Poking The Pain Body
When I first heard Eckhart Tolle talk about the pain body, I was awestruck.
Finally! Someone was talking about this invisible "something" in a way that made sense.
No stories of demons or the devil with all the entanglement
of religion or religious remedies.
Just a simple explanation that resonated as truth.
“. . . an energy entity consisting of old emotion and accumulated pain"
I’m well acquainted with accumulated pain.
As a child, I was highly sensitive to the dark, emotional undercurrent in my family—all the unresolved wounding that both my mother and father experienced as children.
Pain doesn’t just disappear as you grow up. Emotional disturbance is energy, my friend.
It has to go somewhere.
And if it isn’t allowed to flow in healthy ways—if it isn’t healed through conscious awareness—it goes underground, into the tissues.
It gathers and pools, living on negative stories of victimization and lack.
As Eckhart says, “Pain can only feed on pain.”
Ignore it and the energy entity grows—passing from one generation to the next like a long strand of pearls—a string of all the hurt and sorrow your family has ever known.
That’s why good people with good intentions hurt each other.
It’s why they hurt their children.
When humans are in the grips of the pain body, they don’t act from a place of love and understanding.
They act out of fear and shame and low self-esteem.
I’ve had front-row seats to the Pain Body show.
When I was a girl, I watched this entity rise in my parents again and again, despite their best efforts to control it.
Sometimes the energy was explosive and dangerous. Other times it turned inward, dragging them into periods of brooding isolation—wearing them down, creating illness.
For years they turned to their church, trying to find salvation through prayer.
But as my Dad later told me,
“The fact that we loved Jesus never stopped us from hitting our kids.”
Religion has its merits, but it should never be used as a substitute for doing your emotional and psychological work.
It’s got to be AND, my lovely. Not either/or.
The truth is, my parents were confused about their own inner process.
They didn’t see the relationship between the mind and the body.
They didn’t know that thoughts trigger feelings—that unprocessed traumas from the past were colouring their experience of the present.
They thought the pain inside them had to do with sin and weakness.
And oh, this breaks my heart.
Religious guilt only fuels the inner war of self-loathing and doubt.
Unfortunately, my parents didn’t get the kind of help that connected the dots between their dysfunctional beliefs and their behaviour.
Therapy? Forget it. They were just trying to put food on the table.
Please know I’m not blaming anyone here. I’m just trying to start an honest conversation.
Because isn’t it time to stop the cycle of emotional suffering?
If we don’t learn how to deal with our Pain Body, our children won’t learn how to deal with theirs.
And this is where drugs and alcohol (and often times, suicide) come in.
I'm speaking from personal experience.
As a fourteen-year-old, I ran with friends who were on the same pain frequency as me.
Teenagers who were trying to deal with the confusion and chaos in their homes without having the emotional maturity to do so.
We often felt so much pain that we could only express it through violence, either by hurting ourselves or by hurting others.
For us, drugs and alcohol were a kindness.
They took the edge off.
Of course, this isn’t news.
Humans have been numbing the Pain Body for centuries. We use food, religion, work, alcohol, drugs, sex, TV, sports, control strategies and even chronic complaining to help us cope.
But what if there were another way?
What if we actually dealt with the wounds that are causing the pain?
This is the question I asked myself in my mid-twenties when my own Pain Body was at its destructive peak.
One night, I found myself screaming at my boyfriend with a blood-rage that shook the building.
A neighbour yelled up through the floorboards saying she would call the police and I ran down to her suite and tried to kick her door down, telling her what I’d do if I actually got in.
My boyfriend pulled me from her entry and back to our apartment and when I finally broke free, I grabbed a wine bottle and smashed it, threatening to kill us both.
I still cry when I think of it.
My behaviour that night was a sad replay of what I'd witnessed in my own home growing up.
No, my parents never threatened me or my siblings with a broken bottle, but the level of anger directed toward us in an effort to break our spirits (and force us to behave in the ways they wanted us to) was just as devastating.
I acted precisely as I'd been taught, using force and domination (and physical pain, if necessary) to get my boyfriend to obey my rules.
