What causes what? On pain – mental and physical.

Do we have physical pain because of psychological trauma, or do we feel psychological pain because of physical trauma? Are they really separate – and can we fix one with the other? Can we use physical manipulation to work out psychological issues? Can we use our minds and different ways of thinking to work out physical pain?

I get very angry after I eat chocolate. I know, weird, right? Most people feel really happy after they eat chocolate. But remember some medicines say that they may cause drowsiness or excitability. These are polar opposites. Chocolate is like that for me.

It took me years to figure out that there was a connection. Twenty minutes after eating more than like half a bar of chocolate I became the meanest person in the room. It was like PMS on steroids. Everything made me angry. Everything felt wrong. I was a huge pessimist, and everybody around me was stupid and worthless.

Somehow I managed to figure out the connection. I stopped eating chocolate – or if I had any it was just one piece.

Then one day I decided to do an experiment. Nobody was around for me to yell at. This seemed only fair.

I ate some chocolate, determined to feel whatever feeling it was going to present. I wanted to see it head on and not turn aside from it. This time it was different. I felt a physical pain in my shoulders. There was a tightness that had not been there before. I’m wondering if that was always there after eating chocolate, and because I was in pain, I got angry. Perhaps it has always caused that pain, and I didn’t notice it. Perhaps I felt bad because of that pain and it came out as irritable.

Pain makes people not themselves. Pain transforms people. Pain can also be a great teacher. It can let you know that something is wrong, or that you are resisting when you need to let go.

I’m trying to come to grips with my back pain. Sure, I’ve seen the x-ray. I have scoliosis. A disc slipped out of place because of it. But is this a symptom? Is there some emotional issue that is coming out? Mental pain tends to take the route of least resistance. I’m reading “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay, and some of it is quite intriguing. Some of it sounds like “blaming the victim” however, so I’m skeptical. She says that back problems are a sign of “repressed rage.”

And I thought I was doing well. I just recently got to the point that I could admit I was angry. There are a lot of things that I’m not happy about, things that I think should have gone differently in my past and things that I think should go differently now. I’ve dug down to the root and found grief. Somewhere on that journey the two cancelled each other out and I found some measure of calm. It all stems from not accepting what is. It stems from not accepting, period. Sometimes the biggest pain comes from fighting the situation.

Don’t we need to fight situations sometimes? Shouldn’t we get upset about certain things? Otherwise slavery would have continued. Otherwise women wouldn’t be allowed to vote. Otherwise all sorts of things that some people thought of as normal and other people thought of as wrong would have continued, unabated. Anger can be a force for change.

But there has to be more to this. “Repressed rage”? That sounds really harsh. Nobody wants to have rage. Rage is anger gone crazy. Rage is ugly. Rage is a sign of a lack of control. The Hulk has rage. All the super villains are filled to the brim with rage. It is their undoing.

How do you get rid of rage? No really, how? Sometimes I do things backwards, and what seems really simple to me is really hard for everybody else – and what seems really hard for me is really simple for everybody else. I got labeled “gifted” in second grade but that doesn’t mean that I know how to take care of a house or plan a week’s worth of meals. In many ways I’m very backwards. So I think I’m doing it right, and then my back flares up again. Maybe it just isn’t time for that part of the game yet. Maybe I am missing that puzzle piece.

Sometimes I feel like when I reach an impasse in my life, it is like I’m stuck in an adventure game.

Yes, I like that metaphor. I use it a lot. It works. Perhaps adventure games are modeled on life, instead of the other way around. Whatever. Work with me here.

I’ve been all over the first level inside the mansion, and I can’t get out to the garden to continue on with the rest of the game. Sometimes I can find a hint, and it refers to something I should have noticed four screens and twenty minutes ago. It was right there – the green heart! I needed it to put in the statue so I could get the code for the box that has the key to the garden. The green heart was in plain sight on the bookshelf. I didn’t notice it because I was distracted by something else on that screen.

So life is like that for me. I miss things that should be obvious, while figuring other things out that should be hard. Meanwhile I get stuck, wondering how to get out of the situation and go on with things.

There are a lot of things I have started doing in the morning to reduce stress. I think of them as taking a multi-vitamin for the day. I eat a healthy breakfast, I read the Daily Office, I do some light yoga, I write, and if I can, I draw. That is a lot of stuff to try to do in the morning. Somehow I can never manage to get up when the alarm goes off so I miss 30 minutes of that time. Just trying to shoehorn all that in along with checking email and Facebook just seems to be stress-inducing itself. So I’m trying to reassess what I do.

Exercise is good for burning things out too. I go to the Y and I exercise at least three times a week. I walk at lunch for 20 minutes. I write while I walk, and while I eat lunch. Perhaps I’m trying to do too much. Perhaps I need to spend some more time doing “non-productive” things and start reading more fluff and less technical stuff. Perhaps I need to stop having so many rules about what is safe and healthy to eat. But then I worry about that too, and I don’t want to backslide.

I know moderation is the key. Balance is important in everything. Walking the middle path, and not going to extremes, and all that.

The funny part is, I’ve been here before, with other things. This is the same story, but just with different characters. And I know that God has already given me everything I need to get to the next step. I feel that it is right in front of me and I just can’t see it. Sometimes I feel that life is just one series of pop quizzes from God after another.

My spiritual advisor says to “invite Jesus into it.” I’ve done that. He’s not answering the phone. Or he is, and it is just such a simple answer that I can’t believe it so I’m ignoring it. Kind of like the story of Naaman and the prophet Elisha (2 Kings, chapter 5 if you want to look it up). It sounds too easy, so it can’t be true.

Or I just want the quick fix, when really it is going to take a while.

Last night I was feeling really anxious about something, and instead of trying to jump right past it and get to the not-feeling-anxious feeling, I decided to stop and just look at it, and just see it as a feeling. Just see it, as it was, and not label it as “bad” but just as it is. Poof. It disappeared.

Maybe it is time to not run away from my pain and what very well might be rage. Maybe it is time to see it and accept it. Maybe it is time to sit down with Jesus and say “Here is my rage. What are we going to do about it?”

And maybe Jesus will hold it, and me, tenderly, and cry with me about it.