Saving Your Own Life is Not Always Going to Feel Good
Updated: Sep 20, 2022
What do you suppose you might think about once you are no longer spending all of your time dwelling on your pain? I'll tell you. You are very likely going to start thinking about how to go about saving your own life. You know, casting off the shackles. Breaking out of the chains. No longer to merely be a cog in the machine, a slave to the system, serving someone else's dreams, day in and day out. Healing is about far more than overcoming chronic pain and illness, actually, those things are byproducts of aligning your life with what is true, finding real purpose, and becoming authentic. Once I was no longer mired in a hellish feedback loop of pain—repeatedly searching for answers in all the wrong places—I found that I had a whole lot of time to think about my life, and, how I might save it. Between chronic pain and a socially acceptable drinking obsession, I was pretty well distracted at all times. You add in women, tv, a phone, amazon, legalized marijuana, and internet porn, and you are left with very little time for any life saving to occur. As the dominoes began to fall, and the number of things I could successfully use to distract myself steadily dwindled, saving my own life became priority numero uno. I realized that I was done being the servant of a crooked system and the victim of my own emotional addictions. Anyone who has had their world shattered and embarked on such a journey, knows that this is no small undertaking. To be honest, it is downright terrifying at times: it requires strength, courage, and the enduring of seemingly endless amounts of pain. Yes, this is a painful process. The reasons for which, I intend to thoroughly express within the limited contents of this blog.
For what may be the first time in history, we have both the mystical and spiritual explanation for this, as well as the scientific. As someone who would prefer not to experience pain and suffering without some sort of purpose, and who seeks out answers like a junky seeks out their next hit, I have been able to reach some relative conclusions, that have allowed me to drastically alter my perspective on the pain I experience. This perspective shift makes the pain at very least, bearable, and at very most, rewarding. Having an understanding of "why the pain" has made all the difference. There are many wise people who have helped me to reach this understanding, but for this piece of writing I am going to focus on just two: Steve Ozanich and Dr. Joe Dispenza. There are two primary facets I will focus on, in order to help you understand why increased pain and symptoms will likely present themselves, as you work to save your own life. One, is the increased arising of fear and other fear-based emotions, such as shame, guilt, grief, apathy, and anger, and our deep-seated inner resistance to simply allowing this process to unfold naturally—as it will; and two, is the physical withdrawal from emotional addictions as we begin transcending them. I will mention this now and repeat it towards the end of this writing because it is so crucial to keep in mind—the increase in pain and other unpleasant symptoms is temporary, provided you don't immediately go running off to the nearest doc-in-the-box, or worse yet, google it!
Be advised—pain may worsen during various healing stages, for no obvious reason. As the emotion rises to the surface—and it will if you're healing—the pain must increase in order to prevent the expression or recognition of the unwanted. -Steve Ozanich
The "unwanted" is what has widely become known as "the shadow", a term that was elegantly fashioned by the great Carl Jung, and is an important term to have in your healing repertoire. These are the aspects of ourselves that we would rather just pretend didn't exist, and are the cause of much pain and misery, if they are allowed to go unexposed to the light. The aforementioned quote, penned by the author Steve Ozanich within the pages of his book The Great Pain Deception, have been a source of solace in countless moments in which I have felt completely overwhelmed with pain. They come to me at times when I find myself flabbergasted at the ominous return, and escalation, of pain I feel I should have left in the dust long ago. These words encourage me to keep pushing forwards and stay the course, when fear and self-doubt threaten to envelop me in their all-consuming darkness. They remind me that pain can increase with the rising tides of change. Why? You might ask. As you progress in your healing you will necessarily be exposing, as well as confronting, vast amounts of fear in its variety of forms. Emotions held within, that you have likely been unaware of for years, are going to begin attempting to make themselves known. One of the key components within the concept of TMS, is that pain serves as a distraction from overwhelming emotions. As you take your attention off of your physical pain and symptoms, emotions, and their accompanying thoughts, are going to begin rising to the surface more and more often. As this happens, the brain will desperately seek to create more and more alarming symptoms to distract you with. In addition to this nifty little deception created by either our brain, unconscious mind, our just ourselves (depending on where you are observing from), when we are in the midst of one of these periods of intense transition—or what could be referred to as a time of intense awakening in which much "shadow work" is being done—our autonomic nervous systems (ANS) are routinely and easily knocked out of balance. This, in and of itself, can create all sorts of strangeness within the body, as the autonomic nervous system controls basically everything...
