Ep #34 The Emotional Side of Chronic Pain: Debunking Myths and Finding Relief

by | Jun 20, 2024 | Body Pain, SBMC, SCA Podcast

The Somatic Coaching Academy Podcast
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD93fSvt_O8

Ani
we are on episode 34 today, and Brian, hey there. How are you doing today? I’m doing great. So what’s the topic today?

Brian
Today’s topic? I love this one. I love it because it’s got research with it, and I love it because it’s really emotional for me. It’s chronic pain. Is chronic pain an emotion?

Ani
Way to keep it light, Brian. That’s a loaded topic right there. It’s a lot all at once. Yeah, exactly. Oh, boy. So this is a little bit different than ‘is chronic pain all in your head’, right? Yeah. Because people talk about that one still. You’ve You’ve been in the chronic pain specialty for a long, long, long, now. Long, long time. And one of my favorite things that you do is educating pain professionals, which I think is so cool because a lot of us in the professional fields where we help people and we’re people helpers, we love to continue to get education. And I love hearing your stories about when you educate pain professionals about what pain really is. And they have all kinds of light bulbs, and they love the conversation. They’ve never heard this before. So there’s really massively cutting edge stuff happening in the pain field still.

Brian
Yeah. It’s more and more and more cutting edge all the time. It’s actually hard to keep up with a lot of the research that’s been coming out in understanding what pain actually is. And it’s interesting. The medical industry, if you will, or medical education structures, they thought they had it figured out, and they stuck with the story for what? Hundreds of years, thing, decades. And stuck with it, and stuck with it, stuck with it. And then when that dam finally broke open, that it wasn’t what we thought it was, now the research is exploding in understanding.

Ani
What did we think it was that it’s not, Brian?

Brian
Well, one of the things that we thought that it was is that there were pain sensors in the body, that there are actually sensors in the body that bring pain information into the nervous system. And that’s not true. That’s not true. I know right now, all the physical therapists, and occupational therapists, and massage therapists, and medical professionals that are listening to this podcast right now are saying, Brian, what about nociceptors?

Ani
It’s true. What about nociceptors? No, no, no.

Brian
Those are the I’m like, Yeah, that’s what I learned, too.

Ani
Okay, I was going to say, I haven’t been in college now for 25 years, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I learned.

Brian
That’s what I learned, too. And what I learned was wrong. What I learned was wrong. Because some of that research, the thing that cracked open a lot of this change was phantom limb pain. So phantom limb pain- Which is so interesting. It’s so interesting. It’s also just like, oh, my God, horrible to think of a person having that experience. That for those of you who are listening, you don’t know what phantom limb pain is. Phantom limb pain is when someone has an injury to a part of their body, typically an extremity, but not always. Typically an extremity, but not always. Like a foot, a knee, a wrist, an elbow, or something like that. And unfortunately, the damage or the disease to the extremity gets so severe that now it threatens the life of the person. So the extremity gets amputated. So imagine someone who maybe had an injury, a crush injury or something to their foot, and they lived with a certain amount of sensory input that they might have called pain for a significant amount of time. And then they have an amputation, so the foot is not connected to the body anymore.

Brian
But someone still experiences pain out in space where their foot was. So not at the end of the extremity now, since sometimes people could have pain there, but it’s different. But they’re still experiencing the pain that they had before their leg was amputated, but now out in space where there’s no foot anymore. So when people are really hung up on there’s pain receptors in the body, I say, Well, how do you explain that then? Because if the leg has been removed, then the pain receptors are gone, too. How can someone still have pain if the pain is an input to the body? You know the tragedy of this was? For people with phantom limb pain, before someone finally decided that the model was wrong, people with phantom limb pain were put in mental health institutions.

Ani
Yeah, right.

Brian
They’re making it up. Right. Because we’re so focused on the models true. And so people who didn’t fit the model became other problem. It’s one of the… I think about our medical system, which really always makes me sad, that we really become so attached to the model that if someone doesn’t fit in the model, it doesn’t mean that there’s a problem with the model. It means there’s a problem with the person. And that’s not good. That’s not really looking at someone as a holistic experience, holistic being. Why don’t we question the model? Maybe the model is not right. And it took a long time for someone then to realize maybe the model is not right and start to actually look at brain scans for people who experience phantom limb pain and actually starting to see that their brain is operating in a certain way where there’s a certain part of their brain that is still hyperactivated and projecting an experience of pain back out onto a part of body that’s not there anymore.

