I have heard a lot of talk about how pain can have emotional issues. Is this true? If so can I use the pain to discover and work on the emotional issues tied to the pain?
[Note from Gene: I asked Pennsylvania-based EFT practitioner Chip Engelmann to answer this question. Chip does a great job explaining the reasons for pain and how we can use it to identify some of the emotional roots. Make sure you check out Chip’s website, ChipEFT.com for many great articles, ebooks, and recordings of past teleseminars.]
photo by santacrewsgirl
First, we have to assume that pain has a purpose beyond creating misery. Surely we understand that the pain we feel when we put our hand into a flame is what stimulates us to move our hand out of the flame. In that case, pain is a stimulus to take action to avoid harm.
Now, if we move our hand two feet above the flame and leave it there, eventually that becomes painful too, and we remove our hand. But the stimulus for removing our hand was more about addressing the pain and less about the possible damage. In fact, the further we are from the cause of a pain, the less likely we will see the actual cause of the pain, and the more likely we will react only to the pain rather than to its cause. A headache may develop in response to an emotion triggered hours before. Arthritis pain may stem from an emotional reaction that began decades ago. It is easy to see how the cause of a pain can be overlooked.
And more often than not, we do overlook it. Frankly, stopping the pain is as far as we care to go. For the purpose of healing, however, addressing only the pain is about as effective as covering the oil light on your car with duct tape when it starts to flash. Maybe you won’t be annoyed by the light anymore, but you also won’t stop your engine from seizing and totaling your car. But for better or for worse, pain usually won’t go away permanently until we get the message that it is trying to tell us.
Luckily, we’re not alone in our search for the emotional causes of physical pain and illness. Research has established certain physiological connections between emotion and illness. Anger has been shown to affect the liver. When we are angry, we create toxins that our body must deal with. In fact, a single breath of an angry man produces enough toxins to kill a Guinea pig. The organ that is responsible for clearing toxins from the body is the liver. The drug of choice for an angry person is alcohol. Long-term exposure to alcohol or anger puts excess stress on the liver.
Sad people tend to crave carbohydrates, especially sweets. Long-term exposure to a high-carbohydrate diet results in insulin resistance and diabetes. Sadness is known to affect the pancreas, which produces insulin.
Another approach we can use to detect the emotional causes of pain is to look at the symbolism of the different parts of the body. The hands grip, so a pain in the hand is generally a problem with holding onto something. Likewise, the intestines are the part of the body that eliminates waste. So if we have a problem with the intestines, it too is usually a problem of holding onto an emotion. However, the intestines are deeper in the body than the hand, so they would represent holding onto a deeper emotion. For another example, our feet are used to move us through our world, so a pain in the foot would be associated with a fear of moving forward.
Lastly, we can look for clues about the body in sayings from the past. “That really galls me,” is an expression revealing that slow-burning anger affects the gall bladder. “You expect me to swallow that?” is a reaction toward someone you feel is “feeding you” a lie, which affects the throat. A person who is constantly criticizing is “riding you.” If they do it enough, you get angry and yell, “Get off my back!” That anger is stored in the upper back. A person who doesn’t get what you are trying to tell them is a “pain in the neck.”
What we are seeing here is that the location of a pain can tell us a lot about the emotional circumstance that caused the pain in the first place.
Perhaps the best roadmap to the emotional roots of physical pain and illness is a book by Louise Hay, Heal Your Body. I constantly use this seven-dollar book as a springboard to solve emotional puzzles. Louise Hay looks at all the body parts and a variety of major diseases, and gives us the emotional counterpart to each. Her insights may not cover every situation, but I’ve always found them to be in the ballpark.
So you ask, “How can I figure out what’s behind my pain?” The first step is to use Louise Hay’s book and look up the location of the pain. Now look at which side of the body it is located on. Typically, a pain on the left side of the body will have to do with a relationship, and pain on the right side of the body has to do with finances, career, etc. I say typically, because it’s flipped in a very small percentage of people: the right side will represent relationships and the left side financial matters.
Sometimes pain is located in more than one part of the body. The two pains may not be related, but more often they are related.
One woman I know complained of a pain in her left hand. Louise Hay would say that this pain represents holding onto an issue. Since it is on the left side, we can assume it has to do with a relationship. She also complained of a pain that starts in her neck (Hay says: failure to see the other side of an issue), and moves to her jaw (anger) and throat (anger). I also saw this woman rubbing her left knee (stubbornness and inflexibility).
Let’s consult the old sayings. Remember, the throat is about swallowing a lie, and you clench your jaw to resolutely move forward.
Now let’s put it all together. What we are looking at is a breach of trust in a relationship where the partner did something to break that trust – something pretty bad. The woman stubbornly refuses to hear the other side of the story because there simply is no excuse for what happened. Any excuse, therefore, would be something she could not swallow. She holds onto this anger, and it is triggered on a regular basis.
Since her emotion is manifesting in several locations, we might assume that the emotions behind the event or series of events are pretty powerful. This description could represent something that happened in a past relationship, like infidelity. Or it could be a childhood trauma. Sexual assault is a possibility.
A medical diagnosis is often helpful. If a pain is due to arthritis, we can add the emotion of resentment to the mix. Arthritis in the knee would indicate an incident in which the person was both resentful and stubborn. Inflammation would add anger to the mix. If your hand was swollen with arthritis, you might be holding onto an incident that makes you angry and resentful.
Cancer would indicate that something was eating away at you. Often cancer is associated with anger, but it can also stem from grief, as in the loss of a loved one. The location of the cancer is a good clue. Pancreatic cancer might indicate grief, while liver cancer might point to anger. However, pancreatic cancer could also indicate anger associated with sadness, as in the case where a best friend ran off with a spouse.
While it is possible to come pretty close to detecting an emotional cause just by analyzing physical symptoms, listening to what people say and noticing how they say it is invaluable. People will express the emotion that they are resonating with. You will hear it in their voice and see it in their face and body language.
Last but not least, trust your intuition. When you start looking for the source of a physical pain, check with your intuition to see if the direction you are going “feels right.” If not, take another tack.
It’s a good idea to work with a partner or practitioner who might have insight in this area. As with all things emotional, it is often easier to read someone else than yourself, and for someone else to read you than for you to figure out yourself.
EFT can be used throughout this process. If you don’t know the cause of a pain, tap on the image of that pain and you’ll probably get a measure of relief. If you can guess at emotional causes, tap on those. But keep your intuition open, because a memory may stir, or a feeling that reminds you of an incident, and these are your true leads. Tap on them, and be specific and thorough. Once the anger is gone, you’ll find hurt. Once the hurt is gone, you’ll find guilt, and so on. You can see why, as a rule of thumb, traumatic events and “core issues” should be handled with the help of an EFT professional.
The truth is, people don’t really come to me for help with a past trauma. They don’t think about that trauma. That trauma is packed away tightly in their back closet so they can function today. Clients come to me with problems and pains that have manifested in their lives today. And as we open the closet to make a repair, the trauma falls out, ready to finally be resolved.
So can pain be your friend? When your pain reveals your emotions, it allows you to take care of yourself on a deeper level. After all, what are friends for?