As we come to recognize troubling aspects of our lives, that we were previously unwilling or unable to see, we feel less and less inclined to just sit back and be passive bystanders. We are compelled to express ourselves and act upon what we feel to be true. This is when the unconscious mind and body attempts to deter us. This is one of those things that is best learned through direct experience, but examples can provide a starting point for this sort of awareness to take root and grow.
When I reached the difficult conclusion that it would indeed be necessary, to resign from my job playing the role of a social worker within the local school system, vast amounts of shame, guilt, anger, and fear, were stirred from their depths deep within me. This decision would invoke massive fear, greatly challenging my reliance on a certain degree of financial security. It would also make me the subject of unwanted criticism and outside judgment. Beyond that, it would trigger the release of an enormous amount of shame and guilt, based upon my unconscious assumption that this was the equivalent of abandoning my co-workers, and more importantly, the adolescents I worked with. One by one I had intense and difficult conversations, with the co-workers and students I had come to be so close with over the last seven years. I was making myself vulnerable in a manner that was unprecedented up until this most recent period of my life. I remember thinking, "get ready, because your body is going to fight you the whole way."
There was one conversation that I was particularly ambivalent about having. Cheyenne is a very special little girl, underdeveloped for her seventeen years spent on this earth, but intelligent and capable of levels of understanding few adults I have met are. She and I had spent the last three and a half years wearing on each others nerves, wrestling with the difficult questions, having heart-to-heart conversations, and attempting to strike the ever-illusive balance between freedom and responsibility. We had become so close, and understood one another in way few others in the school could contend with or comprehend. Cheyenne was one of the last I would notify of my impending resignation. I was well aware that this would be an emotionally demanding talk. I feared that she would not understand, and would potentially interpret this as yet another abandonment, something she had experienced countless times by those closest to her throughout her young life; moving from state to state, foster home to foster home. One night, I realized the following morning would be the day. I wrote her a little note in the journal I had made for her with the Shutterfly app, a picture of my jet-black Labra Collie puppy Jane on the front; and on the back, a photo I had taken while hiking in the Sierra Nevada's the previous summer; the words "To Thine Own Self Be True" overlying the pine trees and green meadow, set below the chiseled, craggy peaks above. The morning arrived: I woke up early, had coffee, and set the timer on my phone for a one-hour meditation session, before heading off into the early traffic and making my way across town to the school. I struggled to put aside any unwelcome thoughts and readied myself for yet another difficult day. I showered and dressed, and as I stepped out the front door... Flash! Bang! It was as if I had been struck by a lightning bolt between the upper portion of my shoulder blades. At that moment, every muscle and tendon in my neck decided to seize up, with absolutely no plan of loosening their hold. Intense pain and zero range of movement ensued. Zero. So what did I do?... I went and I had that fucking conversation.
Cheyenne understood. She told me that she wanted me to follow my dreams and do what I knew I needed to do—just as I had instructed her, so many times before. Being well versed in the repression of emotions, neither she nor I were fully able let our guard down, in order to let the much needed tears flow. Those would come later, in the privacy of our own rooms. The utter lack of an emotional response in those moments was interesting, as well as telling, regarding the nature of TMS... Life continued on, and my neck did eventually decide to move again. During that same period of time I dropped out of grad school, it didn't matter that I only had an internship left to do, my future no longer held me working within the confines of either the school walls nor system. With these two decisions massive walls and barriers were broken down in virtually every area of my life. I would now not only have to answer to those I worked with, but to family and friends as well. This period of time was characterized by pain. Emotional and physical. Sleepless nights, night sweats, headaches, stomach pains, and a variety of other distressing physical symptoms. It was no walk in the park, but I knew damn well what was happening. "Things are going exactly according to plan, I feel like complete shit!", I less than enthusiastically mused.
From an observational standpoint it has been revealed that the brain, and more precisely the unconscious mind, is highly skilled at creating physical distractions, when we attempt to confront difficult emotions and change our lives for the better. I was intrigued to find that there is yet another scientific explanation for this as well, provided in the research done by Dr. Joe Dispenza. I had been working with Steve Ozanich's concept of TMS for some time, and had witnessed the way the body will react when we choose to act—or, not act—in spite of fear or some other limiting emotion; but, until now, the biological component involved in this process was unknown to me. I had finally found the answer. For every emotional state we inhabit—be it consciously or unconsciously—there is a corresponding chemical state within the body. Therefore, when we have spent vast amounts of time inhabiting emotional states such as shame, guilt, apathy, fear, and anger, our body has become thoroughly adapted to these chemical states. When we have developed the awareness necessary to recognize our emotional state, and seek to no longer allow it control our actions and behaviors, we are essentially depriving our body of its drug. "You had trained your body to live as a memorized chemical continuity, but now you're interrupting that, denying it its chemical needs and going contrary to its subconscious programs." When I read this within the pages of Dispenza's book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One, a picture I had long been attempting to decipher started to come into clearer focus. It makes no difference that the emotion is no longer doing us any good, I mean what object of our addiction is?