Ani
Yeah, I think there can be a similar shame thing felt with anyone who has chronic pain where the professionals can’t seem to help. We’ve seen a number of people through the course of our career where the professionals can’t seem to figure out what’s wrong. It’s happened so many times. It’s predictable now. I’ve seen the doctor, the multiple doctors, the chiropractor, the massage therapist, the acupuncturist. They’ve been through the gamut. It’s not like they haven’t done anything. And still people have issues. And then what can happen from a chronic pain standpoint is that people think they’re making it up or they think it’s all in their head. And even especially now hearing this thing about the nociceptors, I think, is like, oh, my God, I am, quote, unquote making it up. And I think there could be a lot of shame and beating oneself up around those things, which stinks.

Brian
Yeah, it’s never good. So what we do want to do is validate everyone who experiences chronic pain and say, yes, you’re experiencing something. Absolutely. You’re definitely experiencing something. Now, can we talk about how that’s constructed and why it’s different than acute pain? So acute pain, like post-surgical pain, you have a cut, you have a scrape, you have those kinds of things. That’s acute pain. But I will say, again, that’s not input. Input is there’s basically four types of sensors in your body: mechanical, temperature, chemical, and nociceptive. Mechanical sensors send in touch information, mechanical information, chemical sends in acid-based information, temperature sends hot/cold information, and nociceptors send what we call danger information. Is there potentially damage to the tissue in the body? And so that information, the brain wants to know if there’s potential tissue damage. So there’s sensors that will send that in. But there’s also been a lot of research to show that people can experience pain with no nociceptive input. Nociceptors aren’t even activated in people experience pain. And also, you can have a lot of nociceptive input and have no pain. So we know that the nociceptors bring information into the nervous system for sure, but it’s not a one-on-one correlation that nociceptors equal pain. So we know that’s been researched a lot, and we understand that very strongly from how the nervous system functions.

Ani
It reminds me of the research that was done with people with bulging discs, or it was something like that, Brian. I’m sure you’re like, Oh, yeah, it’s this one, where the bulging disc doesn’t mean that people have pain.

Brian
Some people do, and some people don’t. Right. Yeah. So looking at that study where 30% of 30-year-olds have herniated disc. That’s what it was. 40% of 40-year-olds. So whatever age you are, if you took everybody at your same age and they put them through MRIs, that same percentage of people would have herniated disc that aren’t necessarily symptomatic. They could actually have this bulging on nerves that it’s not actually symptomatic. We have to be very careful. We have to look at it holistically. It’s not just because there’s a picture on the screen that tells you that that’s where your problem is coming from. You have to do a better what we call pattern-based assessment around it. You have to look at the whole thing. So there’s never really that one-on-one correlation because we’re holistic beings. But let’s do mention this. You do have sensory input coming in because our nervous system is based on sensory in, motor out. It doesn’t always mean that sensory in is the chicken and the egg, though, because it’s always a loop happening. And we do know with construction of emotions and pain, which we’re going to talk about in a little bit, that our brain has a lot to do with determining what sensation has actually come in by projecting it out, and then that’s what comes back in.

Brian
Because our brain predicts the outcome that’s going to happen in the next second or two.

Ani
Because our brain is always predicting. So we talked about acute. Did you want to say something about chronic pain?

Brian
Yes. So At some point in time, when there’s a stimulus that has endured long enough. When you have a stimulus that’s of greater intensity or longer duration that is customary for your nervous system to experience, let’s say you had a cut on your knee, and even after it heals, the sensory input is still happening, happening, happening. At a certain point in time, your nervous system function actually changes. When someone experiences acute pain, there’s a lot of activation in the neocortex, in the sensory motor strip part of the brain. And at a certain point in time, though, if that sensory input continues, the brain changes, actually. And most of the activity in the brain moves from the sensory motor strip into the limbic system.

Ani
Oh, well, that’s why you said it’s chronic pain and emotion.

