Framing Your Pain So It Doesn't Feel Like A Battlefield Anymore
I have recently discovered a new way of thinking which is helping me get vastly different results in my life. I am interested in helping people who might be struggling with pain, tightness, stiffness or other similar difficulties use this way of thinking to change their results.
The idea that I've been exploring recently is called frames. A frame is the context, container or meaning that I give to the events that happen in my life.
I'm sitting here looking at the door frame's I built in my strawbale house. I've made them out of a beautiful native timber. I spent a lot of time ripping them on the table saw, putting a bevel on them, sanding them down to a smooth finish and then oiling them. They look beautiful. These door frames give the door a handmade, cared for kind of feel about them. If I had gone out to buy architraves made from pine and painted them white they would have given a different feeling when you look at the door.
In the same way that my door frames give a different feeling to my doors, the mental frames I use give a different feeling to my experiences in my life.
For example, I have previously had a frame around money which was like a ticking countdown timer. It started with me earning a bunch of money which would allow me to do all the stuff which I considered fun in my life - building, dancing, growing food forests, going to festivals, crossbow hunting, food foraging etc. But in the background the ticking of the countdown timer was relentless. My money would drain away slowly over time until I was at a point where it was so low and I would have to take some drastic action to improve it again. For me this created a sense of dread. Always knowing that the time was coming that I would have to stop playing and go and do some serious work (the stuff I didn't enjoy) and be a real grown up and be... boring!
Now my frame with money is that it's more like an invitation to explore the things I really value. My motivation for earning money has increased because now I'm earning money for the purpose of being generous, learning, growing, playing, supporting people who support positive social change. These things are very motivating for me. I love experiencing those things in my life. They are also very stable drivers. These values are not likely to change because they're been things I have valued for a very long time.
So compare the difference between these 2 frames. The first one created a sense of duty/obligation and impending dread. I was either working or playing. Nothing in between... and the motivation to earn money depended completely on my lack of having any.
The second frame creates a sense of excitement because I get to experience the joy of being generous. Or I get to use the process of earning money as a learning opportunity. The motivation is based upon my values which are stable.
Now lets apply this type of thinking to the body
I used to be in chronic pain. It was so bad I couldn't walk for months and it took me over a year to get out of it.
I remember what my framing was like for my body at the time. I experienced it as a mystery. It was threatening because it was so unpredictable. I couldn't understand why it would create pain for seemingly no reason at all. I was the victim and the pain was happening to me. I also treated my body as something to do HARD physical work with. I used a lot of force in my martial arts training and I also used a lot of force in my Yoga stretching. For me, the pain of training was something to be pushed through... Or the pain of stretching was there to be tolerated to the maximum amount that I could. I see these kinds of frames being validated over and over at gyms and training spaces. "No pain no gain" etc.
I have also spoken to many people who are in pain and I pay careful attention to their language. It's as though their body is some kind of enemy to overcome. Or at least they are the victims in some kind of war.
There's words which hint the smoky remnants of a battlefield.
- "Stabbing pain"
- "Threw my back out"
- "Shooting pain"
How would you describe your relationship with your body. If you imagined your body as another person how would you judge the type of relationship you have with it? What does it want from you? How do you feel when you think about it? How do you treat it?
Once you've answered those questions, answer this - How would you like to feel about your body? Would you like a caring relationship, a trustworthy one, a co-creative one? If you imagined your body as a person you cared about deeply, how would you change your behaviour and attitudes towards it?
I have a number of frames that I use with my body. The child. The non-judgemental explorer. The scientific experimenter. These all center around an innocence and curiosity. A lack of judgement. Being present.
You could imagine your body as a playground that a child is in. You see a slide over there, some monkey bars, perhaps a set of swings...
These are all different experiences that this child gets to play with. Going down the slide creates a certain set of feelings. Fluttering in the tummy perhaps. Maybe a dizzy feeling in the head.
The swing feels different again, look how high I can go if I swing my legs just right...
Hmmmm, and what's it like to climb on top of the slide and then jump off?
What I'm getting at here is that having a sense of play and genuine curiosity creates an entirely different way of living inside your body. It's fun, joyful, enlightening, exciting. And of course, you might still get the odd scraped elbow or stubbed toe, but those pale in comparison to living in a battle zone.
I encourage you to try this frame out for a while and see if you like it. Could curiosity and wonder be your drivers? How would that change your world if fighting a war against pain was no longer the main focus.
(My guess and experience... is that it just fades away like a distant memory)