I then read, "Trying to change your emotional pattern is like going through drug withdrawal." "The moment we begin to deny ourselves the substance we are addicted to—in this case, the familiar thoughts and feelings associated with our emotional addiction— there are cravings, withdrawal pains, and a host of inner subvocalizations urging us not to change. And so we remain chained to our familiar reality." See, when I made the decision to walk away from the job and the graduate schooling, both of which were cloaked in massive amounts of stress, combined with feelings of anger, resentment, shame, fear, and guilt, I was challenging my own subconscious program. My body had become habituated to the chemical cocktails involved with the stress and emotions perpetuated by these aspects of my life, and I was attempting to go cold-turkey.
I have to remind myself that I really loved that job for about three maybe four years. It was just the sort of thing I needed during that period of life, and I learned an incredible amount. I was able to spend time helping kids psychologically and emotionally, and as an added perk, when my attention was not necessitated, was able to read and write voluminously while "on the clock." Even in those final years there remained aspects of the work and school environment that I both enjoyed and found rewarding. There were friends, faces, and personalities that I will never forget, making my leave-taking all the more heart-wrenching. Much of the time I feel completely numb when I try to think about it, and not only the job, but the graduate schooling (school counseling) as well.
I feel blocked when my mind attempts to consider the countless dollars, hours, and energies, that were expended in the pursuit of a degree that was not to be. It will likely be one of those things I will not be able to fully understand for years, but for now, just getting it out on paper brings a small sense of peace. Who knows? Maybe it wasn't a waste at all. Just writing this out I can feel the emotions beginning to stir, waiting for the opportune moment to break through—time to surrender, again. But, in those final years, guilt, shame, anger, and fear were the primary forces keeping me chained to that job. Little did I know, that within both of these circumstances I was also coming face to face with the trauma I had experienced, throughout my career as a young student (see Karma). I wouldn't become fully aware of this until the end, but it is true none-the-less. Once I had my eyes wide open to the level of bureaucratic bullshit existing in what should have been a beautiful learning environment, there was no shutting them. Ignorance was bliss, until it wasn't... When I finally decided to take the leap there was a heavy emotional toll to be payed. As someone who has experienced legitimate drug withdrawals several times in their life, I can tell you that the withdrawal from emotional addictions is every bit as fierce. It is strikingly similar to an intense opiate withdrawal, something I was very much aware of while I was experiencing it. But as with any withdrawal, you have the benefit of knowing that it will end. I was actually astonished by the truth of this, who would have ever thought? Withdrawals from the chemicals created within your own body! If a person can stay strong through these times, the reward is a feeling of relief and lightness when it comes to its conclusion—we feel renewed, with a sense of hope and optimism. Each time we undergo such an experience, we emerge less burdened by negative emotions, allowing us more freedom to navigate our lives how we choose.
Simply put, most of us are addicted to the problems and conditions of our lives that produce stress. -Dr. Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself
Now, just imagine how differently the above situation could have played out, had I not had the awareness, knowledge, and understanding discussed in this writing. What if I had had the belief that everything I physically experience has only physical origins; and therefore has no connection to what I am experiencing internally: on a psychological, emotional, and spiritual level? In our current age, where every imaginable symptom is offhandedly attributed to whatever diagnosis happens to currently be in vogue, God only knows what sort of dire prognosis I would have been flippantly handed—by a medical professional. This is where you begin to see how profoundly life-altering learning about the mind-body connection can be. Having this understanding deprives the physical condition of its ability to cause unwarranted fear, we now know that it is only temporary, and can allow it and surrender, conscious of the fact that it is on its way out anyways. It is a complete paradigm shift, that has implications for everything: from the way we interpret our lives, to the decisions we will make. It drastically alters our course of action, from one that is disempowered, to one that is empowered. We are no longer the victims of a cruel and random set of events, but the authors of our own story.
Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don't know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change. If there is anything unhealthy in your reactions, just bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better. -Rainer Maria Rilke
Love your struggle and remain free,