I have an old tell tale sign that something is up with me. My voice quits. I can only croak out words. I feel as though someone has a hand on my throat and it feels tight with pressure. This is something that I had constantly for several years. I received all of the battery of tests and treatments available, including laryngoscopy several times down my throat. I took antacids and prescription medications and even had speech therapy, but still no change. I had also unknowingly developed asthma and was in tears the day I was hiking out of the Grand Canyon because I could not catch my breath.
I don’t have the problem with my voice any longer – though it can show up occasionally. The asthma is almost non-existent. These symptoms stopped once I became the master of my thoughts. How on earth can this be? Let me explain.
We humans have about 10,000 thoughts a day. Sadly, most of them are the same recurring, often painful thoughts that we keep replaying over and over. We spend a great deal of time up there in our heads, often ruminating over painful thoughts. We are not trying to torture ourselves on purpose, but have fallen into a pattern of thought, which is supported by our brain physiology. We have created strong neural pathways of these painful thoughts and so the brain automatically goes to these thoughts. Like a computer, the brain is always trying to be efficient. Our brain assumes that these thoughts are what we want to think about so these thoughts pop up automatically and the pathways become stronger. The point here is that we can master our minds and choose better what we think instead of our mind being the master. What we think matters to our very cells for creating poor or good health.
When we think thoughts, emotions come up for us. These emotions are often pushed aside – who wants to feel painful emotions after all? These unprocessed emotions create tension in our bodies, often in our most vulnerable areas. The tension can turn into pain. This physical discomfort is our body trying to get our attention. We focus so much on our thoughts that we forget that we have a body, and ignore its signals to us. We can think of these signals as invitations to go into awareness of the body and to be kinder to ourselves. To process emotions all we need to do is to notice the emotions that show up and sit with them for a short time, instead of running away from them. When we bring our attention into our body (where emotions are felt and processed) instead of spinning in thought symptoms can subside.
Chronic stress comes from chronic stressful thoughts. Every disease we can think of either worsens or is caused from stress, including my tight throat and asthma. Symptoms can also be physical pain such as back, shoulders or neck and just about anywhere else. Some call it TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome) or Mind Body Syndrome. A hint that the pain is a syndrome is if the pain moves around or if it comes and goes.
To help us get into our body we can practice breathing exercises or mediation, which quiet our nervous system. Think of this process as an opportunity to get better acquainted with ourselves and ultimately to live better, and healthier lives.
A resource for pain syndromes is any book by Dr. John Sarno, who just past away this week (June 22, 2017) at almost 94 years old. He discovered the connection of stored emotions causing tension and pain in the body with his work as a physician for over 60 years. His most notable book for me is, “The Mind Body Prescription”.