Brian
I got it. Now you got it.

Ani
I got it.

Brian
I solved the puzzle. You got it. We got the answer right there just a couple of minutes in. Actually, acute pain and chronic pain are actually completely different phenomenon in the body. We have to really understand that. It’s not just that it happens for a longer… It’s not just the acute pain isn’t happening for a longer period of time. At a certain point of time, acute pain transitions into chronic pain because your brain starts having the experience differently. So major parts of the brain that are involved with chronic pain experiences, and this chronic could be chronic pain in your limb, it could be chronic pain in your back, your neck, your shoulder, wherever in your body, are places like the thalamus, which we know is the part of the brain where brain waves are propagated from and have a lot to do with how our beliefs are oriented around the world, our amygdala, which is the alarm bell part of the brain, also has a lot to do with motivational states, though, too. Our amygdala is heavily linked in with the mesolimbic system. If you go back and listen to the podcast we did on motivation coaching, we did There’s a whole bunch of talking there about mesolimbic and mesocortical pathways that had to do with dopamine.

Brian
So there’s a lot of dopamine involvement around chronic pain states also. So we have the thalamus, we have the amygdala, we have the hippocampus, and we have these mesolimbic pathways that are associated, and nucleus accumbens, which are associated with motivational states. Those are the parts of the brain that actually have more to do with chronic pain than the higher level, very fine, well-defined motor sensory centers.

Ani
So do we need to talk about what an emotion is or anything? Because- We do. Okay. Maybe I thought so. Because I think that we also have a really outdated way of thinking about what emotions are. I sure do. New research is just really coming out about how we construct emotions. It’s pretty fascinating because I’m not that old, unless you ask my teenagers, Mom. No, I’m kidding. They don’t say that. I’m not that old. This stuff has changed just in my professional history over the course of 20 years, learning about the nociceptors and stuff and about how emotions are emotions are emotions. The old way of thinking about emotions is that what you experience is the same as I experience. If you say that you’re happy, I know what that feels like and all of that thing. But that’s not really what the new research tells us.

Brian
Yeah. And actually another part that, too, Ani, is that the old research around emotions tells us that we’re all born with a core set of emotions. We’re all born with sadness. We’re all born being able to experience sadness or happiness or disgust or whatever it is. There’s a core set of emotions that all humans experience, and that’s also been debunked, too, because emotions are so much based on context. Do you want to talk a little bit about how we break down emotions in terms of how we talk about them here at the Somatic Coaching Academy-

Ani
Yeah, well, really easily, we just say that emotions are two things. They’re not one. Emotions are thoughts plus sensation. And that makes sense if you think about it, right? When you’re having an emotional experience, you have sensations that you feel and you have thoughts that you think. Now, why would we bother to go about making it two things instead of one? And the reason really is, well, there’s a number of reasons, but it makes it really easy to be able to change your life when you recognize that emotions are a sensory experience and these thoughts that we think of the stories that we tell, the narrative, because we can work with the sensations and not then have to work with the narrative, and it makes it way easier to change. Once we have a narrative attached, it’s like having the claws in on something. It makes it much harder for a person to change because the narrative is just so attached. We’re so attached to the narrative.

Brian
Exactly. It makes it so much easier to change the pattern when we’re working with the raw material of the emotion, rather, which are sensations. Just what you said, right? You can start to pull that apart. And especially when emotions are causing dysregulation, when they’re causing distress, when they’re causing challenges in relationships and work habits and sleep and all those kinds of things. And you’re right. So many people try to change the story around the emotion It’s like we’re wrestling with a… It’s like we’re mud wrestling with ourselves thing, right? Or trying to catch a pig or something. It’s so slippery. You can’t really get your hands on. Have you tried that? Never. Personal experience. But I’ve heard that. That is the thing, trying to

Ani
As I’m listening to you talk, too, this is an evolved way of seeing emotions. This is absolutely not a bypass, because that’s the thing about bypassing. This is absolutely not a bypass. I would say it’s a shortcut, but it’s not a bypass. We’re still dealing with what needs to be dealt with in order to transform. That’s why it’s not a bypass to look at a sensory-based approach. It’s also, I would say, an evolution of emotional intelligence and things like that, in my opinion. And not just my opinion, we’ve had people who are trained, like emotional intelligence coaches and stuff like that study with us. And they’re like, this is the next evolution of emotional intelligence. It’s quite profound. And it’s different. It’s just like the nociceptors. It’s a different way of conceptualizing now based on the new information that we have, how we can help people transform.

