Have you ever been told to shut up and you repress your true feelings? Have you done that each time you’ve encountered an especially stressful event in your life? Soon enough you have mastered the ability to disassociate. Congratulations, you’ve now become comfortably numb to the pain inside.
I’ve always had heightened emotions. As a kid, I would often get quite emotional over small things. It was in my blood. As I grew up, I was largely taught to repress these emotions. Much of how I truly felt, I would keep to myself to the point of building up resentment and general anger towards life.
These emotions started to manifest into lower back pain. While I can’t claim that my posture is anything great, I would often suffer with chronic back pain after my workday. While it never got bad enough to the point of needing to visit a doctor or be prescribed medication to numb it, I accidentally came across an interesting series of books all leading to the same conclusions.
The first is “Healing Back Pain” by John Sarno. The entire book can be condensed into a sentence. Talk to your brain, tell it you won’t take it anymore. More or less, Sarno would see patients who have chronic back pain resolve their pain after 6-weeks of being newly aware to this mind-body connection and that the origins of the pain may originate from repressed emotions.
The second is “The Stress of Life” by Hans Selye. While the book is a bit more oriented towards the concept of “stress” and defining the components that contribute towards it, the main takeaway I got from it is regarding the author’s philosophy on stress. Selye specifically mentions the Ancient Greek philosophers recognizing the best way to manage this pain. It’s a play on words of a famous Socrates quote. Resolve to be thyself: and know that he who finds himself, loses his misery.
I have been studying Greek Philosophy over this last year and have a much better understanding of what this actually means outside of the surface level wisdom we find inspiration from. The main idea is that one has to dissect their troubles through introspection. There’s really nothing new here. Confession has been known long before Freud. Relativity was known long before Einstein. And even evolution prior to Darwin.
People continue to wait for the science to be settled before they embark in the uncomfortable journey of knowing thyself. Why? Because once you start to dissect your troubles, you are forced to work through the pain to a resolution if one even comes in your lifetime. The body will react to this stress like it does any other stressor. You’ll be alarmed to these feelings and you’ll go through an adaptation stage. If you can adapt to it, congratulations. If you can’t, you may enter an exhaustion stage where you have to constantly iterate in attempt to resolve the pain while going through the main quest of finding your authentic self.
While going through pain, one may start to worry. Worrying of course can lead to rumination, but it cannot be avoided. It is often ideal to consciously practice positive thinking instead. One old recommendation is:
Imitate the sundial’s ways
Count only the pleasant days
A sundial is consistent and unwavering in nature. It stands gracefully amidst the passage of days. Being steadfast and reliable in your outlook on life cannot be emphasized enough as like the sundial, the daylight spills upon its visage, the shadows come alive, and a symphony of lines is casted upon the dial’s surface. Second, focusing on the pleasant days helps us not worry about the unpleasant days. This helps uplift your spirit as positivity truly compounds while keeping you in motion.
You must find something to put in the place of the constant worry and to chase it away. You may have even heard of popular quotes such as “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop” or “Idleness is the burial of a living man”. These quotes go to show the immense power of our ruminating minds can have on our lives.
Life however is a never-ending battle of stress. It is not stress that kills us per-say, but it is our reaction to it. Sometimes the most productive thing you can be doing is relaxing. Sometimes it can be working. I often think of stress as a rocking-chair. It gives you something to worry about on both spectrums of work and relaxation, but it never gets you anywhere. In the times of great stress of your life, it is always best to keep busy and direct your anger and energy into something positive that can compound. For it is not the load that breaks you down, it is the way you carry it.