Most of us have a tendency to focus one dimension of pain at a time, but the truth is our pain won’t change permanently until we learn how to heal the pain body.
That’s because pain is always multi-dimensional, a complex that always involves some variation of tangled up physical factors, mental/emotional (a.k.a. psychological) factors and spiritual factors.
Because of its multi-dimensional nature pain is better represented by the term “pain body,” a term coined by the well known author, spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle.
In this blog post I’ll be talking about what the pain body is, how it ends up in us, why it’s the reason that pain becomes a chronic fixture in our bodies and lives and the 4 step process for healing the pain body.
I’ll also be talking about how, in the process of healing our pain body, we end up healing our physical and psychological pain and advancing our spiritual growth and evolution, as well.
When people end up reaching out to me for help, often it’s pain of some sort that has prompted them.
Even when it seems obviously physical I might ask questions about what’s going on in their lives.
For example, are there any new relationships, new jobs, have they recently moved, are there any new stresses, have they experienced a recent losses of any sort?
I want to get a sense of where the physical pain is and how it got there and what their experience of it is, for sure.
I also want to understand what’s going on around it, how do they feel about it, what they think is going on and I want to have a sense of the timing of the appearance of the pain and where they are on the continuum of their lives.
Because no matter how obvious it seems, physical, psychological and spiritual pain are never separate, they always exist as an interwoven tapestry of experience.
This tapestry of physical, psychological and spiritual pain is the pain body.
This is crucial to understand if you wan to learn how to heal the pain body.
Let’s first compare physical and emotional pain.
Interestingly pain research shows that, while the brain does seem to process different kinds of pain differently, in the structure of the brain physical pain and emotional pain share much of the same circuitry.
If you think about it for a second I bet you’ll agree that your experience bares this out.
For example, the physical sensations associated with back pain will be tangled up with the emotions and the thoughts related to what that back pain means to you.
Maybe you have resentment about a past event that you perceive as the cause of your back pain, like a car accident or an injury at work.
Even if you’ve broken your arm in a fall, something obviously physical, there’s going to be thoughts and emotions that come up as a result of that injury.
Maybe you’re worried about the effect your pain or the injury will have on your ability to do your work or play with your kids or participate in other things that you love, in the future.
If you pay close enough attention you’ll notice that your relationship to the psychological factors actually plays into your experience of the physical pain.
Likewise, when you’re experiencing psychological pain, the associated emotions and thoughts will be interwoven with varying degrees of unpleasant physical sensation.
For instance, if you’ve ever experienced a tough breakup or lost someone who was close to you, you know that the resulting emotional pain and anguish has a physical component to it.
It’s called “heartache” because your heart actually hurts in a physical way.
Again, if you look closely you’ll find that your experience of the psychological pain is impacted by the way you relate to the physical components of that pain.
Whether physical or psychological, at the root of all pain is the embodied sense that there’s something fundamentally wrong with our humanness.
This deeply held belief sabotages our ability to connect with our gifts and share them with the world, which keeps us from accomplishing the unique purpose that each one of us came to accomplish.
When people urgently come to my office for help with physical or psychological pain I find that there’s a way in which they’re taking the pain to mean that there’s something wrong with them.
They feel fundamentally lost or off track in their lives.
That underlying feeling makes all their pain ten times worse.
When I can show them that actually they’re right on track and that the pain can actually be used to help them find their way back to themselves, it creates a huge release on all levels.
And even if the physical or psychological pain is still present, there’s a way in which the urgency around it softens and it drops more into the background.
The point is that physical and psychological and spiritual pain always manifest simultaneously, overlapping, intermingling and twisting into a kind of psychosomatic knot.
That knot of tangled up physical, mental, emotional and stagnant spiritual energy is the pain body.
And in general the whole “pain body” will need to be considered if we expect the physical injury, the psychological wound or the spiritual impasse to completely heal.
If the whole pain body is not addressed it’s likely that some sort of physical, psychological or spiritual residue will continue to resurface in our bodies and lives.
We can consider that the pain body exists as a triangle of physical components, psychological components and spiritual components.
If only one of the legs of that triangle are addressed, the other two legs will reassert the overall pattern.
Let’s say the physical components are addressed through something like physical therapy.
That’s great but the psychological and spiritual components have a lot of inertia and will want to reassert the pattern.
Let’s say the psychological components are being addressed through cognitive psychotherapy.
That’s great but it doesn’t take into account that the pattern is being stored in the physical body or the larger spiritual forces at work in our lives.
Again, the pattern will reassert itself.
Likewise, let’s say the spiritual components are being addressed through meditation.
That’s great but the psychological and physical factors will want to reassert the pattern.
