When Healing is Painful

Over the last two months since I started having neck and shoulder problems many kind people have asked how I am doing. Mainly, they wonder if my neck and shoulder are feeling better.

I never really know what to say to this question. In many ways I am much, much better.

But to be honest, some days it still really hurts.

In part this is because my body is still a little injured and some days I get carried away and inflame the injury.

But I also think I am hurting because complete healing often includes pain.

Take my first couple of massages after the injury. First of all, my healing team made me wait a month or so to get a massage saying I wouldn’t be able to handle it right away. I couldn’t understand this at first because I have always loved the relief and relaxation that I got from a massage. But then I finally got my tight muscles worked on post injury. Even though the massage therapist was very gentle and careful not to overwork me, I was quite sore afterward.

I guess it took the gallons of water I drank a day or two to wash away the lactic acid and other toxins those knotted muscles were holding.

In the end the massage was for my good and the pain went away, but for a couple of days the only way to describe me was tender and tentative.

I think it is the same with our emotional life.

Sometimes we get hurt and injured and we tighten up inside. There is a hard place where the trauma occurred. A place that is either scarred or tensed up to protect the vulnerable spot from ever getting hurt again.

If we embark on a journey of complete healing, there will come a time when we have to let go of those knotted up places inside of us.

And when we do release the knots of pain, we are going to release some toxic stuff that will hurt for a while. But the only way for it to get washed away is for us to release it, feel the pain, and then let it be gone for good.

If you really want to know what I feel about all this, it is that our bodies and minds are tied up together more than we could ever understand. Our bodies hold our emotional pain in complex ways.

During our yoga teacher training I began to experience a flare up of anger and irritability. I brought this to my teacher’s attention and he said he wasn’t surprised. He guessed all the yoga had my body releasing some pain I had been holding internally for a while. When I told him I was tempted to cut back on the yoga because I was so tired of being angry all the time, he called me to the carpet.

He asked if I really wanted to spend the rest of my life with anger always lying underneath the surface like some shadow inside of me I couldn’t see, or did I want to do the hard work of clearing it out for good? In the end I kept with the yoga and doubled my time in meditation and prayer to calm my spirit. It helped and afterwards I felt healed in a way that I can only barely explain.

So if you to are in a period of healing that is surprisingly painful, take heart. It will not last forever. You are likely doing deep work of releasing painful toxins, whether they be lactic acid, emotions of grief or some mysterious combination of things we will likely never understand.

I encourage you to gently stay on the road to recovery. Try and breathe and be patient with the pain. And know that with time if you keep releasing and doing the good work of healing it will one day wash completely away.

And then you won’t just be pain free, you will be made truly well.