As part of Pain Awareness Month, here is another piece in my series on chronic pain. This one is about the role of forgiveness in healing chronic pain.
Before I get too far into this, I want to get some terms clear. Chronic pain is any pain – physical, emotional, or spiritual – that is felt 15 days out of 30 for three months or more. The kind of pain is indistinguishable by the brain. Pain of any kind sends the simple message: “It hurts.” Estimates by the National Institutes of Health reveal that one out of every four Americans suffers from chronic pain.
Chronic pain patients carry stress. The measure of the stress they carry is termed the allostatic load. It is a determination of the cost to the body’s fluctuating or increased response by the nervous system to someone when they experience repeated or chronic environmental challenges. That’s a mouthful. It just means that chronic pain sufferers carry a lot, and the load itself contributes to our pain level. How we meet stress in life is part of the load, too.
As a chronic pain sufferer, I sure carried a lot. I didn’t realize it, of course, but that didn’t matter. I still felt all that I was holding. It expressed itself as physical pain and a general uneasiness or restlessness. I felt pressure, and that led me to tense up my muscles. The tension led to friction in my body and this led to inflammation – chronic inflammation. I suppressed what I was feeling, and since I had no clue what to do with any of it, the suffering of chronic pain entered my life. I had physical injuries, too, but the allostatic load contributed to why my body had such difficulty healing.
All but one of the many doctors that treated me over the years prescribed opiates and benzodiazepines to help me cope with the pain. The last doctor that treated me for chronic pain knew well the dangers of these drugs and knew that they were ill-suited to treat chronic pain. He used a number of non-pharmaceutical modalities to clear the weight of my allostatic load and heal the wounds it had caused in my body., such as Qi Gong, clearing adversity, mindfulness, and forgiveness. Here I address the importance of forgiveness in clearing the burden of chronic pain.
It never occurred to me that forgiveness would be such a key player in recovering from chronic pain. I was just used to dealing with life the only way I knew. Stuff happened. I experienced it. It felt uncomfortable. I had no clue what to do with all that discomfort, so I did what I thought everyone around me did – I pretended it wasn’t there. I distracted myself from feeling it. I even numbed it. I never healed the wounds that were created when I experienced adversity. I built up anger around all this burden that I didn’t know what to do with beyond storing its stress inside my body. It never crossed my mind that this was something that forgiveness could help remedy.
I carried a lot of fear. I had disappointment bottled up in me. The constant state of pain fed discouragement, yet I had to find some ray of hope to cling to for my future. The longer I felt pain, the more frustrated I got because nothing I, or anyone else, did seemed to heal the pain. I was afraid to move forward because that could mean the pain might worsen. I was afraid to stay where I was because I was suffering. I worried constantly about the future. What would it hold for me? Would it ever get any better? I had these concerns and more. Fear, letdown, anger, and sadness were all ingredients that fueled the chronic pain.
First, I had to face my fear. I made the decision that enough was enough and I confronted my pain – all of it. We never know the courage quietly tucked inside our hearts until we face our fears. How wonderful that we have a fail-proof way of tapping that great well inside of us. This is the beginning point of healing our pain.
I found a great measure of freedom and healing from the chronic pain through the work of Ancestral Clearing. The lion’s share of the practice of Ancestral Clearing involves forgiveness. My experience of the forgiveness practice is that was part of the basis to relieving the burden I carried. It helped me resolve issues from my past. Furthermore, it addressed and cleared issues I held from my lineage. You can read about my first experience of Ancestral Clearing here.
The brain can only heal in the present. It does not exist in the past or the future. We must be in the present or we will be in pain. We are so used to slipping into the past or stressing about the future, we miss the present altogether. The forgiveness practice and Ancestral Clearing bring us right into the present moment where the healing takes place. We become aware of the sensations that we feel when we think about the things that we want to forgive.
The first step in the forgiveness practice is being willing to forgive. Be willing to let go. We can get attached to our resentments. We can get into a relationship with them. We can get used to them being around. To use the tool of forgiveness to help heal chronic pain, we must first be willing to give up our attachments to these negatives in our life, however familiar and even comfortable we have become with their presence.
We next ask for help from a Higher Power to help us forgive. My experience with this work is that you don’t need to believe in a Higher Power. The only requirement to getting help is to want the help. We forgive the pain and we forgive the body for hurting all the time. We forgive for the days of living we feel we missed out on because we were in pain. We forgive others for judging us and our pain. We forgive ourselves for judging others and for judging ourselves. We forgive others for the hurts we received. We forgive for the loneliness we feel in our experience of chronic pain. We forgive ourselves. We forgive all that we can in the moment. We allow ourselves to feel what comes up for us as sensation as we reference and forgive the hurts we experienced, and because we are feeling the sensations in the present, the body can release them.
Here’s the thing about forgiving the burden we carry. We never know how heavy the burden is until we have done the work of forgiving. We have been carrying it for so long that we got used to the weight. Or we thought we did. The body knew better. It groaned and complained under the weight and until finally it expressed itself as chronic pain. When we practice forgiveness, we release the charge, the load, we feel from the unresolved hurts we experienced. It takes a lot of energy to carry these old hurts. It gets trapped in the nervous system. This practice helps release that energy. We feel lighter because we have literally lightened the burden and healed the damage done from the allostatic load we carried.
I found so much relief from forgiveness and Ancestral Clearing that I became a practitioner in Ancestral Clearing. I now help others through the process of releasing the burden they carry. This work is complementary and supportive to the work of doctors and therapists.
Learn more about how you can experience the freedom of Ancestral Clearing for yourself here.