Brian
Absolutely. And it’s really all based in our sensory experience, whatever we’re experiencing on a sensory background level, whatever that’s running, we’re building our reality based on that. And again, that’s how our nervous system works. Our brain projects out in front of us our beliefs about the world. Actually, how we’re going to feel in the next two minutes is predicted by how you feel right now. And so let’s just back up for a second and maybe close the loop on emotions and connect them to chronic pain. So emotions are constructed. Emotions are constructed. How are they constructed? They’re constructed because we’re taught what the meaning of our sensations are from our family units, from our schools, from whatever it is. Cultures. We’re taught what the meaning of the sensations are. We’re told the story about those sensations. Then we’re like, Oh, growing up, that means I’m angry. That means I’m hungry. That means I’m whatever. But we’re told what that sensation means or taught that. Now that’s in our nervous system, and that becomes a foundational way that we go through and see the world. But we’re really constructing the emotion, and we construct it based on context.

Brian
So when you ask people about two emotions, let’s say, excitement or anxiety, a lot of people will report they actually feel similar. When someone’s getting on stage to do public speaking, and you ask them how are you feeling and to describe it in their body, one person will be like, Oh, this is how I feel. And what does that mean? Oh, it means I’m really anxious. The other person will be, I’m really excited. But they’re almost describing it the same way. That we’re experiencing. But it’s really based on context, isn’t it? It’s based on, do I believe I’m going to do a great job when I got in that stage? Am I excited? Do I want to be on that stage? Do I feel like I want to make a difference on this stage? Or is it, oh, my God, all these things can- Throw tomatoes at me. Yeah, throw tomatoes at me. It’s all based on context. We actually will name the emotion based on the context in which we are experiencing those sensations, which ties the sensations and thoughts together. Let’s go back to chronic pain for a second. If we know that pain is not input, pain is actually constructed in the brain the same way emotions are.

Brian
Sensations come in, we judge the sensations, we judge, are they threatening? If someone’s experienced sensations and they’re threatening, they’ll call it painful. The threat is the basic headline here of what creates, actually all pain, but what creates chronic pain is this threat not only on a physical level, like acute pain. I’ve got post-surgical pain, I’ve got a scar, you can see it, it’s bleeding, it’s healing, whatever it is. Do I feel like that’s threatening? I’m going to call that painful. If it’s not threatening, it’s just sensations. Now, chronic, though, the wound is healed. The issue has healed. It’s like, metabolically, you can measure it, and it’s healed for all intents and purposes. It’s gone on long enough to have the healing time frames happen, but we’re still experiencing some type of sensory experience around it. That’s the brain being threatened by the experience that a person is having. It’s not just on a physical level. It’s threat on a physical, psychological, emotional, relational, societal, spiritual, on all levels. And your body will respond to that threat the same way, whether it’s any of those levels. It doesn’t matter which one it is. And so if the sensory experience we’re having is threatening, we’ll call it pain.

Brian
So we really categorize pain as an emotion, just like anger, just like sadness, because it’s actually in the way we look at it, it’s constructed the same way. In working with chronic pain, and why do we do that work here at the Somatic Coaching Academy, and why do we have a lot of students work with us who want to help people work through and alleviate, relieve, and even eliminate their chronic pain is helping those people, helping those students work with their clients at the sensation level. Because if we try to wrestle, again, with the story or the narrative or the context around what they’re experiencing, that’s really slippery to do. But if we can get under that and work with the sensory system itself, we can start to actually rewire the brain to have a different experience. And that’s our solution for helping people with chronic pain, and it’s really, really effective.

