I had an insight, which was this: How I feel about this pain, every single experience I have of it, precisely repeats how I felt in my childhood. The pattern is almost an exact recreation of the players and the situation I knew growing up, the most difficult of which was my relationship with my dad.
Here are some correlations:
- I’m fighting an enemy that no one can see. I look fine, yet I’m terrorized daily. (No one would’ve ever believed my dad was the tormenter he was. People considered me “lucky” to have the life I did.)
- I’m oppressed to the extent that I can hardly think about anything else. Expressing myself creatively takes an extreme amount of energy, and living/enjoying life is secondary to dealing with the pain (dad).
- I’m struggling just to get through the day.
- I feel punished for an infraction I don’t understand.
- The pain (dad’s rage) comes and goes for no reason at all. It’s not at all dependent upon what I do or don’t do.
- The pain (dad) crushes me with ruthless abandon.
- I don’t see anyone else suffering like this, fighting an enemy like this, so I’m all alone with it.
- I don’t feel protected.
- No one can help me.
- I feel like something is inherently wrong with me, which is why all this is happening. I must deserve it. I must have done something.
The list could go on, of course, but when I saw so clearly that this is a repeat of a pattern I’m deeply familiar with, I could see that the relationship I have with this pain is the relationship I had with him.
All of my adult life, I’ve been sick with something; when one thing would resolve, something else would emerge to torment me. The torment has gotten progressively worse.
What’s particularly astonishing is that my dad nowadays has given up on life. He had a small stroke ten years ago that profoundly affected him emotionally. He sits and watches TV all day, unmotivated to do anything.
What have I been doing all month? Sitting in front of the TV all day, unmotivated to do anything.
I can see so clearly the maladaptive patterns of others in my life, but I’ve never been able to turn that same eye on myself to the extent I did this week.
Suffice to say, I’ve been working hard on all this, testing the theory that this pain is surpressed rage, which was a belief of Freud, proven to a large extent by the work of Dr. John Sarno at NYU, who’s cured thousands of back pain and other chronic ailments by helping patients understand the connection. (See the book The Mindbody Prescription for more info.)
When I had this insight, I dare say it was one of the most profound I’ve ever experienced. It all made so much sense, and I felt absolutely flooded with light when it occurred. As long as I focus on this pain, I’m not focusing on the other issues of my psyche. In fact, I dare say that I haven’t revisited them in the five years this has all been going on. And this coming from a woman who LIKES therapy, who’s spent years in it.
Since all this happened, the pain has changed dramatically. It’s far more localized now, and all of the knots in my jaw and neck have diminished significantly.
Sarno says one must be diligent daily about spending time in reflection or meditation, bringing into consciousness the rumblings we feel deep within. We don't have to exactly know what they are or how to resolve them, but we must give them a tip of the hat, so to speak. We have to at least feel them so that they're not driven into avenues like pain.
I've known for years that some important issues have yet to be resolved for me, but as they can make me feel so broken, I was starting to write them off, saying that maybe there are certain things one just can't heal from and we have to learn to live with it.
Curiously, I've made these same exact statements about my pain condition.
I've applied for NYU's psychoanalytic program, which is different from psychotherapy, as you must go multiple times a week. Even if I don't get out of pain, these issues must be addressed if I'm ever going to have a full, loving human experience.
The pain has postponed this leg of my life journey for awhile now, but how much longer can I expect to just drift in confusion?
I'm excited to see where all this will lead. I'm feeling shaky about it, which I suspect means I'm on the right track. At the very least, I'm on a new and shiny track, which beats the current rusty one that has me at a full stop.
Full speed ahead.