However, if two legs of the triangle are addressed then the third will fall into line and the pattern can be reorganized.
So the inside scoop on how to heal the pain body is to combine therapies or find healing modalities that can meet at least two of the legs of the pain body triangle at once: for instance a combination of meditation and physical therapy, psychotherapy and chiropractic, prayer and psychotherapy, etc…
There are healing modalities that can affect the whole continuum, Biodynamic Cranial Sacral Therapy, Network Chiropractic and Somato-Respiratory Integration, Somatic Experiencing and body centered psychotherapies that utilize powerful brain/body, trauma unraveling techniques like EMDR and Brainspotting, to name a few.
And I feel like I need to mention the work that I do, something I call BioSoul Integration.
In my last blog post I talked about shadow work and our shadow self.
I feel like the pain body is similar to our shadow, it just involves some different terminology.
It also comes from a different kind of source.
The concept of our shadow self and shadow work come out of psychology, a more bottom up approach where we’re trying to pull ourselves up through our darker, denser parts to achieve spiritual healing.
On the other hand the concept of the pain body is born of a more top down approach where we’re connecting more with our authentic, spiritual nature first, and letting that sort of trickle down and transform our darker, denser parts.
Here’s a video I did on the topic of shadow work and integrating your shadow self:
As I mentioned earlier the concept of the pain body was invented by a man named Eckart Tolle.
Just to talk a little bit about Eckart Tolle, he is one of the most well known spiritual teachers today.
He was a regular on Oprah.
That wasn’t always the case, however.
As early as he could remember he had always been consumed by fear and depression and negative thoughts.
At one point when he was about 30 this pattern of depression and negativity really peaked out.
One night while he was laying in bed in terror and depression he thought, “I can not live with myself any more.”
At that thought it suddenly occurred to him that that statement implied that there were two of him, the him that was observing this and the him that he couldn’t live with any more.
In that moment there was a significant dis-identification with the part of himself that he couldn’t live with any more and an immense expansion of the part of him that was watching it all.
When he awoke in the morning the constantly fearful, depressed person that he used to be was gone.
In it’s place was a deep, deep body/mind silence that seemed to defy all explanation, the peace that passes all understanding that is spoken of, most commonly, in the Bible.
Some years after integrating this experience Eckart Tolle started to teach about the “pain body” which he describes as a kind of entity that we’re not conscious of, a semi-autonomous being, that lives within us, that feeds off of negativity and drama.
How it happens is a testament to why it’s so unconscious.
The pain body got installed at a time that’s called pre-rational, meaning there was no thinking going on, only feeling.
That’s a hint to how to free ourselves from the pain body, since it got installed during a time when we weren’t thinking, we can’t think our way out of it now, we have to feel our way through it… more on that later.
Back to how the pain body ends up in us and how to heal the pain body.
Starting while we were in the womb, the source layer of our nervous system comes online.
I like to refer to this fundamental layer of our nervous system as the primal brain.
The primal brain is the same part of the nervous system that a fish uses to school with other fish.
It’s the same part of the nervous system that a goose uses to know when it’s time to fly south.
The primal brain is very adept at feeling into our energetic environment and reading the energetic cues it finds there.
And its main concern is survival.
Since we rely on the people around us, usually our family, for our survival, the primal brain is keen on matching the subtle energetic cues it gets from these folks.
Certainly we adopt some of their finer points but we also adopt the unhealthy relationships they have with important human parts of themselves, fear, anger, joy, love, power, especially vulnerability, etc…
That’s not to say we should blame our problems on our parents.
They’re systems, picked up on these things from their parents, and they from theirs and so on going way back.
Certainly we have our own individual pain bodies as a result of the hurts and traumas and accidents that we’ve experienced as individuals since we’ve been born but our individual pain body is being supported by the different collective pain bodies that we find ourselves soaking in when we show up here on earth.
There’s a familial pain body, a female pain body, a male pain body, a racial pain body, a cultural pain body, a generational pain body, a pain body associated with the country we live in, and others.
Our very sensitive primal brain picks up on these collective pain bodies and models itself them.
We should be kind to ourselves about our short comings then because our adoption of them happened by way of an unconscious and innocent survival instinct.
One characteristic of the pain body is it’s preference for and reliance on unconscious thought to keep it alive.
Most adult humans are completely captivated by the stream of thoughts (internal talk and images) moving through their heads.
This is something that has happened over the last few thousand years as humans have become more and more convinced of the preeminence of thought and as the collective pain body has gained more strength in humanity.
Consequently we’ve developed an addiction to our own thinking intelligence and an aversion to feeling our bodies.