Ani
Yeah. And so we have story after story of people who say that I’ve tried 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, six strategies. Nothing has worked. And then this works. We’ve also had the experience of people saying, I’ve had my first pain-free moments with you, or it’s like a miracle. It happened so fast. Years of therapy, and this helped. And one of the things that’s occurring to me as you’re talking about threat is I’m just cataloging through my head of different clients I’ve seen through the years. And so many of them, Brian, have… Well, I’m going to say something. I’m going to take it back just a little bit. They have some unresolved trauma history stuff. And it’s not that this is the part about taking it back. It’s not that they have to go to therapy to alleviate their trauma. It’s actually a sensation-based approach and realizing that they have choice in their body. It’s that choice that they didn’t have when they had the originating incident. It’s when the choice was taken away originally. But it’s the reclamation of choice in their sensory system. I think that’s the real thing that tips a person into, “Oh, my gosh, I can actually experience something new, and nothing else has worked, but this has because there’s a loop that has not been closed from the previous traumatic event.”

Ani
And it’s not actually that we’re closing the loop on the narrative or doing therapy. It’s not it. The loop that’s closed is that there’s choice to be had in our bodies, and we didn’t have it at the moment. And now I’m exercising choice, and I can then let go of the threat that I keep recreating. I mean, that’s a big part of what I’ve seen with my thoughts.

Brian
Huge part. And to do that, we have to short circuit what’s happening in someone’s running, like that loop that’s running. But if I someway to short circuit that loop that’s running.

Ani
Yeah, and short circuiting it, quite frankly, really easily is like, where are you’re feeling something in your body because part of that loop is the narrative around not even what happened in the past, but what’s happening now or what I see now or my chronic pain or my emotion or this person or whatever, like circumstantially now. So just like, Hey, where do you feel and what does it feel like? And then, of course, the cross mapping method gives people a new experience for the first time, sometimes for the first time ever, that there’s another choice.

Brian
That there’s another choice. Yeah, that’s huge. If we talk for a moment just about… If we look at just physiology, research, science, if you think about what are the components of chronic pain? And let’s make some more linkages here. We know that the autonomic nervous system plays a huge role in chronic pain. That if the more sympathetic nervous system be experienced, the more fight or flight, the more adrenaline, the more cortisol in the system, the more norepinephrine in the system, those things all sensitize the nervous system. We know that when people are, let’s just colloquially, stressed, we know that stress makes pain worse. People who are experiencing stress rate their pain as being worse, and there’s physiological basis for that.

Ani
I got to tell you, I hear from a lot of our students and potential students that they’ve never heard that before. Oh, really? Yeah.

Brian
Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s the thing. Yeah. We do a whole other episode on that. I actually teach this in day-long trainings, all the deep science of chronic pain.

Ani
It just really helps people to understand they’re not broken when they hear stuff like that. They’re like, Wait, what? Yeah.

Brian
Never mind, too. You have to remember that fight or flight is a threat response. We only go into that when we feel threatened. Now we know that, wait, chronic pain. Pain is output based on threat. Sympathetic nervous system activation, we feel threatened. Well, jeez. Sometimes we can’t do something to help directly the chronic pain, but we can almost always do something to help moderate the sympathetic nervous system.

Ani
Nervous system. It comes back to it again, right? That’s a little bit of a soapbox for me, Brian, because mental health is a big thing out there, and mental health is so super important. Not the whole mental health, mental well-being. Let me say mental well-being instead of mental health, really has so much to do with the nervous system. We’re not talking about diagnosis. We’re talking about people without diagnosis, living everyday lives. We don’t all need to go to therapy. Therapy is great for the things that therapy is great for. When we recognize that so much of our mental well-being has to do with our nervous system state, we can actually affect change where it can create sustainable change.

Brian
Yeah, absolutely. So nervous system balancing. Like, autonomic nervous system balancing is a go-to.

Ani
So important. Some people just do that, and they have remediation of their symptoms.

Brian
They certainly have less pain.

Ani
Yeah, that’s what I mean. We have people who take our… Do core centering programs and do somatic practices with us. And even if they don’t do anything else, some people just have a change in their pain. Yeah.

Brian
And there’s all kinds of physiological reasons for that that we talk about with our core centering graduates. Now, the next little thing that we know impacts a person’s chronic pain experience from the research. They call them negative affective states. What those really are, are a certain emotions, depression, anger. Those types of things actually increase people’s pain ratings. So we know that there’s a strong linkage between distressing emotions and chronic pain because remember the limbic system, again. If you have certain activation going on in the limbic system, that’s going to create more output of threat and problem. So there’s a strong connection between depression, anxiety, these negative affective experiences around chronic pain.

