April 3, 2018 by Dymphna

Truth Bomb Tuesday: Pain is a symptom, not the problem

Here’s a powerful new lens for understanding what’s wrong with your life

I was at the physio the other day, getting some help with my lower back.

He explained that the problem was with my psoas. I said, ‘Don’t talk to me like that! You’re half my age.’

And he said, no, the psoas is a long muscle that runs up from the legs through the front of the hip and connects to the base of your ribs.

Modern life has given us all chronic psoases. (Nope, spell check doesn’t like that. Psoassies? Psoasi?)

Anyway, whatever the flip it is, we’ve got chronic psoases popping off all over the place. Modern life has us sitting down so much that the psoas gets contracted and short.

It pulls too hard.

As a result, the muscles that balance the psoas out, in the dynamic architecture of the body, get sore. They’re being constantly stretched and pulled out of shape.

And what muscles balance out the psoas?

The muscles in the lower back.

Fascinating, I said, and I thought I was coming in here to fix my back.

Nope, what you need to do is fix your psoas. You’re back is fine. It’s working perfectly. All that pain is is your back’s way of letting you know it’s being bullied by an overactive psoas.

Most times, in his work apparently, that’s what goes on. When people come in with a sore something or other, that something or other is rarely the problem. The problem is somewhere else.

Pain is just the place where the symptoms show up.

Something about all this felt profound. Like it was a beautiful comment on life.

Most times, we tend to think of our bodies like buildings.

Buildings have static architecture. So if there’s a problem with your gutter, there’s a problem with your gutter.

Sure, sometimes you get reflexion. You can get cracks in the ceiling when the foundations are slipping. But more often than not, what you see is what you get.

But the body doesn’t have a static architecture. It has a dynamic architecture. The whole thing needs to perform a range of movements. Everything needs to be held in balance with everything else.

When that balance is compromised, then you get problems.

So… What else is like this? What else has a dynamic architecture?

Well, I would say that life in general has dynamic architecture. Every element of your life is in complex relationship with everything else.

And you’re life must bend to perform a range of functions – provide for the family, welcome in fun and joy, be emotionally available to others, create a sense of meaning, source the best cheesecake in town…

All of these must be held in balance with the others.

And we have the archetypes of unbalanced lives – the father who never saw his children because he was working too much, the mother who spent her whole life caring for others and never for herself, the rock-star (wannabe) who burned out early on partying and drugs…

But I think this is a really interesting lens to look at our own lives through.

So say, we’re feeling the pain of a certain area in life. Perhaps, we’re not feeling creatively expressed.

More creative expression may be the answer. But often that feels overwhelming, because when in the hell am I going to find time to get the oil pastels out?

Perhaps it makes more sense to see this as reflexive pain. If our creative expression centre is flaring up, perhaps it’s time to look at the balancing functions – do we have an over-active ‘work’ function, or an over-active ‘provide-for-others’ function?

In a way, I think this can be a very empowering tool. When I had a sore back, I didn’t know how I was going to ‘fix’ it. It was sore and inflamed, resistant to movement, tender to touch.

The last thing I wanted to do was throw a whole bunch of stretching and exercise at it.

Where as the idea of ‘relaxing’ the psoas feels totally achievable. It’s about power-down, not power-up. Of course I can do that.

Same story with our lives. The idea of finding time for creativity can feel overwhelming. But the idea of relaxing the work muscles a bit, and just creating more space, feels much more doable.

In time, that space will probably fill with creativity naturally.

But we don’t have to force it.

So I don’t know. I think I’m going to use this lens a lot more.

The question is not what’s wrong, but what’s ‘too right’?

This changes the game completely.

What’s too right in your life?