If we don’t have a connection in our own bodies to that intelligence and the deep state of being (joy, compassion, love) that goes with it, then we’re likely to be tossed to and fro on the ocean of discursive thoughts and surface emotions that go with those thoughts.
We’re happy when things go the way we think they should go and unhappy when they don’t.
Generally we’re pleased with ourselves when the external world seems to validate our worth and displeased with ourselves when the external world appears to be responding unfavorably to us.
All of those unfavorable things have thoughts and stories that go with them: “The world is against me, no matter what I do I can’t get ahead, no one wants to be with me,” etc…
There are emotions that go with those thoughts.
Emotion is a more body oriented thing, it’s energy in motion.
But because we’re averse to feeling our bodies, that energy squirts into our heads and creates more thoughts, which create more of the emotional sensations that we won’t feel…
…which creates more thoughts and around and around, the energy of the thing getting bigger and bigger.
We’re trapped in this cycle and so there’s all this unresolved energy moving in our bodies that we won’t feel.
This is by design on some level.
As the energy gets bigger and bigger it eventually demands that we stop and give it our attention.
This excess, unresolved energy might manifest as tension in our bodies, defensive posture, organ systems that aren’t working like we’d like them to, emotional issues, illness of some sort, etc…
As long as this cycle remains unconscious, the pain body gets to feed on all of the negativity that is created.
Unconsciousness around the pain body leads to bad habits, addictions and otherwise unproductive behaviors that it uses to create negativity and drama in a persons life, upon which the pain body feeds.
In fact, according to Eckart Tolle, because of the pain body’s need for drama we might even unconsciously get into an accident or manage to injure ourselves.
The pain body especially likes to use relationships.
Sometimes my wife and I get into a bad mood or get otherwise under-resourced somehow and when this is the case we tend to trigger our respective pain bodies.
We get into an argument and find ourselves saying things to each other that are basically designed to hurt each other.
This is the pain body speaking.
In those moments we don’t realize that these thoughts and emotions are not fundamentally us.
We have identified with them.
Later on after our pain bodies have fed on all the negativity they go dormant, we’re able to connect with our hearts again and it’s like, “what was that?”
Within each of these unsavory situations is an opportunity to let our attention be drawn to our bodies and actually get present and feel the pain body.
This is the solution to freeing our bodies and lives from the pain body because the pain body can’t survive in a conscious environment.
If you’d rather watch here’s a video I made on how to heal the pain body:
If you like to get your information on the go, here is a podcast version of the above video:
Whenever we catch ourselves thinking about conflict, worry, anxiety, etc… we can stop and think, what’s driving these thoughts?
Are they based on hurt, anger, fear, etc…?
Once you’ve identified the emotion that might be driving your thoughts, bring your attention to your body and see if you can pinpoint the flavor of anger or fear in your body.
Any nanosecond you’re letting your attention rest on the sensations in your body, the pain body is not running the show.
In fact you’re digesting that energy and converting it to wisdom and fuel for your healing.
Just letting your attention rest on your pain body will go a long way toward healing it.
If you want to resolve it completely, you’ll have to go one step further.
That step would be to reach to that energy of the pain body with your heart.
Thank it, even, for creating a window through which you can connect with your authentic self.
Breathe it into your heart.
Have compassion for it like you would any young being who is in pain.
If you catch your pain body thinking, identify the pain body emotion, bring your attention to the sensation of that emotion and generate presence by welcoming it into your heart, the pain body will gradually dissolve and you’ll find that it doesn’t have the power over your body and life the way it used to.
As you can see getting present and learning how to heal the pain body in you will have a hugely positive impact on every area of your life not the least of which is your spiritual growth and evolution.
I welcome your comments or questions below.
Know that I’ll always respond.
And I look forward to helping you express more life.
Your’s In Healing,
Jay Uecker, D.C.
I've been supporting people through the ups and downs of their healing journeys for almost two decades now, mostly from my office in Louisville, Colorado. However, I do have online offerings, as well. I've worked with 90 year olds, day old babies and everyone in between. But those who seem to be most drawn to my work tend to be those who have felt the strong calling to consciously do the work of leaning into their growth and evolution as human beings. Often these people are practitioners themselves of some sort, whether professionally or otherwise. They may be yoga teachers, meditators, acupuncturists, chiropractors, energy workers, shamanic practitioners, healers, spiritual seekers and others, and they feel called to give their gifts and share what they’ve learned with others. Discovering our soul's gifts, embodying them and then serving others with them is where true life satisfaction lies. Life will keep nudging us in that direction, anyway. BioSoul Integration can help speed up the process and smooth out the rough spots created by our innocent and unconscious resistance. Take my BioSoul Integration Quiz to get started.