Ani
So we should all just stop having negative emotions, right, Brian? That’s right.

Brian
Or learn how to work with them with cross mapping and somatic coaching, right?

Ani
Yeah. And also see how powerful all of those emotions are. It’s not about eliminating emotional stuff. It’s about recognizing why we’re having the responses that we are and recognizing what value they have had for us in the past. Do we want to keep creating them? Because we’re recreating our experience. So do we want to keep creating it? But part of the deal with that is really honoring what is. Not just trying to plow over it.

Brian
Be happy. Be positive. We also want to- Stop feeling like that. We want to validate people’s experience and let go of shame and guilt, because those are also going to correlate to having more pain for people. So the way we’re talking about this, it’s just this is just for education and understanding and hopefully, liberation. We’re really hoping to educate for liberation, not for guilt, shame, any of those kinds of things. And we want to help free people from the constraints they’ve been around understanding or not understanding why I’m having the experience that I’m having. Okay, so two big components we’ve talked about. We’ve talked about the autonomic nervous system playing a big role. We’ve talked about negative affective states playing a big role. Something I I’ve seen, I’ve worked with people for a long time around chronic back pain. It’s been in my physical therapy practice. It’s been a sweet spot for me. I can say with 100% certainty that -there’s literature to support this, too- that people with chronic pain, especially back pain, especially back pain, always is correlated to some type of emotional suppression or repression that someone’s experiencing. Someone’s just not expressing a particular or a grouping of emotions, and that is creating tension in the body, well, actually, and in the brain, apparently, because it’s all locked in with a limbic system, to create a chronic pain state for them.

Brian
Emotional suppression or repression are always a part of the package when working with people with chronic pain.

Ani
Right. Some people would say, I’m not a very emotional person, but we all process emotional stuff somehow. Some people somatize it.

Brian
Yes. Especially if somewhere in your past, you’ve been trained that it was unsafe to express your emotions. That’s more likely to make that person a candidate for experiencing chronic pain.

Ani
The body is so wise. It knows that it’s not safe to express emotions. So I’m going to help you out. We’re going to put it in your back.

Brian
Yeah. So again, enter somatic coaching because we work with that a lot in helping people to free up their capacity to be able to safely express themselves with the methods that we use in the Somatic Coaching Academy. Another one, which I think this one’s a little obvious, but compensatory movement patterns. A lot of times- What does that mean? When people are experiencing pain, if you watch them move their bodies, they don’t move in ways that are fluid. They can be angular, they can be stiff, they could be rigid. Moving like that for a long period of time can create other problems in the body, other areas of stiffness, tightness, and create metabolic changes in the body, acid-based changes, and all that stuff feeds back into the nervous system to pile on to the experience of threats in the limbic system, but it just continues to add to that allopathic or physiological load. So somatic coaching includes movement, includes ways to provide healthy movement options in order to begin reprogramming how the nervous system

Ani
And bringing awareness to lack of movement or differing movement patterns that people sometimes aren’t even aware. I remember this was years and years ago. I had somebody walk in my office who was totally hunched over. And I was like, I said something like, wow, your neck has got to hurt. And they’re like, what do you mean? Wow, I don’t know that you see your neck right now. Mall watching or watching at airports This is one of my favorite things to do to watch the different stiffness patterns that people have. I do wonder to myself as I’m watching, do they know or do they feel it? Because so often people don’t feel where they don’t have freedom in their bodies.

Brian
If you’re traveling in an airport, make sure you put your Find My Ani app on it, and she might be watching you in the airport. Pay attention. It might be being watched by Ani in the airport. The other key factor that we know is associated with chronic pain are motivational drivers. Because, again, we’re thinking about these mesolimbic pathways. There’s parts of the brain that has to do with, am I motivated to have a certain experience? Am I motivated to get something or am I motivated to get away from something. Chronic pain, actually, I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve seen this. I can’t tell you how many times in clinic working with people over long periods of time is they experiencing chronic pain, and they are coming to therapy saying, I do not want to have any more chronic pain. They are so convinced they don’t want any more chronic pain. However, they’re actually gaining something by having chronic pain. That can be hard to hear. And not everybody is willing to investigate that. Yeah, it’s so true. I’m coming at this again with a sense of validation, no shame, no guilt, awareness, that for the people who are willing to recognize that, Okay, so motivationally, my subconscious believes it’s gaining more by having chronic pain than releasing this chronic pain.

