I hope you are having a good summer wherever you are.  As I began this post I was winging my way home after a precious and memorable month with my two kids, and theirs, my four grandchildren.  We had good weather on the flight, allowing a final glimpse of grandeur of the Austrian alps, the scene of many lovely hikes in the past month, and even an overnight at a cabin, with all the grandkids, great hikers, every one.

On the flight, we also could see down to the tidy villages, surrounded by forest and small farms…like those where we walked and cycled…and which are such a contrast to the urban sprawl and giant agricultural lands we  can observe in the US and Canada.

What about the link to pain?   In an earlier post, My Dance with Pain, I went into some detail about TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome).  As I mentioned, this approach, disarmingly elucidated by Dr. John E. Sarno in his classic, Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Prescription, suggests that the source of our aches and pains  is very frequently psychological in origin, even when there are obvious physical symptoms.

As I continued to work with this realization and diagnosis, I am grateful to report that, in contrast to a couple of months ago when the activities I was able to do were becoming more and more limited, on this holiday I enjoyed jumping on the trampoline with the kids, skipping rope, swimming, as well as some longish, high-altitude hikes, walk/jogs.  Last, but definitely not least, I am now able to sleep in all my usual and comfortable positions… all of which had been significantly compromised just a little while earlier.

In the hopes that these notes may be useful to some of you, here are a few further observations on my dance, my journey.

As I delved into the psychological issues, it became clear that the work could be framed as “Dancing with my Dark Side.”   I have always known about the so-called dark side, our shadow, but in the past it has seemed more useful to me, and I definitely preferred, to focus on the light…peace, contentment, joy. Well, I now see it otherwise.  One of the key directives that emerged as I worked with my dark side, was to ‘Find the Feelings, Feel the Feelings’, and I don’t mean the pleasant ones.  I’m talking hatred, rage, fear, guilt, sadness, shame, inner conflict.. the whole gamut.

Yet, I talk about a Dance because this deep work can be done with curiosity, openness, and even lightness… not the sinking, hopeless, sense of being caught in quicksand, a jungle, a dungeon… which was my earlier frame for the darkside work.

Obviously it’s not about acting these emotions out.  What’s needed is to acknowledge and allow, accept and experience, these feelings.  Even to welcome them.  The more acceptance we can bring, and the less resistance to them, the better.  Resisting what is within us creates even more stress. Feeling our feelings will allow them to flow through.  Repressing or ignoring them can, for some of us, result in unconscious tension, stress, inner conflict, which can manifest as various sorts of pain.  Our brains are trying to distract us from these experiencing these unpleasant, even unacceptable, negative feelings.  Pain is less horrible to our brains than finding and feeling the feelings!

The work has been greatly challenging, also fascinating and rewarding.  One mantra I came up with is “My dark side is my teacher, my healing, and my friend.”  A far cry from my earlier resistance!  For example, I spent several sessions just feeling into my fears.  Fear of falling, aging, losing my mind, fear of feeling the dark side, (that I’d drown in a miasma of yuckyness), fear for my family’s well-being… really feeling, not just thinking or articulating these emotions.  And the same for hatred, anger… Whew.  Exhausting, but liberating as well.  I wound up feeling more whole and complete, more authentic after owning and experiencing the dark side — in this concentrated way.

Another professional who deals with TMS, and has lots of good information available on his website, is Monte Hueftle.  He calls his approach The Master Practice. and he builds on, and updates, the Sarno material.  I highly recommend his videos.  He’s not slick and fancy, but homey and down to earth.  He’s not even always grammatical :-), but he’s got the goods.  Hueftle emphasizes that it’s important to realize and change the way we deal with stress and tension in our moment-to-moment, day-to-day life, not just looking at our past history and stored emotions.

Day-to-day stress and tension?  Hmmmm.  As I heard that, I realized there was a double whammy in this all for me.  Alleviating tension and stress is the most important thing I can do in the way of stroke prevention, as well as being the key to the pains I had been experiencing.  So there continues to be great motivation to recognize the feelings and emotions that are creating stress in my life, and in my day-to-day experience.

Additional tools that have proven very helpful in the work are EBT (Emotional Brain Training), NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming), and my continuing inquiry with my Diamond Approach work.  More about some of this in posts to follow.  Enough for now. In the meantime, I encourage you to Dance with the Dark!

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity.  BECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, and growth.  Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.  Your feedback is most welcome.

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