffering, keeping us stuck in victimization.
It’s only our stories of transformation and empowerment that create change.
Writing last month’s blog was important for so many reasons, but it was also personally risky.
Talking about my family dynamics took me back into the past.
And that, my friend, can be very dangerous territory.
You can get lost there if you're not careful. You can get all tangled up in old heartache and trauma and lose your connection to the goodness of NOW.
This is how the Pain Body gains power.
Writing that piece last month took me straight to the heart of a deep inner-wound.
I saw my mother—overwhelmed and tired and angry—taking her frustrations out on her children.
I saw the pain of my two younger brothers and felt my own inability to help them.
And PING! Just like that, I was small and vulnerable and alone and helpless.
Bryon Katie was right when she said that the best thing about the past is that it’s over.
Which is why I have to keep bringing myself into the present again and again.
(That's where our power is, you know).
The past doesn’t really exist.
We just keep it alive in our minds.
Or, more accurately, the Pain Body does.
Most of us are missing all the joy that’s here for us now because we’re projecting the pain of our past onto each fresh new moment.
And if we're honest with ourselves, there's a small piece inside that doesn't want to let go of the pain even though its making us (and everyone around us) miserable.
This is where things get tricky.
The reason it’s so hard to release our stories of suffering is because they're founded in truth.
The Pain Body was born out of our original wounding as children.
Hurtful things really did happen to us.
We really were victims in the cleanest sense of the word.
How could we defend ourselves when we were so little? How could we leave our situation when we were entirely dependent upon our parents for food and shelter?
Things were said and done to us that we had no control over. Things were withheld that hurt us in inexplicable ways.
This is the truth.
But it isn't the whole truth.
It's not even close.
Our painful experiences are not who we really are, and the beliefs they produce are always the complete opposite of the truth.
I'm too much
I'm not enough
I can't handle it
Your mind will happily add more to this list, but please know . . .
NONE OF IT IS TRUE
We are pure, positive light with unlimited potential and our connection to eternal love cannot be broken.
If we don’t realize this, if we make the mistake of creating an identity around our hurtful past (and our role in it as victim), we enter the realm of dirty pain.
That’s when the clean story of our wounding gets terribly infected, giving the Pain Body the perfect environment in which to grow.
And once it does, it begins to misuse our pain to its own advantage.
That’s when we unconsciously start to manipulate others with our victim stories, justifying our own hurtful behaviour and unhealthy coping strategies while avoiding any responsibility for our own continued suffering.
As soon as the Pain Body gets involved, it uses the "truth" to keep us invested in pain.
Maybe you've noticed how sometimes those imprisoning feelings of hatred and blame are tinged with a tiny bit of pleasure?
Or maybe, you tend to be drawn in the opposite direction, down into depression and self-pity.
And you kind of, sort of, like it.
That’s because the Pain Body uses the charge of painful emotion the same way an addict uses heroin.
Yes, even sadness can become an addiction.
So . . . what do we do?
The first step is always awareness.
Working with the Pain Body requires presence. Because, unlike the image of the suitcase at the top of the page, this negative energy field isn’t something you can see with your eyes.
It’s something you FEEL in your body.
Strong negative emotion is your first indication that something important needs your attention.
My own coach loves to say, "Mind the Pain Body and tend the mind."
That's because dealing with the Pain Body is a two-part process.
Negative emotion is the alarm system your body uses to alert you to the Pain Body's activity in your MIND.
This is the key to everything, soul sister.
Our behaviour, our feelings, our mood-states, our energy levels, our attitudes, are all driven by what's happening inside our head.
Even when we're unaware of it.
The events and circumstances in our daily lives, (including the evening news) can trigger negative thoughts and false beliefs, stirring up unhealed issues stored in our psyche.
And just like that, it's good-bye present moment and hello Pain Body.
When old pain is activated, it can feel like it's taking you over (and sometimes it does).
But the Pain Body can't control you if you don't get pulled into its story.
Conscious awareness is always your way out of the madness.
