What is Your Pain Inviting You to Do?
You’ve probably heard of ‘pattern interrupts.”
If not, no worries. It’s not a complicated concept. You use pattern interrupts every day, and probably never notice.
Let’s say you have a pattern of chewing your thumbnail when you’re working on a difficult problem. So you put a bandage on that thumb so you’ll notice when you’re about to chew the nail.
Boom! That interrupts your pattern, makes you aware of what you’re doing, and (theoretically at least) trains you out of that pattern.
Or you notice you’re in a downward spiral of overwhelm and frustration. So you take a deep breath, go for a walk, call a buddy, whatever stops that pattern. That’s a pattern interrupt.
But here’s the trick with pattern interrupts – you have to realize you’re in a pattern that needs interrupting!
We all have patterns. And, believe it or not, every one of those patterns served us well in some way at some time. That’s why we kept them.
Chewing on a thumbnail is a common self-soothing pattern. So is snacking, and playing solitaire and scanning Facebook for the latest “What kind of ______ are you?” quiz.
Even that spiral of overwhelm and frustration, while not productive in the long run, can bring on bursts of energy, garner sympathy and support, or just make us feel a little less guilty for sticking our heads under our pillow and refusing to get out of bed for a day!
Some patterns have been reinforced by outside conditioning.
Like the pattern of just pushing through when we’re exhausted. Or caring for the needs of others while refusing to acknowledge our own.
These two, pushing through and choosing not to care for myself, are patterns that I find cropping up for me again and again. Because they’re part of how I self-identify, and part of my inner value proposition.
“She’s a get it done kind of gal,” they said. One of my first managers even told his replacement, “I call her ‘Dixie Do’, because if I want it done, I get Dixie to do it.”
“She’s a trooper,” they said, when I was caring for my father during his last few months with bone cancer, and I strove even harder to prove myself a comforting nurse to a dying man and a gracious hostess to those who came to visit him in his last days.
Patterns that bring us those kinds of accolades are hard to see as needing to be broken, and harder yet to break.
Sometimes when we get emotionally addicted to a pattern, our body steps in to break it.
We call that pattern interrupt “pain.”
I started hurting in my early 20’s. But no one took it very seriously, least of all me. We all figured I was just tired from nursing my dad, and the grief that followed.
And then we figured I was just out of shape, because round-the-clock nursing doesn’t leave much time for physical fitness.
Finally we figured there might be something wrong. But no one seemed to know what it was.
A diagnosis of fibromyalgia didn’t do much good. Because knowing what it was didn’t tell us what to do about it.
By the time I was in my early 40’s I had days that started with dragging myself to the shower, standing under the spray, and crying until I was cried out. Then I’d dry off, put my face on, do my hair if I could manage the blow dryer, put on my navy blue suit or some facsimile thereof, and spend the day with clients who had no idea that my neck was a bundle of raw nerves, my shoulder blades had superheated lances sticking out of them, and my wrists and knees were filing protests every time I moved.
You’d think I might have paid attention to that pattern interrupt. But no, I kept pushing though. Looking outside for treatment, instead of inside for clues.
Until a man I met at a networking event asked to talk with me about helping him start a new business.
“If you’re going to coach me,” he said, “it would be good for you to understand what I do.”
As it turned out, what he did was movement therapy to reengage the neuropathways.
Five sessions later, I was pain free.
But – and this is a BIG but – I only stay pain free when I stay away from the pattern that created the pain.
When I manage stress, or at least get plenty of exercise to burn off those “fight or flight” hormones that stress introduces to the body.
When I eat what is good for me, and don’t forget to eat then binge on whatever is handy.
When I keep doing movement therapy (I’m now working with a Z-Health Specialist and getting amazing results when I do what he asks of me.)
And most of all, when I pay attention when my body tells me I’m getting into a pattern that doesn’t serve me!
The past 18 months have offered me a lot of pain, and a lot of lessons.
I’ve learned that holding spiritual space and offering emotional support is perhaps more wearying than being a medical care-giver.
I’ve learned that what is real cannot be lost, but losing sight of an illusion can still come at an extremely high cost.
I’ve learned that it is easier to put the needs of others first when I do not want to know what taking care of myself requires.
I’ve learned that pushing through is only a strength when it’s used rarely and judiciously, and that when I use it to salve my guilt or my ego it creates a weakness.
And I’ve learned that my first duty is to my own care. Because I cannot care for others as they deserve when I am hampered by the physical and emotional drain of constant pain.
No more, “I’ll take care of myself tomorrow.” Because by the time that tomorrow comes it’s in the form of a forceful pattern interrupt.
One that says, “You are going to have to break this pattern, because your pattern of not doing what you know you need to do is breaking you.”
And that’s what pain is really. An invitation.
An invitation to pause, to reconnect with yourself. To reconnect with what is real. To reconnect with your inherent wellness, wholeness and happiness.
It’s an invitation to release all that detracts, distracts, or impacts the reality of you in a negative way so that you can embrace your purpose, your possibilities and perfection.
Pain is simply an invitation to change.
Will you accept?
Why yes, I believe I will.
(You’ll find more of my thoughts on connecting with what is real on Come Truthing With Me – an invitation and new kind of space where I share my personal truths.)