I blamed him for my feelings of fear and jealousy and sent out the same terrible message I'd received throughout childhood.
If you’d only behave, all would be well!
Maybe you've heard a version of this yourself.
"Do what I say and you won't get hurt."
"Make me happy and you'll be okay."
Or, in more contemporary terms . . .
"Don’t push my buttons."
This is a problem, dearest.
Our buttons exist for a reason.
They’re meant to be pushed!
Emotional flare-ups are indicators of something that needs our attention!!
Which brings me back to that terrible night in my twenties . . .
The buttons my boyfriend pushed that evening (simply by being a normal, healthy, twenty-something male) activated a wave of pain so intense I could hardly bear it.
When I smashed the bottle, I truly didn't want to hurt him.
I just wanted to stop the pain.
I thought I'd feel safe, secure and loved, if he would just conform to my idea of a relationship.
I didn't realize that my pain was caused by something much deeper.
The truth was, I had a toxic belief system about men—a twisted mix of Christian righteousness, Victorian morality and fairy-tale romanticism.
Top all of that off with a nice dollop of collective fear (served up by the generations of women before me who relied on men for their security) and you’ll get an idea of the victim mentality I was trapped in.
And the dark cherry to finish it off?
A contempt for men that I inherited from my mother.
(Quick tip ladies: You can’t talk negatively about men and not have it affect your children.)
Thank God for the steady-stream of amazing men who kept showing up in my life to wake me up to the truth.
And thank God they pushed my buttons long enough to help free me of my illusions about love.
And thank GOD, I finally stop focusing on the button-pushers and got curious about all those buttons!
The sheer awfulness of that night shifted something in me and gave me the courage to start my journey into self-discovery and truth.
I won't pretend to have it all figured out because I don't, but at least I'm no longer confused.
I know what the Pain Body is now and I know it can only be healed by meeting it head-on with love.
I'll be sharing more about this practice in upcoming blogs, but if you need a quick guide, I'll boil it down to this:
ACKNOWLEDGE IT My own coach came up with the brilliant statement: "The Pain Body is active" Just saying this out-loud puts me straight back into my power because I no longer take the pain so personally. This gives me the proper perspective to use my tools.
BREATHE! Healing the Pain means healing it, not feeding it! Breathing through the pain helps it flow so it can move out of my body instead of staying stuck where it is. The breath is like an anchor and helps keep me grounded so I don't lose myself in the intensity of the emotion
PULL YOURSELF BACK TO THE PRESENT The Pain Body’s roots are always in the past. It may be triggered by something in the present, but its reacting to something in the past. Coming back to the present and bringing awareness to the Pain Body is one of the most powerful things I've discovered yet. Eckhart Tolle says that the moment we observe the Pain Body as a witness, it can't use us anymore.
ALLOW IT When my Pain Body is triggered I try to remember the good advice from ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) which means allowing thoughts, emotion, memories and bodily sensations to come and go, without having to do anything about them. This leads to a sense of self that is separate from these things. We're not our emotions! We're not our thoughts! As soon as we get into the seat of the Observer, we can use the information given to us by our thoughts and emotions to make positive choices and take healthy actions. I find it a great way to practice acceptance.
GET HEALTHY SUPPORT Healing the Pain Body means looking beyond the surface problem to the real issue beneath. I always try to take note of the triggers that make me go "off" so I can examine them at a time when I'm calm. I also take note of the thoughts that come up when I'm in pain. There's gold there! And if I get stuck, I always turn to a conscious friend or my coach. I encourage you to do the same. The pain is telling you to DIG! But please get healthy assistance from someone who can see past your blind spots and will help you honestly examine your attitudes and inner motivations. The Work of Byron Katie is simply awesome!
If you don't feel like taking this on right now, that's okay.
Your teachers are waiting for you, I promise.
They're all around us, you know. And they're here to wake us up with as many pokes as necessary.
It's only a matter of time, my sweet, before they come calling.
When they do, please pay attention.
Sending you so much love,