When you align with the presence within you (many spiritual teachers call this the Observer) you'll be able to watch the turbulence instead of being a part of it.
You don't have to fix anything. You don't have to force yourself to think nice thoughts.
Tending the mind means seeing the stories for what they are and taking note of the ones that cause the most suffering.
It means connecting to your breath and using it as your life-line to the present so you won't be pulled back into darkness.
Engaging with the Pain Body gives it momentum.
So please don't poo-poo this breathing stuff.
The breath is your anchor and will help calm the electrical storm in your mind, keeping you grounded so you can move on to the second part of the process.
Minding the Pain Body.
Which really just means being completely and fully present with the physical pain that wants to be released through your body.
Sorry, but this needs to happen.
Again, you're not trying to fix the pain. Or make it go away. The point is to be with it and offer yourself loving kindness.
Just follow the physical sensation in your body with your attention while breathing through any discomfort.
Is there a build-up of intense emotional energy?
Then cry. Run. Jump up and down. Yell. Kick a pillow.
Karla McLaren calls emotions "action-requiring neurological programs" which means you need to express them.
But this doesn't mean blasting someone at the office or hitting your children.
It doesn't mean transferring your pain onto someone else so you can feel better.
We've been doing that for centuries.
Healing the Pain Body means learning how to release trapped emotional pain (that is often generational) in a nondestructive way.
At a proper place and time.
Which means consciously holding your emotions in the container of your body and tending to them with your attention and breath until you are alone or with someone who can help you with this important work.
Don't expect to do this perfectly.
Especially when things get heated.
I certainly don't.
The energy of my own Pain Body, (depending on the topic that activates it), is sometimes so intense that it nearly knocks me off my feet.
Just ask my family and close friends.
When it flares up, (and for me, its usually shame or anger) it's often at such a high voltage that I can't hide it from others.
So I don't try.
I just stand there, red-faced and trembling, and feel the burn.
I stand there and BREATHE.
If I can step outside (or get to a bathroom) I do.
But if I can't?
I just keep connecting to my breath, expanding my inner boundary so I can contain my emotions instead of erupting, and pepper-spraying everyone else in the room.
How is containing my emotion different from repressing it?
Two words: Inner awareness.
Instead of denying my feelings, I stay present with the intensity until they dissipate. (Usually 90 seconds) Then I'm able to function again and respond in a way that is aligned with my values.
This takes practice my sweet!
Healing the Pain Body means meeting it in real time, as it’s happening NOW.
Repetition and consistency really do work, so please don't give up!
Change is possible. I know, because I’m doing it right along with you.
If you've still reading this far down the page, then trust me, you definitely have what it takes to go the distance.
And if you are still reading, there's a strong possibility that you're being called to be part of this current awakening.
Maybe this is your life's work . . . to bring the light of consciousness to your own dark corners of pain.
Maybe, just maybe, you'll be the first one in your family's history to put down the Pain-Body-Baton so the next generation won't have to carry it.
If this is your purpose, then Hallelujah!
You're on the team of people who will actually BE the change they wish to see in the world.
That's how we'll heal the Pain Body.
And not just for us, but for our children and their children.
So let's keep working together. Let's keep lightening the load. Let's keep listening and minding and tending and observing and anchoring and breathing and grounding and releasing and feeling and surrendering, until we can finally put our stories of "what they did to us" down forever.
Because honestly, nobody wants that old suitcase.
Sending you so much love,
PS. I use the term "negative emotion" to make things easier to understand but please know that ALL emotions are part of an intelligent communication system within our bodies and that each one carries important information. (Which makes them good, good, good!) Intense emotion that feels negative is part of an alarm system trying to get our attention and is usually an indication that a painful story (that no longer serves us) is active within our mind.
PSS. My coach really does like to say, "Mind the Pain Body and tend the mind." She likes it so much she used the phrase as the title for her chapter on the Pain Body in her new book Scooch (which I had the good fortune to read before she sent if off to her publisher) If you want the best self-coaching tools available to man-kind, do yourself a favour and pre-order Scooch on her website.