by Beth Allyn Herman
When pain arises, the assumption is that it’s a true medical issue, injury or disease. If we visit the doctor and a medical cause cannot be identified, it might receive a diagnosis like fibromyalgia or an autoimmune disorder, which can be treated symptomatically, but often not with full relief. The experience of not being able to identify or treat the reason for our pain can lead to disappointment and frustration.
New research confirms a breakthrough in thinking on pain that could put an end to this predicament, and could mean relief for so many living with unexplained pain. Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD, in his book titled The Body Keeps the Score, presents a theory predicated on the realization that physical pain can in fact stem from an emotional nature. He describes how traumatic and other emotionally charged experiences store themselves in the cells of our bodies. “Our bodies record every single emotion we experience and oftentimes the pain we have in our bodies is related to an unresolved and perhaps even unremembered earlier experience,” he says.
It is suggested that emotional pain suffered as a child, during birth or, for those that believe, in a previous lifetime, is still carried in our cells, operating in a survival pattern that is no longer necessary. The longer we hold off on dealing with it, the more complex it becomes. Moreover, this can occur on a subconscious level, beyond one’s own awareness.
For example, there is a case of a woman with vaginal pain with no clinical findings that ultimately learned through hypnotic regression that she was sexually abused as a child. The body held those painful memories, as the mind had stowed them away in the unconscious.
There are a number of possible mind-body connections: allergies can represent feelings that the environment is unsafe or toxic; arthritis can represent rigidity; cancer often expresses something “eating away” at a client; colitis and Crohn’s disease may be related to “holding everything in”; heart problems often equate with long-standing grief; lower back problems can arise from a feeling of not being supported in life, and TMJ can be a representation of anger or self-blame.
Though it might seem counterintuitive, getting connected to and re-experiencing the painful emotion in a visceral way is the path to healing. Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy is one type of mind-body therapy, wherein upsetting memories that manifest as physical pain can be accessed and released. In the safe space of hypnotherapy with a trained and skilled therapist, clients are guided into a hypnotic trance where the traumatic event and source of distress can be safely uncovered, and the power of suggestion used to “remap” the mind’s response to the memory. The deeper we go into the unconscious, the greater the chance for self-discovery and, ultimately, healing.
Beth Allyn Herman is a clinically trained, board-certified therapist who practices in Doylestown. To find out more about Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy, call 215-348-8900, email Info@BethHermanCounseling.com or visit BethHermanCounseling.com.