Admit it, we’ve all been there when things just seem to stall on the path to chronic pain recovery. Even more frustrating is when you can’t find out why it has faltered.
Discovering that my pain was caused by unresolved emotional issues, not tissue damage, was as revolutionary as it was bizarre. Knowing this simple fact put me well down the path to complete recovery. Hundreds of others have written about their recovery from pain, also known as tension myositis syndrome (TMS).
Excited to start a new program, I saw some fantastic early progress in my personal recovery, only for it to slow to a grinding halt. For a while my progress was going along in fits and starts. One step forward another back. I hit an invisible glass ceiling that was preventing me from fully recovering. I felt like a bird repeatedly flying into a glass window.
Was it my fault? Did I take my foot off the gas? Or worse, was my pain not due to emotional issues and TMS after all?
Oh, no! Maybe the doctors had missed something serious?
It wasn’t until I learnt how to shine a light into my shadowy blind spots that my chronic pain recovery came full circle.
Scroll down to discover the exact questions I used.
Enter the shadowy region.
Indulge me for a minute as I explore a seemingly unrelated question.
What is a shadow?
A shadow is an absence of light. It’s something that is hidden from view or cannot be easily seen. Light is analogous to consciousness whereas the darkness is unconscious. Knowledge vs ignorance. The list goes on and on.
Nasty things hide in the shadow.
Light and darkness are a powerful illustration and have been written about by many storytellers, religious leaders, and philosophers alike. Joseph Campbell, who literally wrote the book on the hero mythology surmised it beautifully:
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”Joseph Campbell, Hero With A Thousand Faces
In darkness you will find light.
Ok, nice poetic parallels to mythology here. But how on earth does this help me, you ask?
In a nutshell it’s time to embrace the dark, unexplored areas of your life. Here you can find those golden nuggets of personal insight to knock chronic pain out of the park.
Carl Jung who pioneered the field of analytical psychology more than a century ago described the “shadow” in his works. It’s like an inferior or maladapted component of our personality. For instance, a personality trait that is embarrassing, painful, or anxiety inducing.
We want to keep our shadow out of our conscious life. And I don’t blame you! But Jung suggests that this is not without consequences.
“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.”Carl Jung, Psychology And Religion
Repressing our negative traits or keeping them in the realms of the unconscious is no solution at all. Luckily there is a way of seeing the shadow projected by the light. I’ll show you how with an example.
Think about those primeval emotions like anger, greed, lust, and hatred – all things that are completely unacceptable to a modern society. Maybe you secretly envy your boss’s obsession with expensive vintage cars and assume that he is a greedy and self-centered person. Unconsciously you may want to fly into an impulsive fit of caveman-esque rage, and (god forbid) kill him.
In this case you’ve projected this feeling of greed onto him. It sprung from your mind, not his. How do you know that your projection is correct? After all, maybe your boss inherited the vehicles from a relative, or maybe they are much cheaper than an equivalent new car?
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
Another way of remembering it is, “you spot it, you got it”. It is very easy for us to spot faults in others because we are first aware of them in ourselves. This unconscious character trait or mode of behaviour that we see in others is then transformed into consciousness. Darkness is transformed into light.
Myself and many others have found probing our shadow to help with chronic pain recovery.
Side note: this is where a therapist can be of value. Someone who can objectively look at us and discover our own shortcomings and failures. These can be outside our awareness or consciousness, because these ideas would be incompatible with our own morals and societal expectations. It would be unconscionable for it to even enter our mind in the first place.
Blind Spot Busting Questions
There is no denying that looking into our own shadow is hard and uncomfortable. No one likes to be challenged on negative aspects of our personality. Remember that shadow aspects of yourself aren’t “evil” nor can they physically hurt you. Learn to accept them with curiosity and excitement. After all, there is treasure in the darkness just waiting to be found.
But enough talk.
I’ve distilled some key questions and talking points, guaranteed to get you out of that ruck and cast a light on personal blind spots.
- Make a list of friends’ personality traits that irritate you or habits you see in others that drive you crazy. What behaviors do I see in myself?
- Do I allow people to get under your skin or push your buttons?
- Are there times I enjoy being used or taken advantage of?
- If my unconscious self could speak the truth, what would it say?
- Is it time for me to engage a therapist to give some real, objective advice? Remember that friends and family are prone to giving positive feedback, which may hamper identification of parts of your personality that require a little extra effort.
Chronic Pain Recovery And Beyond
Being captive to chronic pain for many years can leave you accustomed to life. Do you enjoy your life in the bubble? Maybe you get a bit of extra attention from friends and family? Are you afraid of healing and making a full recovery? Please don’t be.
Think of times in your life that involved significant change like moving to a different city, starting a new relationship, or accepting a better job offer. These are all exciting things, but can naturally cause some fear and trepidation.
Are you a little too familiar with chronic pain? Has it overstayed its welcome?
Time to kick start your recovery with my free guide below.