Brian
And what might the more be? Let’s just say some examples for a second. Well, for some people, the thing that is causing the chronic pain is emotional suppression or repression because they haven’t shared something with someone close to them in their lives because they feel like it would destroy something that’s important to them, their family, their life, whatever it is.

Ani
That one I handle all the time.

Brian
What they’re actually gaining is more relational safety by not communicating that’s keeping the chronic pain. And they don’t even realize that until they start to have that conversation. And then once they realize that now they actually have a choice, but at least they know what’s going on at this point.

Ani
I think so often it actually comes back to that. I’m thinking about a few other folks who they really didn’t want to do certain things in their lives. But it also came back to having a conversation about that.

Brian
Yeah, absolutely. Some people, if they didn’t have the chronic pain, it would meant that, just like what you’re saying, it would mean they would have to do something differently. If I let go of this chronic pain, it would mean I would have to then travel across the country for work. I would have to do this, or I’d have to let go of that.

Ani
Yeah, my partner might leave me.

Brian
Yeah, Exactly. Yeah. My partner is staying to take care of me. There’s all kinds of deep stuff in there that’s connected to- It’s really vulnerable. An enduring chronic pain experience. It’s really vulnerable. I mean, full transparency. I have had episodes of chronic pain in my life, And so I’m speaking from experience. All of these things held true for me. The ongoing sense of threat around my autonomic nervous system just being geared and ramped up, the emotional suppression and repression, the having actually a game I’m gaining something by experiencing the pain and having to come to terms of that and then do something with that. I’ve been through this whole experience myself and have worked through this step of the way and just kept transcending and transcending and transcending it, which has been really amazing and also allows me to really feel, have a lot of compassion and empathy. Actually, it’s actually sympathy because sympathy is like you’re actually experiencing the same thing as someone else, have experienced the same thing as someone else. For people that are on this journey I really get it. I understand how it works on the physiological level and on the personal level.

Brian
It’s not easy. I’m not pretending it’s easy. But for me, understanding how things work internally in my physiology, in my mental emotional world, in my somatic experiences that I’m having, that made all the difference for me. Because then I was actually informed enough to make a choice about what was going on and take a really good hard look at my own choices, my own experiences, my own perceptions, my own our own filters, which is an ongoing process when we talk about growth anyway.

Ani
Yeah. I’m so glad we had this conversation, and I hope that it’s opened a window or a door for you or send it to somebody you know who has chronic pain in their life, because understanding how this stuff works will help us to get the solutions that we’re looking for. It will help us to understand there’s nothing wrong with us. Actually, our bodies are working really well to help eliminate shame and help you to get the life result you really want to have.

Brian
Yeah. I really reframe those. Just on that last point is a lot of the great work that we do as somatic coaches is to help people be able to really reframe those motivational drivers. Somatically.

Ani
Not just making a news story up.

Brian
Help them to reframe those motivational drivers somatically so that it really creates true transformational change in someone’s body and life. And then it’s not an ‘or’ decision, it’s ‘an’ and. It’s realizing that when we transcend something, we always get an and. It’s always into more life, into more growth, such as what you’re saying, Ani. So I just love this conversation, and it’s been so enriching for me to be able to link together the work that we’re doing in Somatic Coaching Academy, especially helping people who experience chronic pain on a regular basis. Really near and dear to my heart.

Ani
Yeah, there’s hope. Definitely hope. So thanks for having this conversation and for your vulnerability, Brian, in sharing your story. And we hope that it helped you and that you’ll share it with somebody that it can help. So have a great rest of your day, and we’ll see you real soon.

Brian
Thanks so much.

Get started today!

Start your Somatic Coach Training Journey by Unlocking Human Potential… Our students always say, “I wish I had started sooner!”

Click to Unlock Human Potential