Attachment and Pain

A few years back I went to a Russel Delman's workshop called "The Embodied Life."  He is a well known Feldenkrais teacher as well as a Zen medication teacher.  One thing I learned from the workshop has stuck to me even today is that attachment is the source of our sufferings. What this means is that when our mind gets stuck in the past or the future, we're not living in the moment and start thinking about all sorts of things that could hurt you.  For example, a man who was once a star football player sustained a career ending injury that caused him to live with wheelchair for the rest of his life.  He who still identifies him self as a star football player cannot acknowledge who he is now.  He's depressed because he's lost his identity.  His mind is attached to his past.  He's psychologically hurt and will continue to feel this pain until he accepts the fact that he's not a football player now and accepts who he is, which means his mind is no longer stuck in the past.

When it comes to physical pain, this attachment or association happens.  Let's say you hurt your back when you bend over to pick up something from the floor.  Your nervous system recorded such an event.  Your back has healed after a little while and you can bend over again without any pain but are conscious of the trauma.  Several months later you hurt your back again doing the same movement.  Your nervous system now made a note that bending over movement hurt your back and attached/associated these two things (bending over movement=pain).  Even after a while your back pain is easily triggered by simple bending over movement though your back has healed just fine.  This is actually fairly common.  I was working with one lady who had multiple shoulder surgeries, and she couldn't do hardly anything with one arm because of pain.  Everything hurt.  I was explaining about one shoulder movement and she suddenly screamed and said that as soon as she imagined doing that movement her pain level jumped.  Her nervous system attached/associated any arm movements with pain so well and became so sensitized that imagining doing arm movements was enough to trigger pain.  I had her imagine arm movement several times, and that consistently increased her pain.

 Pretty interesting stuff, isn't it?  The brain is so powerful.  To reverse this process, which unfortunately takes longer, you have to teach your nervous system to detach/disassociate these two.  One way of doing this is to create new options for movement.  In new movement options the nervous system hasn't made any attachment/association yet, so you'll have a pretty good chance to move into the position that you wouldn't be able to with the old pathway that the nervous system associated with pain. When the nervous system "sees" that you somehow got to the position without pain, it starts to question the validity of the statement it's made in the past.  This is a very simplistic way of explaining this phenomenon, but I think this is one of the reasons why people with chronic pain have a very good luck with Feldenkrais Method.  It's really helping their nervous system to rewire itself and change how they feel.  Let's learn to let go of your habitual ways of moving, sensing, feeling, and thinking with Awareness Through Movement class and have free choice in your actions.