January 13, 2012
Last updated: May 21, 2012
Top 10 Reviewer - View all my reviews
Chronic pain is all too common in Western society. Whether it is back pain, frozen shoulder or fibromyalgia, Dr. Maggie Phillips and her co-author Dr. Peter Levine, offer a real solution. Pain starts from some kind of trauma, which can be physical and/or emotional. In an animal, the natural responses to a threat are fight, flight or freeze. If it survives, a trembling response enables it to shake off the residue of fright, and then continue on its way. In humans, however, we are more likely to hold onto the freeze response as our subconscious relives the trauma repeatedly. Since the memory and emotion of a trauma trigger the same stress hormones as the original event, the fear often becomes locked in our tissues, resulting in chronic pain that arises or lingers after the physical body should have healed.
The approach of Drs. Phillips and Levine, greatly simplified, is to use guided imagery to gently guide the patient to the original source of the trauma and help their body release the pent-up trauma through the somatic release technique they developed. This is not a quick fix, but rather a process to reconnect the individual with his or her body. Many sufferers of chronic pain understandably dissociate from it, feeling it has let them down.
There are some interesting lessons for all of us in this approach. One is that it seems that we need to express our fear and pain openly to literally get it out of our system – a cautionary note to all those of the stiff-upper-lip persuasion. Also that anger and crying can be healthy and useful emotions – crying being known to stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates. The other big lesson is that our thoughts are so incredibly powerful that they can change our physiology, so it behooves us to reflect carefully on whether we are keeping ourselves mired in thoughts of pain and negativity. What you focus on manifests and grows, so it behooves us to keep it positive, and focus on the bright side.