I recently listening to Dr Gabor Maté's audiobook When The Body Says No. I don't exaggerate when I tell you that it has shaken me to the core and changed so much of what I thought I knew.
I've always been a glass half-full sort of person and like so many out there I take pride in my positive approach to life. Even in the face of adversity, I've always been able to "look on the bright side" and carry on regardless, with a smile.
I'm not alone in my belief that staying positive is one of the simplest things in our control that can lead to better emotional and physical wellbeing.
I now know I was wrong.
I was wrong to ignore and often internalise the negativity that life can send our way. It turns out that there is great power in negativity too when accepted, understood and expressed in the right way.
Dr Maté's work has shown a strong correlation between being "really nice": smiling through physical and emotional pain, always putting others first, not being able to say NO and internalisation of sadness, anger and frustration, with chronic and often incurable conditions like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, motor neurone disease (also known as ALS) and cancer.
It turns out that when we are unable to process and express negativity in the right way, it festers inside us and manifests itself in one or more such painful ways. It is literally our body saying no, enough is enough.
The good new is that the body is like a child. In fact, inside every one of us lives the child we once were and the body speaks its language. Even if no one else is able to give the love, the sympathy and the understanding your inner child craves, the grown up you can be that person who chooses to offer all of those things, willingly and unconditionally. You probably do that for others in your life. Now do it for yourself.
I invite you to experiment. Let's say you have a niggling pain or irritation in your knees, not brought on by an accident or external event. Accept that this is your body trying to tell you that something in your life that is not working for it.
Find time to be still and in your mind's eye focus on that area. Imagine a small child who's been trying to tell you he is suffering and in pain. You'e been too busy to acknowledge him, let alone give him sympathy and care. Your knee pain is the manifestation of your inner child's torment.
Could it be that you feel stuck and have a fear of moving forward? Are you anxious about the future? Are you facing difficulty dealing with a person, issue or situation from the past?
First acknowledge the pain and the role you played in causing it. Thank your knees for carrying your weight around all these years. Say sorry for all the times you took them for granted and put undue stress on them despite the warning pains that told you you that it was not happy. Send them unconditional love from your heart.
This may sound a bit airy-fairy and new age. But it really does work when done with true intent and belief. Try it. The worst that can happen is that nothing changes.
In conjunction with that, explore the root cause of why the pain occurs in the first place. What sadness and stress are you internalising? Can you find a safe way in which to address them, to express and eliminate them?
Another great book that could change your life is The Secret Language Of Your Body by Inna Segal. It is filled with fascinating insight into what your body is really trying to tell you when things go wrong and how to restore harmony and balance.